Lab report specs

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The following is an outline of the sections to be included in a biology lab report, with ideas for elements to include in each section.

  1. Title: Be as specific as possible; briefly include the primary topic dealt with during the experimentation (e.g., respiration).
  2. Introduction: Introduce the lab as follows:
    • Provide a brief description of the experiment that you have conducted.
    • Describe the purpose of the lab, usually posed in the form of a question. Be sure to identify the independent and dependent variables.
    • Provide background information (evidence and/or concepts) related to the problem.
  3. Hypothesis: Create a testable hypothesis statement which ties together the independent and dependent variables in the experiment or investigation. The hypothesis is what you think will happen during the investigation. It differs from a guess in that it is based upon prior knowledge or evidence.
    • The hypothesis should be the statement that drives your laboratory investigation ... and represents your best prediction of the results based on prior experience with the problem.
    • Physical Science courses and experiments often combine the problem and hypothesis as a hybrid, but biology and psychology reports usually want a clear statement of the hypothesis when possible in an if .. then conditional format.
  4. Materials: Include a list of the materials and equipment used in the lab.
  5. Procedure: Include a listing of the steps performed in the lab. Be specific but brief. Diagram and label the setup of equipment for the lab. State any hazards that may be encountered while doing the lab. Clearly identify 1) independent and dependent variables, 2) control condition(s), and 3) measurement techniques.
  6. Data/Results:
    • Create a data table as appropriate to include all observations and measurements.
    • Include a graph of data as appropriate with appropriate titles and labels.
    • Do not hide or eliminate suspected faulty data. Rather include it and make particular mention of any issues. (Later, in your conclusions, you may explain why you have decided not to use suspected errors in your analysis. Good scientists present the data they obtain even when it is suspected to be faulty. They explain why they feel they are in error in the discussion of their results later. This is why a true experiment has many trials and much peer review occurs before results are accepted by the scientific community at large.)
  7. Conclusion/Discussion:
    • Clearly explain whether the results support or refute the hypothesis being tested.
    • Explain what your findings mean and what conclusions you can draw from the data.
    • Discuss any errors in the procedure and how these might relate to deviations from the expected results.
    • Explain any uncertainties in the observations/measurements.
    • Identify and explain how sources of error (e.g., equipment/instrument error, procedural setup error, human error, etc.) might have influenced the lab results.
    • Discuss how the lab could be modified to improve the results.