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How To Write a Good Biology Lab Report

biology lab report

Biology lab reports are an important form of academic writing for students of general biology, microbiology, or any other related field. Most college curriculums include these lab reports to help you get your fundamentals right. They are a great way of evaluating how well you have understood the process of experimentation in biology. It also allows your teacher to determine if you can relay all the data and information that you collected during this process in an organized way.

The purpose of the experiment is to determine how you can put what you have learned to writing. Your accuracy in the report writing will be judged using factors such as the ability to get needed raw data or secondary data for your research. The organization of your title page and the ability to work effectively with your lab partner on the project is also of utmost importance.

What is a Biology Lab Report

Microbiology lab reports or any other lab report is a systematic presentation of the different processes and mechanisms that you have studied or watched through the course. It also lists the procedures and experiments that have been used and the outcome derived. One thing to note with scientific writing is that the results usually have minor errors or may even be incorrect. This is a science where such occurrences are frequent.

What is most important is the format of the report and how you present it. Although very few factors are controlled tightly in biology, unlike sciences like physics, you need to be very careful while figuring out how to do a biology lab report. The report must contain the purpose of the experiment, materials used, and everything you have observed while experimenting. Even when the results did not match the expectation, your lab report should provide a satisfactory explanation about why the outcome was different.

How to Write a Lab Report Biology

Here are some crucial rules that you should keep in mind when you are learning how to do a lab report for biology:

  • Describe each procedure in detail: Your report must talk about every step or method applied to the experiment. Even if some simple changes were made along the way, you must be sure to point them out. When writing college biology lab reports, the idea is to make sure that anyone who reads it will understand the purpose of the experiment and replicate the experiment as you have done.
  • Interpretation, Analysis, and Discussion: All the data that you collect must be interpreted and analyzed thoroughly before moving on to the final stage which is the discussion of the results.
  • Use the right language: Irrespective of the biology report topics you have chosen or the lab manual being used, there are some principles of writing and formatting that you should follow:
  • The report should always be in third person without using any personal pronouns.
  • Past tense and passive voice must be used to describe the procedures.
  • Every section should have a subheading that is written in bold or italics fonts.
  • Ensure that the citing style and referencing is as per the requirements stipulated by the university.

Biology Lab Report Format

Now, let us break down in detail how to write a formal lab report for biology. There are some important sections that are mandatory for you to complete the report successfully:

Abstract

The abstract is used to inform the purpose and conclusion of an experiment in a concise manner. It usually comes before the title page and involves a concise summary of the experiment. Following this, you need to highlight five primary sections:

  • Purpose
  • Problem
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Conclusion

Here is an abstract for a biology lab report example:

“The purpose of this experiment is to determine the factors that positively affect enzyme reaction in various cellular activities. A spectrophotometer was used to measure the catecholase enzyme activity by studying the rate of absorption. The results section showed that samples with a higher concentration of these enzymes had a significantly higher absorption rate.”

Introduction

An important hack for writing biology scientific writing is that you should always write the introduction after completing the rest of the sections. The introduction provides a framework for the entire text of the report. It shows the reader that you have completely understood the biology report topics.

While writing the introduction, it is a good idea to jot down all the references and facts. You can even use some notes from your lecture. Make sure that the induction is not too long. For best results, use specified terminologies like photosynthesis and others that are related to the experiment. Do not provide any proof in the introduction. You are only required to outline the entire report.

Here is a sample based on the abstract provided above:

“It is a well-known fact that catalytic proteins accelerate enzyme actions by lowering the level of activation energy (Campbell, 1996). This experiment studies the rate of reaction between catechol and oxygen molecules. The aim was to study the formation of benzoquinone with different enzyme concentrations. The purpose was to determine how enzyme concentration influences the rate of reaction.

Materials and Methods

This section must be provided by students in the beginning. It should have an explanation of the experiment as well. This section describes all the procedures that were involved in carrying out the experiment. Remember, the goal is to help other students carry out the experiment in the future by just referring to the document.

College biology lab reports may contain diagrams in this section as well. You must cover all the measurement techniques and quantify the various elements of your experiment. Identifying the raw data and the materials used in the experiment is important in this section.  Accuracy is a must in this section.

Here is an example for better understanding:

“To prepare catecholase extract, we used a potato that was skinned, washed, and diced. Using a scale, a precise measurement of 30g of potato was taken. A beaker was filled with 150ml of water. The water was then added to the potato. Using a hand-blender, both ingredients were blended. We carefully noted the time and turned the blender off. To filter the blended mixture, four cheesecloth layers were used. We stored the extracts obtained through the other processes in a container that was clean and tightly closed.”

Results

This is the part of your high school or college biology writing report where you present the results section in an orderly fashion. Here, all the facts should be stated using as few words as possible. Only important information should be presented in a logical way.

There is no need to describe the methods or interpret the results in this section. The goal is to showcase patterns using data. Using tables and diagrams is a great way to bring your reader’s attention to these trends.

Here is a tabular presentation of data for your reference:

 

Study Group The concentration of Protein in micl/micg Rate of absorption (595 nm)
Drug 2,50 0,69
Drug/ LPS 2,22 0,61
Media 2,04 0,57
Media/LPS 2,16 0,60

 

Discussion

This is the final and most important part of your biology lab report. Here all the ideas that you had after conducting the experiment should be stated. Then, move on to the thoughts that you had based on the final results. Make sure you compare the results and the expected findings.

You must also make a note of whether the results supported the topic of your thesis. If there were any variations, they should be mentioned too. The main goal is to provide an original interpretation that is original. You can go from being specific to a generalized disease. You do not have to prove or disprove the hypothesis. Adding some original ideas with a concluding statement to the interpretation is the right way to complete your lab report.

Follow this example to get a clear understanding:

“The activation energy of any reaction is reduced by protein molecules. Catecholase is a type of enzyme that is found in potatoes. When oxygen is present it changes into benzoquinone. The study was based on the expectation that a higher quantity of benzoquinone would be produced with a higher amount of catecholase. The results section is able to prove this theory.

In conclusion, it has been noted that the environment influences catalysts. One of the primary factors that affect these reactions is the pH level of the environment. It tends to modify the chemicals and the rate at which these compounds are accelerated or moderated depend on how close the environment is to the standard measures.”

How to Cite In a Biology Lab Report

The template for a biology lab report citation is usually based on the APA writing style. The purpose of the citation is to:

  • Show readers where the information has been sourced from.
  • Give due credit to the original work of a researcher or author that you have referred and also to your lab partner.
  • Provide additional sources to readers to gather more information about the topic
  • Prevent any chances of plagiarism.

All the reference material for your biology lab report should be mentioned at the end. This includes lab manuals, articles, books, research papers, and any other source that you used to complete your report.

Here is the biology lab report format for writing citations based on the APA style. It lists different sources:

Books

  • Name of the author (Last name, first name, initials)
  • Year of publication
  • Title of the book with edition in case there was more than one
  • Place of publication (City, state) with a colon at the end.
  • Publisher name

For example: Will J.B (2006). Life Sciences 3rd Edition. Boston, Chicago: Thompson Books

Journal

  • Name of the author or authors (Last name, first initial, middle initial)
  • Year of publication
  • Article Title
  • Journal Title
  • Volume and Issue Number in parenthesis
  • Page numbers

For example: James, R.G & Carlton, B (2002). Enzyme catalysis by protein molecules. National Geographic. 90 (2), 245-250.

Although APA is the common citation format for most biology reports, make sure you check with your university about the accepted format to avoid negative grading.

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