Research Reports - Instructions for authors


Reports prepared by contractors in fulfilment of contracts with NatureScot will be catalogued and published on our website.

This text complements the Research Report template (below) issued with the contract and provides authors with more detailed written instructions regarding the format that must be adopted for NatureScot reports. We retain the right to withhold payment for the final report if it does not adhere to the instructions detailed below.

If any part of these instructions is unclear, please contact the Project Manager for further advice. This document provides information on Format, Content, Layout, Headings, Illustrations, References and Copyright.

Published: 2020


1.1  The report should be submitted as a Microsoft Word file

1.2  An electronic version of the full report is to be submitted to the Project Manager.


2.1  General format: with the exception of the title and summary pages, the format for the report is Arial 11 point, single-spaced, justified. The format for the title, summary and web summary is set out in the template.

2.2  The report summary in the main report should provide six to eight keywords, a concise description of the background to the project and main findings. It should be written as short statements in plain English and, ideally, extend to no more than two sides of A4.

2.3  The preliminary pages (e.g. Summary, Table of Contents, Acknowledgements) to be numbered in Roman numerals - i, ii, iii etc.

2.4  References: see Section 6 or report template for examples.

2.5  Dates (if used) should be in one of the following formats: dd/mm/yyyy, or dd month yyyy.

2.6  Species (scientific) names should be given in italics. At the first mention of a species both genus and species should be given, e.g. Calluna vulgaris. Subsequent reference to the same species should abbreviate the genus, e.g. C. vulgaris, except in cases where this would cause confusion, where the full name should be given. It is not necessary to give authority names - Calluna vulgaris (L.) Hull - though it is helpful to give the source of names used.

2.7  Vernacular names - should be prepared in lower case excepting those such as Lawson’s cypress or Scottish primrose.


3.1  Margin: allow 2.54 cm margin all round. This is automatically set out in the template.

3.2  Paragraph numbering: none.

3.3  The correct spacing to be left at the end of each sentence is two spaces.

3.4  Page numbering: all pages (excepting title page) to be numbered (but see also 2.3) - including those with photographs, figures, diagrams, maps. Page numbers to be at bottom centre of each page (as in this document). Format for page numbering of main text to be 1, 2, 3 etc.

3.5  Footnotes: Footnotes1 related to the text should be Arial 10 point and should be separated from the main text by a short, left justified line (see below). To insert a footnote go to ‘References’ and select ’Insert Footnote’. The next footnote number in a sequence is generated, and the footnote text can be edited.2

3.6  Do not include headers/footers such as “Report to NatureScot - followed by title and/or name of author(s)/contractor(s)”. Contractor’s logos should not be included in the final text.

3.7  Quotes: quotes should be presented in Arial 11 pt and italic font. The Style ‘Quote’ will automatically indent the text in the correct way.

3.8  Blank pages: avoid inserting blank pages, other than where depicted in the template.

3.9  All documents to be spell-checked prior to submission. While computer programmes are a useful first filter, the entire manuscript should be read through carefully and checked for errors/completeness.

3.10 Numbers in text: Only numbers from one to nine should be spelled out except when used with units; e.g. two eyes but 10 stomata and 5C. At the beginning of a sentence a number should be spelled out, e.g. Twelve sheep.

3.11 Units of measurement: SI units should be used throughout, including tables and figures. If need be, other units can be given, e.g. 10 km (6.2 miles).


4.1  Headings/numbering: to start at left-hand margin. It is recommended that no more than three levels are used, i.e. headings, sub-headings and sub-sub headings.

Heading               1       EMBOLDENED BLOCK CAPITALS
Sub-heading        1.1     Emboldened lower case
Sub-sub heading 1.1.1 Lower case text italicised but not emboldened

4.2  Unless proper names appear in these sub-headings only the first word to be capitalised.


5.1  The contractor shall, on delivery of the work, supply to NatureScot any photographs, pictures, maps, diagrams and other material which have been mutually agreed to be necessary for the proper illustration of the report. These illustrations should wherever possible, also be provided in electronic form (preferably in JPG or PNG format).

5.2  All illustrations supplied by the contractor shall be in a form acceptable to NatureScot. We reserve the right to reject such material or to require of the contractor such submissions or amendments as may in the reasonable view of NatureScot be required on the grounds of poor quality, excessive cost or otherwise.

5.3  The illustrations should be numbered according to their number in the text file and manuscript, and have the name(s) of author(s) and copyright holder on the reverse of any hard copies.

5.4  All illustrative material should have a caption. Captions should be intelligible without reference to the text. Captions to be typed in italics.

