Structure and Function of Organisms
Bio 206


Course Requirements

Each student is responsible for preparing and submitting one formal lab report. Your Laboratory Instructor may assign the whole class to write a formal report on one specific laboratory exercise. Otherwise, you may choose the lab on which you will prepare reports from any of the laboratory exercises designated with an asterisk on the syllabus. The report will be due one week following the lab in which the experiment was completed unless your Laboratory Instructor informs you otherwise. Reports that are turned in late will be penalized by a reduction of 5% from the total possible points for each day late and will receive a grade of "0" if turned in more than one week late. The reports should be submitted to your Laboratory Instructor. The formal lab report will be worth 30 points (grade out of 100 X 0.30).

The major lab report is to be written in the format of an article in a professional scientific journal. Samples of journal articles may be reviewed among the publications shelved in the Life Science Library. The report must be the student's own work; tracings or drawings in the manual or another student's notebook or plagiarism of another student's work will not be accepted. The report should be submitted to your Laboratory Instructor.

Writing Guidelines

The reports should be typed on 8.5 X 11 inch white paper. Use consistent margins (1" top & bottom margins; 1.25" left and right margins). Each report may not be longer than 10 pages, including a title page and a list of references cited. All information included in a report must be typed. Text must be written in complete sentences, using correct grammar, syntax, and spelling. Since you are reporting on an activity performed in the past, use the past tense where it is appropriate. In addition, avoid personal pronouns and speak as a detached reporter. Sentences and paragraphs should flow in a logical sequence so that the reader can easily understand the contents. Include tables, figures, and other illustrations whenever you think they are suitable. The report should be double-spaced, except for the abstract and list of references, which should both be single-spaced. Except for the title page, all pages should be numbered. Please do not put the reports in covers.

Formal Lab Report Grading

A grade will be assigned to your formal report, based on the following criteria:

Title & Abstract




Materials & Methods


Results, including figures, illustrations, etc.


Style, grammar, spelling, etc.
Legibility, neatness, labeling, etc.

Components of the Reports

Page one of your report should contain only the following information, arranged on the page as shown below:


Your Name

BIO 206, Semester, Year

Date the report is due


Title: Choose a succinct title for the report that you think best describes what you accomplished in the exercise. The title should reflect the effect of the independent variable upon the dependent variable. Do not use the title of the laboratory exercise that is given in your laboratory manual. The title should not be more than 12 words long.

The body of the report (the substantive information of the report) should follow the title and begin on page two. The body should be written in sections and each section should begin with a heading. The following sections, with their appropriate headings, must all be included and presented in the order listed below.

Abstract: (Single spaced) Begin page two of your report with the title (the same title used on page one). Write the abstract below the title on page two. Don't put any other information on that page of the report. The abstract should be no longer than half a page. It should be an attempt to capture the essence of the entire report. Thus, it should clearly describe your results, but it should also include elements of the introduction, materials and methods, and conclusions as they can best be summarized. Do not cite references in the abstract. Write the abstract single-spaced in paragraph form, without including any tables, figures, or other illustrative information. Even though the abstract is the first component of the body of the completed report, you may find it easiest to prepare the abstract last.

Introduction: (Double spaced) Begin page three of your report with the introduction. The introduction provides background information that helps prepare the reader to understand the remaining contents of the report. For example, it may describe the theory or purpose of techniques used in the exercise, it may describe the general significance of some of the methods, and/or it may refer to literature which the reader may wish to consult in order to learn more about related work. It should also include the objectives of your work. The introduction of most reports will be less than one page long. This is where most references are cited in scientific publications. Cite references in the text by placing the name of the author(s) in parentheses at the end of the sentence citing the information*. If there are more than two authors, write the first author's name and then "et al."  The list of references is included as the last section of the report.

*The investigator was most interested in the mice that eluded capture (Crowcroft, 1968, p. 66).

Methods and Materials: (Double spaced) This section describes the procedures, methods, techniques, organisms or cultures, instruments used to conduct the work, and any data analysis methods used to obtain the results described in the paper. The methods section should not include any data, but only a description of the biological material studied and the means employed to collect data and obtain results. Be selective in what you include in this section, describing only methods and materials that help the reader to generally understand what was done. The purpose is to outline what one would do to reproduce your experiment. The entire procedures section from your laboratory manual should not be included in your report. Assume the reader has the same level of experience as you do.

Results: (Double spaced) This will likely be the longest part of your report, as it is the central section of most reports. The results section should include the data you show in the report, displayed in a concise, logically displayed, and clear form. Figures, tables, and other illustrations are all appropriate for the results section. The results must also contain text, in paragraph form, which explains the graphic data, is well organized, and is well written. The information in this section should flow naturally from one topic to the next, so that the reader's interest is sustained. Be careful that this section contains only results you observed and notconclusions or explanations of the results.

Discussion: (Double spaced) This section contains your interpretation of the results you obtained. You can explain what you learned as a scientist (not as a student) from doing the exercise, whether or not the results you obtained were the expected results (and why you might not have obtained the expected results), and/or what might be extrapolated from the work you did. You may also compare your results to those obtained by other investigators and cite the references in which these scientists reported their experiments. Remember that data should not be included in the discussion section of your report but you may refer to your results section.

References: (Single spaced, 2nd line indented five spaces if APA style.) This section should follow immediately after the discussion. List the references in alphabetical order by the last name of the first author of each reference. You must cite at least two references in each report. There are several standard formats for a list of references. Use a format consistent with one used in a scientific journall you must use the same format throughout the list. Two commonly accepted formats used are the American Psychological Association (APA) style <> or the Council of Biology Editors (CBE)/Council of Science Editors (CSE) <> documentation styles. Refer to style manuals for details on referencing and documentation formats. Some sample writing manuals are listed below:

Raimes, A. (2000). Pocket keys for writers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Rosa, A. & Eschholtz, P. (2003). The writer's pocket handbook. New York: Longman.
Ruszkiewicz, J. Hairston, M. & Friend, C. (2002). SF express. New York: Longman.

but your list must use a format consistent with one used in a scientific journal and must use the same format throughout the list. You may refer to a recent issue of a scientific journal in the library to establish a format for references.

Sample references, APA format, for journals, books, and online articles follow: 


Moffett, M. W. (2002). Ants and plants: Tree fortresses. National Geographic, 197, 84-97.

Simon, H. A. (1974). How big is a chunk? Science, 183, 482-488.

Watson, J. D. & Crick, F. H. C. (1953). Molecular structure of nucleic acids. Nature, 171, 737-738. 


Brown, J. W. (1988). The life of the mind. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum.

Crowcroft, J. W. (1966). Mice all over. Chester Springs, PA: Dufour.

Luther, W. & Fiedler, K. (1965). Guide de la faune sous-marine des cotes m?diterran?enes. Neuch?tel, Switzerland: Delachaux et Niestl?. 


Online Publication with print equivalent:

Huxley, T. H. (1880).  The physiology of the common crayfish. In The Crayfish: An introduction to the study of zoology [Electronic version]. Retrieved June 28, 2003, from

Online Publication with no print equivalent:

Jones, S. (2003). Essays: Cruel and unusual punishment: Painted glassfish. Sea Adrift, the collected, creative musing and wanderings of Stacey Jones, Retrieved June 28, 2003 from

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