General Lab Report Guidelines
Lab: Reports should be written in Times New Roman 12 point font, double-spaced, have 1-inch
margins and pages numbered in the bottom right corner. Figures, tables and references do not count
towards the 5- to7-page limit. Use complete sentences; grammar and spelling do count. You should
proofread the report using spell-check and grammar-check before printing, and correct errors before
1. Your name and your lab section number should be included in the header of the first page. A
hard copy of the report should be brought to lab (unless your lab instructor will grade reports
2. The title of your lab report should be specific, descriptive and concise – like a scientific paper
title. Do not write “Lab report #1” or “Bacteria and Antibiotics lab report”. The title should
include specific names of organism(s) and specific factor(s) studied.
a) Give background information on both bacteria and all three antibiotics; write
about what is already known about them in the research literature.
b) What is left unanswered and what is the significance of your experiment?
c) What are your goals (objectives)? The aim of your study should be clearly stated
immediately after discussing the basic references
d) Mention your experimental design.
e) State the hypothesis and your predictions in the last paragraph.
f) Don’t forget to cite throughout the text – (author, year), for example: (Jensen, 2006)
or (Stevens and Bonvecchio, 2001) or (Zhou et al., 2010).
g) Written in present tense, and past tense if mentioning previously found data.
4. Materials and Methods
a) Explain the procedure so someone who needs to repeat this experiment clearly
understands all the steps (replications included) and will be able to repeat it in the
same exact way.
b) Written in paragraph form. Do not use bullet points!
c) Do not list all the materials one by one – include them in your procedure description
(leave out the unnecessary details).
d) Specify all materials, reagents & organisms and add their source
(manufacturer/catalog number). Mention what concentrations were used.
e) Include the controls that were used and explain why they were used.
f) Explain how data was collected.
g) Explain how data analysis was done (including the statistics).
h) Written in passive voice and past tense (e.g. Plates were incubated at …)
i) Italicize species names, e.g. Staphylococcus aureus.
a) Write a summary paragraph emphasizing important patterns or trends that can be
seen in your tables and graphs (do not list one by one all of the results from your
tables and graphs).
b) State whether increase or decrease in specific values was recorded but do not explain
or discuss why you got those particular findings, do not draw major conclusions (leave
that for the ‘Discussion’ section).
c) Present your data (illustrate your findings) in the form of tables and figures.
Throughout the text refer the reader to see the appropriate figures and tables by
inserting (Figure 1) or (Fig. 2A), or (Table 1) at the end of the sentence in which you
mention them, or by inserting ‘as seen in Fig. 1.’ in the text.
d) One of the figures should show a photo of the Gram stained bacteria, both S.
enteritidis and S. aureus (individual cells, not clumps of Gram stain), and the other
figure should show a graph that displays data from the table.
e) Your table should show averages and standard deviations for each of the treatments.
Check with your lab instructor whether or not you need to include all of the
measurements in this table.
f) Remember to show a natural progression of how results were collected – from the
collection of raw data to the illustration of analyzed data in figures.
g) Correctly label those figures and tables. Take a look at the figures and tables from the
primary scientific papers you chose as your references. The title or heading of the
figure/table has to be descriptive and specific to your experiment. A legend should
state what is shown in those figures/tables. If error bars for all your data in the graph
look the same, go back and select ‘Custom Error Bars’ option in Excel.
a) Use past tense to state what you found out in your experiments, whether your results
support the hypothesis, or your results falsified the hypothesis.
b) Interpret your findings and discuss their significance.
c) As you explain what your findings mean, mention relevant figures and tables again.
d) Draw conclusions and relate your data/findings to what has already been done in
e) Compare your data to findings from published peer-reviewed papers to prove the
results you got are valid (or not).
f) NO QUOTES! You need to paraphrase the information you got from your sources and
cite the author(s) of those papers – you cannot just put the text from those scientific
papers in quotations and cite the authors because that does not show us that you
actually understood the experiments and the results from the papers you are citing.
g) Discuss the limitations of your experimental design, explain why something went
wrong and what you could have done differently.
h) Propose future experiments.
i) Talk about implications of your research.
a) 6 journal papers minimum – primary scientific articles (4 at least) and secondary
scientific articles (review papers). You should try to find more recent papers,
published in the last 10 – 20 years. If you have more than 6 sources, one of your
sources can be published before the 1990s.
b) You cannot cite any websites, your Biology textbook or any other textbook, handbook
or lab manual for this assignment.
c) All sources need to be correctly cited and put in alphabetical order.
d) When citing throughout the text, if you have 3 or more authors you should write
(Rossi et al., 2014), but in the ‘References’ section you have to write all their last
names and first name initials.
e) Use the APA citation style as illustrated in the example below. Please do not use an
APA variant different from this example.
f) An excellent place to look for answers to any lab report related question you might
have is Purdue OWL website –
https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/25/, but remember to follow the
formatting requirements discussed in these guidelines first.
Rossi, A., Ross, E. J., Jack, A. and Sánchez Alvarado, A. (2014). Molecular cloning and
characterization of SL3: a stem cell-specific SL RNA from the planarian Schmidtea
mediterranea. Gene. 533 (1): 156-67.
General Lab Report Guidelines