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Guide to science lab reports

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Writing a good lab report in biology requires good organization and knowing what to include in each of the sections.

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Solution Summary

From lab to lab, there are differences in what is required for a lab report. This guide helps decipher the requirements and will help you get that grade.

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Guidelines For Writing A Typical Biology Lab Report

A lab report should be a concise and detailed account of an experiment. Someone should be able to follow your report and duplicate the experiment you did EXACTLY. As well, each course/TA will have a specific format that you must conform to. It is up to you to find out what that format is and conform. All TA's love to take marks off for incorrect format. As well a properly formatted lab report is easier to mark and will therefore earn you a higher grade.

Reports should be double spaced, on one side of the page only. Typed or handwritten reports must be legible. Word-processed reports are often preferred, and they can usually contain hand written tables and equations. Reports should be written for quality not quantity. Length limits for each section of a lab report are typically enforced. The limits below are a typical guide but this can vary depending on the lab instructor. Most TA's do not want to read lengthy reports and will often penalize for excessive length. It will therefore be in your best interest to select only the most relevant information to include in your report. Be succinct and make sure your report flows well.

There is a detailed description below of the type of information expected in each of the five sections of a typical report. Also, there is a book on called: A Short Guide to Writing About Biology' which you may find helpful in writing your reports.

** On the title page, include a descriptive title along with your name, student number, date, lab day, bench number, lab instructor and any other information.

While the introduction always goes at the beginning of your report, it is easier to write it last, after you have compiled your results and understand what they mean. The introduction should be no longer than 300 words (approx. 1 -1.5 typed pages) and general in context. The function of the introduction is four fold:

a) To state the objective of the lab - one sentence briefly stating what you are going to do and how you hope to demonstrate it. You also need to include a hypothesis: what you predict will happen upon completion of your objective. I put this in the last paragraph of the introduction.

b) To state the rational of the study - why the procedures you used and the information you will gain are important in cell physiology (why the government would give you money to do the study). I usually put this at the beginning of the introduction because it usually contains the most general information in the introduction.

c) To briefly give enough information about the major techniques or theories (e.g.
spectrophotometry or cell fractionation), biological systems (e.g. mitochondria or blond cells), or the chemical assay (e.g. BCA protein assay) used in the exercise to allow the reader to understand the objective of the exercise. Use the objective as a guide to what should be included - if you say in the objective that you are going to demonstrate the Beer-lambert law of spectrophotometry then you should state the Beer-Lambert law and explain what it means. These descriptions should be general in nature and no more than 2 or 3 sentences each - be selective, include only a general introduction to the techniques and theory - save the details for the discussion to help explain your results.

Above all do not rewrite or paraphrase the introduction in the lab manual. This is can be construed as plagiarism. It is also a good idea to suggest a few review articles that go over the techniques or concepts discussed in the introduction. This frees up some room in the introduction for you to discuss more relevant matters.

For most lab reports you do not need to rewrite the ...

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