Skip to Main Content

Bio 116/117 Lab Report

Details of the Bio 116/117 Lab Report

Your lab report should include:

1. Title Page (dedicated page)

  • an informative report title
  • the names of yourself (the author) and your group members
  • course number
  • date report turned in
  • laboratory instructor











2. Introduction (body begins on new page)

  • Background information so that a reader will understand the purpose of your experiments.
  • Italicize Latin binomials with the Genus name capitalized and the species name lower-case. (Homo sapiens) After the first use, it is OK to abbreviate the genus name (H. sapiens).
  • Discuss and cite specific experiments done by others using APA in-text citations. For example, (Jones, 1998).
  • What are the questions you are asking, and why are they worth asking?
  • Explain the purpose of your experiments
  • Give a brief description of treatments used and what was measured.
  • State the null hypotheses and predictions being tested when appropriate.

3. Methods

This is not a list of materials used, but a combination of text and tables describing the procedures. A knowledgeable scientist should be able to repeat your experiments after reading this section.

  • Summarize the procedure that you performed in your own words using active past tense. This is especially important for deviations from the lab protocol.
  • Details like concentrations (in absolute units like mM, not 1x), temperatures, and sample size are important.
  • A Table is often useful here to describe the treatments.
  • Date, time, and location may be relevant for a field study, but are not usually needed for a lab experiment.
  • Any statistical analyses and software used for data analysis should be mentioned.

4. Data

  • Summarize your data in graphs or tables as appropriate. Do not repeat the same data in both a table and a graph. A graph is preferable.
    Do not simply list your raw data.
  • Graphs, diagrams, and photos are numbered consecutively as Figure 1 to Figure X.
  • Tables are numbered separately from the Figures as Table 1 to Table X.
  • The Table convention is to use columns for categories of information (i.e. size, shape, etc.) and rows for the different entries (i.e. species of bacteria).
  • Label the axes or columns and define all treatments including units (do not repeat units within the Table). Labels such as "treatments 1,2,3, and 4" are not sufficient.
  • Write informative Figure legends (text below the Figure) so that it is not necessary to refer back to the report to understand the Figure. Include information about methods (temperature, concentration), how the data are expressed, sample size, and any abbreviations.
  • Do not include any Results or Discussion in the legend.
  • Write informative Table captions (text above the Table) so that it is not necessary to refer back to the report to understand the Table. A caption presents a succinct statement of the contents of the table. The caption must NOT include information about methods, how the data are expressed, sample size, or any abbreviations; those are included as footnotes to the table, with each footnote keyed to a footnote reference in the table by sequential, lettered superscripts.

5. Results

  • Describe your results (do not list actual numbers, but point out trends or important features). "Data" is the plural form of the noun "datum" (use "data are", not "data is").
  • Refer to all figures and tables by number as well as any other relevant information. "See Figures." is not sufficient.
  • Briefly interpret any analyses and state whether or not you can reject the null hypotheses or support specific predictions if appropriate.
  • Always report the direction of any significant difference or relationship. Which of your treatment groups was larger, greater, or faster? Was it a positive or negative regression slope?
  • The normally accepted format for reporting statistical results within text is to give the Test NameTest Statistic, degrees of freedom or sample size, and P-value (e.g. Flower number was significantly higher for unherbivorized plants (ANOVA, F = 7.232, df = 2, 78, P = 0.0013).
  • Results are typically not discussed much more in this section unless brief discussion aids clarity or guides the reader through a series of results.
  • If you experienced technical difficulties, you must describe your expectations rather than your actual data or get raw data (not completed figures) from a classmate or the laboratory instructor (remember to cite their source).

6. Discussion

  • Describe each general result very briefly. No need to refer to Tables, Figures, or P-Values.
  • Discuss any expected and unexpected findings in light of the hypotheses and predictions outlined in your introduction or the specific literature (cite references) which prompts your expectations.
  • Describe those technical factors that you believe might help the reader interpret your data.
  • Critique the experimental design. Does it adequately address the hypotheses being tested? Were there faulty assumptions in the design that confound your interpretation of the data?
  • What new questions are prompted by the results?
  • If your particular experiment failed, what would you do next time to make it work?
  • Include in your text answers to specific questions if listed in the laboratory handout. It is usually a good idea to reflect on these questions as you are obtaining your data.

7. References (begins on new page)

  • Avoid the use of direct quotes. Paraphrase or summarize and use in-text citations instead.
  • Prepare a complete alphabetized (by first author's last name) list of bibliographic references for every citation in the text of your report.
  • Use APA guidelines for formatting your reference section; find them in the APA Style Guide.