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Biology Lab Reports

1. Abstract

  • Brief (fewer than 250 words).
  • Includes 1-2 sentences each of summary for introduction, methods, results, and conclusion.
  • Easiest to write last, once you know what every other section discusses.

2. Introduction

  • Provides all the context a reader needs to be able to understand and interpret the results.
  • Discusses current understanding of topic with relevant studies in a “funnel shape,” beginning broadly and narrowing down to the exact inquiry.
  • Describes what will be done in this study including objectives and hypothesis.

3. Methods and Materials

  • Written in past tense. Many professors are moving away from passive voice, but the custom is still discipline-specific, so ask the instructor to be sure.
  • Describes everything about how the experiment was performed (What? Where? When? How?).
  • Includes relevant info, such as materials used, organism (with the Latin name listed in italics afterward), and methods of data analysis.
    Note: If the procedure used is well-known or published, you may reference it rather than rewrite it.

4. Results 

  • Describes analyzed data, not raw data. For example, average length instead of individual length.
  • Guides the reader through--and refers to--all tables or figures.
  • Points out trends in data and comparisons between data, including the direction of difference (such as which variable was larger), not just that there was a difference between variables.

5. Discussion

  • Conceptually links to the introduction with a brief recap at beginning of the section, specifically through discussion of data in terms of objectives and hypothesis and comparison of this study’s conclusions with those of others.
  • Addresses any issues with experimental design or data collection that may have influenced results.
  • Presents an interpretation of the larger meaning of this work.

6. Literature Cited

  • Uses a different format with each journal. Check with your instructor for a specific format.
  • Whatever the format, must be consistent.

7. Tables and Figures

  • Need descriptive captions. Figure legends go below figures and table legends go above tables.
  • Not raw data.
  •  understandable without reading the entire report/manuscript.
  • Should be referred to sequentially in the text, excluding none.
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