5.5  Figures (photographs, diagrams, maps): the captions for figures should be in italics and appear below the figure/diagram.

5.6  Numbering of figures should be undertaken either:

  • consecutively within the chapter/section, e.g. Figure 1.1 (which is first figure in Chapter 1), Figure 2.3 (which is third figure in Chapter 2); or
  • consecutively throughout the report, e.g. Figure 1, Figure 2, etc.

5.7  Tables: the caption for tables should be in italics, and appear above the table. Numbering of tables should be undertaken either:

  • consecutively within the chapter/section, e.g. Table 1.1 (which is first table in Chapter 1), Table 2.3 (which is third table in Chapter 2); or
  • consecutively throughout the report, e.g. Table 1, Table 2, etc.


6.1  The report must be checked for completeness so far as references are concerned. Any reference within the text must be supported by a full listing in the reference list and no reference must be given in the list which is not cited in the text. The format follows the Harvard system. A useful source of further information is on the Harvard referencing system.

6.1  Format

6.2  The author/originator’s name and year of publication of the document cited are given after each reference in the text, for example: (McArthur, 1993; Smith & McCallum, 1997). If the number of authors exceeds two, these should always be abbreviated as (Sanger et al., 1997). When different groups of authors with the same first author and date occur, they should be cited as (Thompson et al., 1991 a, b.) Note that if the author’s name occurs naturally in the text the year follows in parenthesis as Smith (1994). If not, both the author’s name and year are in parenthesis as (Smith, 1994).

6.3  The full references should be listed after the main text, in alphabetic order by author with the journal name unabbreviated. If there is more than one author, add all authors’ names. The format should be as follows:

6.4  Begon, M., Harper, J.L. & Townsend, C.R. 1996. Ecology: Individuals, Populations and Communities. 3rd ed. Oxford: Blackwell Science.

6.5  McArthur, W.M. 1993. History of landscape development. In: Hobbs, R.J. & Saunders, D.A. eds. Reintegrating Fragmented Landscapes. Berlin: Springer Verlag, pp. 10-22.

6.6  Newton, I., Davis, P.E. & Moss, D. 1996. Distribution and breeding of red kites Milvus milvus in relation to afforestation and other land-use in Wales. Journal of Applied Ecology, 33, 210-224.

6.7  Rosell, F., Parker, H. & Steifetten, Ø. 2006. Use of dawn and dusk sight observations to determine colony size and family composition in Eurasian beaver Castor fiber. Acta Theriologica, 51, 107-112.

6.8  Strachan, R.S. & Moorhouse, T.P. 2006. The Water Vole Conservation Handbook. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit & The Environment Agency.


7.1  The copyright shall remain the property of NatureScot and the copyright notice to be printed in every copy of the report shall be in the NatureScot name, with the year of first publication.

7.2  Textual Copyright Material

7.3  Should the text of the submitted report contain extracts from other copyright works, the contractor is responsible for and shall at their own expense obtain from the owners of copyright written permissions (which shall be forwarded to NatureScot on delivery of the material) to reproduce such extracts in the Work in all territories and editions and in all forms which are subject to this Agreement.

7.4  Illustrations

7.5  In respect of copyright material, the contractor shall obtain from the owners of the respective copyrights written permission (which shall be forwarded to NatureScot on delivery of the material) to reproduce the material in the Work and in all territories and editions and in all forms which are subject to this Agreement. The cost of supplying illustrative material, including copyright fees, shall be borne by the contractor.

7.6  Ordnance Survey

7.7  All maps reproduced for inclusion in the report must display the OS copyright acknowledgement:

© Crown copyright [and database rights] 2020 OS 100017908

7.8  Getmapping and Bluesky International (digital aerial imagery) material

Getmapping data should be acknowledged as below:

© Bluesky International Ltd. and Getmapping Plc. 2020

7.9  Oceanwise material

The copyright acknowledgement required for Oceanwise data is as follows:

© Crown Copyright, 2020. All rights reserved. Licence No. EK001-20140401. Not to be used for navigation.

7.10 Shetland mapping requirement

Under the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, the Shetland Islands must be displayed in a manner that accurately and proportionately represents their geographical location in relation to the rest of Scotland. The Shetland Islands should not be placed in a box.

7.11 The NatureScot GIS Services Manager may also be contacted for advice:

Lachlan Renwick [email protected]

1They should be cross-referenced in the text using consecutive numbers throughout the report. They should be super-script at the appropriate point.
2See section on Footnote creation.

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