Spring.wmf (18300 bytes) Plant Physiology (Biology 327)  - Dr. Stephen G. Saupe;  College of St. Benedict/ St. John's University;  Biology Department; Collegeville, MN  56321; (320) 363 - 2782; (320) 363 - 3202, fax;    ssaupe@csbsju.edu

Lab Reports

    Laboratory reports should be written in the format and style of articles in the journal Plant Physiology. Familiarize yourself with a recent edition of this journal, available in the Clemens Library or online for the details of organization, headings, methods of citing references, methods of presenting data, etc. The following briefly summarizes this information.  This is essentially the same format that we used during Introductory Biology (Biol121/221).  Finally, although the style of writing of a lab report will differ from that of an English essay, lab reports should be well-written and grammatically correct. 

The major sections of a laboratory report are:

I. Title
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.

II.  Abstract:  An abstract is a brief summary of your paper.  Click here for more details.

III. 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.

IV. Methods and Materials: 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. 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. This section should be written in past tense. If the procedures you used are published elsewhere, including the lab manual, simply cite that reference; however, you must still give a brief summary of each major activity.  Be sure to include the source, identity and method of preparation of your plant materials.

V. Results: This section is a written description of the results of your experiment. It includes all the information gathered during the course of the experiment, including graphs, tables and 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(s). You may photocopy shared group data.  However, unless otherwise stated you must prepare all final graphs and tables on your own.

VI. Discussion: This section should: (1) offer an explanation for the results; (2) interpret 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. The abbreviations of journals should conform with BIOSIS - List of Serials. Many different formats for citing references are used in the scientific literature. As expected, the form we shall follow is that used in Plant Physiology and is summarized below:


General Format:  Author AB (1998) Title of Book. Publisher, City.

Ex:  Lincoff G, Mitchell DH (1977) Toxic and Hallucinogenic Mushroom Poisoning. Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York.

Book Articles

General Format:  Author AB, Author BB, Author CC (1974) Title of article. In A Smith, B Jones, eds, Title of Book, Ed # Vol #. Publisher, City, pp 14 -19.

Ex:  Chilton WS (1978) Chemistry and mode of action of mushroom toxins. In BH Rumack and E Salzman, eds. Mushroom Poisoning. Diagnosis and Treatment. CRC Press, West Palm Beach, Florida, pp 87-124.

Journal Article

General Format:  Author AB, Author BB (1977) Title of article. Journal Volume Number: start page - end page.

Ex:  Singer R (1956) Contributions towards a monograph of the genus Pluteus. Trans Brit. Mycol. Soc. 39: 145-232.

No Author or Editors

Title of Booklet, Pamphlet, etc. (1975) Publisher (or Company), City


Author A (year of publication) Title. access date. web address

Ex:  Saupe S (2003) Lab Reports. Accessed January 2, 2004.  http://www.employees.csbsju.edu/ssaupe/biol327/Lab/Lab-Reports.htm 

Citing References:  References are cited in the text in two ways:

  1. Singer (1956) reported that Pluteus salicinus is common in some areas of North America and Europe; or
  2. Psilocin and psilocybin occur in mushrooms in the families Bolbitiaceae, Coprinaceae, Cortinariaceae and Strophariaceae (Chilton, 1978; Lincoff and Mitchell, 1977).

Grading Rubric:
    Lab reports are worth 100 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) and also complete the Lab Report Checklist.  The purpose of the checklist is to alert you to potential places that could negatively impact your score on the report.  The distribution of points is as follows:

  • Title - 1 points
  • Abstract - 5 points
  • Introduction - 16 points
  • Methods & Materials - 10 points
  • Results - 26 points
  • Discussion - 22 points
  • Literature Cited - 5 points
  • General Format/Rhetoric - 10 points
  • Completed Lab Report Checklist (print and turn in with your report.  Be sure to comply with all aspects of the checklist) - 5 points
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Last updated:  01/07/2009     � Copyright  by SG Saupe