Posted: September 13th, 2022

What is the purpose of scientific papers?

Created by Writing Center tutors D.N. & J.S. 11/21/2016
Biology Lab Report Sample
Writing for Science
Title Page
Descriptive Title of Your Experiment
Your Name
Course Section
Date of Experiment
Name(s) of Lab Partner(s)
What is the purpose of scientific papers?
Scientific papers are written to communicate current research findings or ideas within the
scientific community. These papers also allow others to understand and repeat your experiments. Like
other forms of writing you’ve done in college, writing in your science course helps you develop the
ability to think logically, organize ideas, and communicate those ideas clearly. This handout will show
you how to format a biology lab report and what is usually required in each section.
NOTE: Please consult your professor for preferred formatting requirements.
 All text in the title
page should be in size
12 font, Times New
 Capitalize all letters
in your experiment’s
title at the top of
every page.
 “Running head:” is
on page 1 only.
 All text in the report
is double-spaced.
 All pages are
 Some professors require a
Table of Contents after the
Title Page.
 If required, list the title of
each section and page
Created by Writing Center tutors D.N. & J.S. 11/21/2016
Biology Lab Report Sample, Cont’d
The introduction gives background information on why your experiment is important
and clearly states the issues that will be addressed in the rest of the report. Since it provides the
structure for the entire report, it is a good idea to write the other sections of your report first, and
then write the introduction. Your introduction should include:
____At least 2 paragraphs.
____A clear statement of the specific question or issue addressed.
____A logical argument as to why the question or issue was addressed.
____Specific hypotheses and a rationale for those expectations.
____References or examples to support all statements of fact or opinion.
The hypothesis is what you propose will happen in the experiment. Usually it is the last
sentence of the introduction and can be stated in the following structure:
If…(independent variable)…., then (dependent variable)….
Example hypothesis: If the number of serial dilutions increases, the number of bacterial colonies
will decrease as the concentration of cells declines.
Independent variable
Dependent variable
Explanation of the relationship
between the variables
Created by Writing Center tutors D.N. & J.S. 11/21/2016
Biology Lab Report Sample, Cont’d
Materials and Methods
Use the information you recorded in your lab notebook as a guide to write this section in
paragraph format. Provide enough information so that the reader could repeat the experiment, but
not so much that it distracts the reader from understanding the overall experiment.
Here is an example of having too much information:
First, we obtained a 10 mL beaker. We used a yellow p20 pipette to take out 12.0 µL of
the sample, which was then added to the beaker.
Here is an example with just enough information:
12.0 µL of the sample was transferred to a 10 mL beaker.
Also keep in mind the following guidelines:
_____Experimental design is clear and complete.
_____Rationale for each step is clearly indicated.
_____Precision of all measurements is indicated.
_____Brief description is included of how data were analyzed (i.e. calculations made,
statistical tests used).
Created by Writing Center tutors D.N. & J.S. 11/21/2016
Biology Lab Report Sample, Cont’d
In paragraph format, write exactly what you observed. Lead the reader to your figures
and cite them within your text. Present your data in the form of tables, graphs, and pictures. Be
sure to include a descriptive title and legend or caption for each figure you include in the paper.
Don’t forget statistics and p-values, if calculated, for data.
Example: “Following inoculation of the KBT-1 strain, red growth was concentrated at the
bottom of the tube with no turbidity throughout (Figure 2).” *
*Source: Nguyen, Dalena. “Genotype Changes Phenotype: IS Elements Affect Gas Vesicle Production in
Halobacteria”. Massasoit Community College.
____Results are written in past tense.
____All general statements are supported with reference to data.
____Major results are presented in words, but meanings/implications are not
discussed yet (saved for discussion section).
Remember to distinguish your
figures by labeling them.
(Ex. A and B)
Include a legend below your
figures to objectively describe
Created by Writing Center tutors D.N. & J.S. 11/21/2016
Biology Lab Report Sample, Cont’d
(Results, cont.)
____Each figure or table has an informative caption or legend.
____Tables and figures are numbered in the same order as referred to in the paper.
The “Discussion” section differs from the “Results” section, where you simply report
what you saw. In the “Discussion” section, you interpret your results in order to explain why
and how you obtained those results. State whether the results support your hypothesis. Then,
make conclusions throughout your discussion, but always base your interpretation on evidence
rather than feelings or guesses. Answer questions like the following:
____Why did you get the results you got? What happened? What could have caused
your results?
____Not all experiments are perfectly conducted, so what are some experimental errors
that could have skewed your results?
____What were the strengths and weaknesses of the experiment? How did each
weakness possibly affect the results?
____What further experiments can be done to confirm your data? What additional
questions should be posed? How should the present study be modified in the
Not all Biology professors require a separate conclusion. However, if your professor
does then try to answer these questions: What do you conclude from your experiment? Are your
results reasonable? Did something crazy happen? (Ex. No bacterial growth happened when it
should have.) Compare the expected results against your actual results. Unlike in writing for
English courses, your conclusion does not restate or support your hypothesis. In other words,
it’s OK to be wrong.
Created by Writing Center tutors D.N. & J.S. 11/21/2016
Biology Lab Report Sample, Cont’d
____ Citations are provided for every reference cited in the report and are in APA
format. Please consult the Writing Center’s “APA Sample Paper” or Purdue Owl
website for information on citing different materials.
Other Science Writing Tips
 Be clear, concise, and specific. Don’t write about feelings. Avoid wordiness and
unnecessary details. Focus on observations.
 Avoid personal pronouns (“I” or “we”).
 When formulating your hypothesis, think of it as creating a thesis statement. It
should be the guiding statement of your paper.
 Write your entire paper with your hypothesis and objectives in mind. Your
results and discussion sections should refer to those in order to maintain the
focus of the paper.
 Write your entire paper in the past tense (except when making suggestions for
the future in your discussion section).
 Visit the science tutors in the ARC for help with content and the writing tutors
for help with writing concerns (i.e. clarity, grammar, formatting).
Source for handout:
Pechenik, J. A. (2001). .A Short Guide to Writing About Biology (4th ed.). New York:

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