Interactive Bacteria Lab Report
BIOL 1110 or 1120 JSCC
Components of a Lab Report
Use Key Words; indicates nature of the topic
by Johnnie A Student
ABSTRACT: A lab report presents procedures, data and results of experiments. It should be
written in short, concise standard American English. The Abstract is a summary of between 100
and 300 words. The Introduction presents the topic or problem being studied. The Materials and
Methods sections describes what was done and how and when. Results usually consist of a
narrative of what was found with graphs and(or) tables summarizing the analyzed data.
Interpretation of the results is provided in the Discussion section. References are usually
provided at the end.
Commonly the section heading “Introduction” is not printed because everybody knows
that the introduction is the first part of a lab report or scientific paper. BUT I want you to label
section “Introduction.” The introduction answers the questions: What is the problem being
studied? Why was the experiment performed? Generally a little background information is given
describing the problem – What is already known about the problem?
The introduction to a lab report should explain the purpose of the work that was done.
Objectives of the work should be spelled out and the hypothesis that was tested should be clearly
stated. So in your lab report you will want to list out objectives and state the hypothesis
something like this.
Having completed this lab, a student should be able to:
1. list the main sections of a typical lab report
2. describe what ideas or information should be provided in each section of a lab report
3. understand how to analyze and present data in a scientific report
4. appreciate the value of proper science report writing
If species of bacteria grown in this lab will variably respond to antiseptics and antibiotics, then
some of these antiseptics and antibiotics may be more effective in controlling these bacteria
growths. Of course the result of this lab will better inform us in how to better control potentially
harmful bacteria in our lives.
Materials and Methods
As the heading suggests, the Materials and Methods section of a lab report answers the
questions: What exactly did you do? How exactly did you do it? and also Where and when did
you do it? The rule of thumb (ROT) here is to describe what was done in enough detail so that
another scientist could repeat the experiment. Supplies and equipment need to be specified and
the procedures used presented in a logical way. It is ok to list steps 1, 2, 3 . . . and that sort of
thing in the methods.
In this class, let’s separate this into “Materials” and then “Procedures.” Simply list the
materials used like so.
Materials: Petri Dish incubator
Sterile Swabs bacterial cultures
Nutrient agar data table
you get the idea?
Remember the ROT here. The procedures should be spelled out so that another person
could repeat the experiment based just on what is written in this section. Exact amounts of
chemicals used need to be stated; exact volumes of solutions, etc. The steps in the experiment
need to be clearly stated so that they could be repeated in the correct order. It is ok to list out
steps, in fact, that is often a good approach, especially for beginners writing lab reports. Give
needed information about any subjects used as well. Sometimes a picture, diagram or sketch of
some kind can be helpful. Indicate what statistical procedures were used to analyze the data.
This is the meat of the matter, the heart and soul of your report. What do the data show?
What did you find out? Recall the scientific method. An experiment may result in the collection
of a significant amount of ‘raw’ data, a whole lot of numbers. Statistical procedures have to be
applied to the data to summarize it and analyze it. Raw data almost never appears in a report. The
summarized data is assembled into Tables and Graphs or Figures. Your data table may be cut
and pasted from your worksheet. Don’t duplicate information in tables in figures or vice versa.
Each table or figure has to have a title or caption with it indicating what is in the table or what is
shown in the graph. Sometimes pictures appear in reports. Tables have titles that appear at the
top while Figures and Pictures have captions which appear at the bottom [don’t ask me why].
It is important to provide a written narrative to go along with and explain the tables and
figures. Analyze the data first. Assemble the summarized data into tables and figures. Next
arrange the table and figures in some logical order. Proceed to write the narrative as you look at
the tables and figures. Explain what is in each table/figure. For example, if you were doing some
experiment that involved measuring the height of persons: “Average height of experimental
subjects appears in Table 1. Overall, males were 15% taller than females. The average height of
the Hispanic males was significantly less than that of both the African-American and Caucasion
males.” Etc. etc. It may seem a bit silly, but just say what’s in the tables and figures. Don’t
provide interpretation in the Results section. Limit this section to a very straightforward,
factual presentation of the summarized data, the results.
Discussion [and Conclusions]
The main purpose of the discussion section is for the authors to present their
interpretation of what the results mean. What do the results mean to you? For class reports,
clearly state if you accept or reject your initial hypothesis. Provide the logic for your decision to
accept or reject. Present any other conclusions that you feel are justified from your outstanding
We stated above that science writing should be concise, precise, and limited to the facts,
not long winded, wordy, verbose prose like in a Tolkien or Tolstoy novel. However, in the
discussion section a certain amount of speculation is ok. The results can be compared to those
reported by other scientists. Authors may indicate why they think their results and conclusions
are right and other person’s are in error [this can get to be fun at times]. In the discussion section
is where just a little bit of ‘bs’ might find its way into a scientific report. Unexpected or unusual
results can be explained in this section. Suggestions for how to do a better follow up experiment
could be given. Applications of the experimental findings or recommendations based on the
findings can be presented in this section.
This is where the other reports or scientific papers that you used would be listed out just
like when preparing a term paper. For the most part there wouldn’t be any in this class.
for the reports in this class, don’t have a cover page like for a term paper, and
don’t put reports in some silly plastic folder. Just begin like this document does.
avoid the use of pronouns – I, you, your, we. I have used more pronouns in this
document than I [!] probably should have.
use the past tense for the most part.
write numbers up to ten as words; numbers greater than ten, like 42 or 139, should
be written using numbers. Decimal numbers, like 1.342 are written as numbers
even when less than ten.
always use the metric system.
avoid using slang.
scientific names, like Homo sapiens, should be italicized if possible. Genus is
always capitalized, the species term never is.
abbreviate terms that are used often. For example, if you [ahhh!!!, a pronoun] are
writing about the National Institutes of Health (NIH), put the abbreviation in
parentheses after its first use in the report and then, in all the rest of the report,
every time the NIH is referred too, only the abbreviation NIH need be used. The
term ROT that appears above is an example of this. Cool and easy.
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