GUIDE TO LAB REPORTS

The biology lab report emulates the style of an article submitted to a scientific journal. A journal article reflects the scientific method in every aspect of its writing and format. Five labeled subheadings (and a title) are normally included.

Title

Be original and specific (but not cute), do not just use the title in the lab manual or handout. One formula for a title is: The effect of (treatment) on (phenomenon observed or measured) in (species).

INTRODUCTION

Must include two essential elements: the background to the problem and the purpose of the experiment.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

A description of how you actually did the experiment. Do not include a list of materials.

RESULTS

This section presents in an organized fashion the data you obtained. You must have a a verbal text section describing and referring to any and all Tables and Figures. It is not sufficient to simply present the data; you must describe the trends that appear in them. Observations of any kind go in this section, such as the behavior of an animal during the experiment. Give no interpretation of data, no judgements, or explanations. Save that for the next section.

DISCUSSION

This is the most important part of your report. Interpret your data, and make comparisons and conclusions. Explain what happened and why you got the results you did. Make sure you discuss YOUR data thoroughly before you go on to put them in context.

LITERATURE CITED

At the end of your report, you must list all references used in it. List only and all those used in the text of the paper. They must be listed in alphabetical order and in a very specific format. The format depends on the kind of reference.

The instructions below describe aspects of the lab report that are not sections of the paper, but are important to writing it well.

Citations

Throughout the paper, you should cite every statement that is not common knowledge. Use the Author/Year system.

General Considerations

There are many reminders, handy tips and suggestions that will make your lab report sound professional.

Sample Lab Report

A sample, phony lab report is provided to allow you to emulate the desired style and format.

[1/18/2007 jrc]