Plants & Human Affairs
Cherries.wmf (7140 bytes) Plants & Human Affairs (BIOL106)  Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D.; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321;;

Writing a Lab Report in BIOL106

Overview:  The purpose of a lab report is to document the results of an experiment.  Most lab reports follow a standardized format that, among other things, makes it easier for the reader to quickly locate information of interest. The sections of a laboratory report that we will use are:

I. Title & author identification
II. Introduction
III. Materials and Methods
IV. Results
V. Discussion
VI. Literature Cited

I. Title: - Keep the title of your paper as brief as possible. Capitalize the first letter of each major word. The title should be descriptive and give the reader an immediate indication of the subject of your paper.  Under the title, center your name, campus, phone number. 

II. Introduction: This section discusses your reasons (i.e., question) for conducting the experiment, the purpose of your experiment, and pertinent background information concerning your experimental topic. Your hypothesis should be included in some form.  This section should include a review of pertinent literature related to your project.  This section should be approximately one typed page. 

III. Methods: This is a written description of the experimental procedures. Labeled diagrams of complicated apparatus may supplement the written description. This section should be explicit enough so that another investigator could repeat your experiment. Recall that one of the criteria of science is that it is repeatable; that is, others would get the same results if they followed your methods. Be as specific as possible indicating how much, how long, how many types, where samples were collected and when, types of equipment used, etc. You should also indicate any type of statistical analysis that was done.  This section should be written in past tense. If the procedures you used are published elsewhere, simply cite that reference; however, you must still give a brief summary of what you did.  Be sure to include the source, identity and method of preparation of your plant materials. 

IV. Results:
     This section is a written description of the results of your experiment. It also includes all the information gathered during the course of the experiment, including graphs, tables and other figures. It is recommended that you graph data whenever possible - it is much easier to interpret data when they are presented in a graph form than when they are in tabular form. Again, use past tense. Please append a copy of your raw data to the report and provide a sample calculation. You may photocopy the original copy of shared group data. 

    When discussing statistical tests, always indicate the type of test used (e.g., t-test, chi-square) and report the probability (p) value.  For example, "A chi-square test (p=0.02) indicated that we must reject the null hypothesis."  Or, "Spider distribution is markedly affected by the presence of hedge apples (chi square; p=0.02)."

V. Discussion:
     This section should: (1) explain for the results; (2) interpret of the results; (3)indicate if the results were expected and why or why not? (4) discuss any previous studies or information related to the experiment and compare the results of the two experiments; and (5) suggest the significance of the results and experiment.   If the experiment didn't work out, don't just say "experimental error", suggest reasons for the failure.

VII. Literature Cited:
     This is the last section of a scientific paper. This section lists, alphabetically by author and numbered consecutively, the references cited in the body of the paper.  You can use whatever reference citation format that you want (i.e., MLA).  Whichever format you choose, you should be consistent.  As a note, scientists do not use MLA format.

Grading Rubric:
    Lab reports are worth 50 points.  Before your turning in your report for grading, do a quick self-evaluation of your report (click here for a series of questions to consider, this handout is shared with another course) and also complete the BIOL 106 Lab Report Checklist .  The distribution of points is as follows:

  • Title - 1 points
  • Introduction - 10 points
  • Methods  - 6 points
  • Results - 12 points
  • Discussion - 10 points
  • Literature Cited - 3 points
  • General Format/Rhetoric - 5 points
  • Completed BIOL 106 Lab Report Checklist (print and turn in with your report) - 3 points

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Last updated:  10/05/2008 � Copyright  by SG Saupe