D) Guidelines for the preparation of laboratory reports
This section on how to write a lab report for Foundations of Biology CMB has been adapted from the
General Biology Laboratory at Rutgers Newark. Please notice that the style to write a report is
different from notebook keeping.
i. Title Page
Include the title of the experiment, your name, your instructor’s name, your group number, and
the date the lab report was submitted. The title says what you did. It should be brief (aim for ten
words or less) and describe the main point of the experiment or investigation. Begin your title
using a keyword instead of an article like ‘The’ or ‘A’.
ii. Introduction
The introduction should be about one page and should provide some background knowledge of
the lab and explains its objective or purpose. You must state the purpose of the experiment and
the hypothesis being tested. The introduction should not be copied from the lab manual; you
must write your own.
iii. Methods
Describe the approach you used to complete your investigation. Do not list the specific steps you
followed or the specific materials you used, as this can be found in the lab manual. Instead,
summarize what you did in one or two paragraphs.
iv. Data/Results
Data are the numbers, graphs, pictures, illustrations, etc., that you recorded as you conducted
the experiment. Data are just the facts without any interpretation of what they mean. They are
presented in the form of tables or graphs. These must be labeled with a number and a
descriptive title (e.g. Figure 1. Titration curve of glycine with NaOH). Always label both axes on
all graphs and all columns of a table, including any units of measurement if applicable (e.g.
Reaction time (sec); A600; Reaction rate (µmol/min).
v. Discussion
Discuss your results, including any calculations that help to analyze the data. As you go through
the data, discuss/interpret it. Say whether or not the data are consistent with what you would
expect if your hypothesis is true. In the text of your report, refer to tables and graphs by number
(As you can see in Table 1…). This is also where you would discuss any mistakes you might
have made while conducting the investigation. You may also describe ways the study might
have been improved.
vi. Conclusions
The conclusion is typically a single paragraph that sums up what happened in the experiment. If
applicable, whether your hypothesis was accepted or rejected, and what this means.
vii. References
Any outside sources that were used in the writing of the report need to be cited within the text
of the report and listed in the reference section. Instructions for properly citing and referencing
outside sources can be found in the preceding pages. Remember, you are not to reference the lab
viii. Grammar/format
Write several drafts of your lab report and edit them for correct grammar before submission,
including spelling, complete and structured sentences, punctuation, etc.
E) Citation Style Guide
Citing a bibliography comprises two aspects: How to cite within the text and how to write down the
references cited.
In-text Citing
When citing as you write, there is a difference if the referenced work was produced by one or more
authors. For example:
One author: (Nobel, 2003)
Two authors: (Schroeder and Hagiwara, 1990)
Three or more authors: (Bowsher et al., 2008)
Please notice several things: When citing in the text, do not write authors’ initials; only their last
name should be written and respecting as much as possible the original spelling, e.g. (Lütcke, 1987),
is preferred over (Lutcke, 1987). Regarding the locution et al., it comes from the Latin et alli (“and
friends”), so there should not be a period the word et and no plural s after al. And finally the
requirement for adding (or not) a comma between the author names and the year varies from journal
to journal.
If you are describing work done by several people, both the name of the author(s) and the year
should be in parenthesis: “Measurements of tendril tension were made daily (Matista and Silk,
1997).” If quoting or mentioning the name of the authors, it is correct to only write the year in
parenthesis: “Nobel (2003) described an equation for K+ fluxes in guard cells.” Standard
abbreviations are preferred when citing journals. You may omit the issue number, but the volume
and the first and final page of the article should be indicated; the volume number should be either in
bold type or underlined (see examples above).
You should not cite references that you did not consult, even if they are cited in articles that you
actually read or at the end of the lab exercises in this manual. It is unethical to cite works that you did
not read.
How to cite different types of publications
Voet D, Voet JG. Pratt CW (2016) Fundamentals of Biochemistry: Life at the Molecular Level,
5th edition. Garland and Francis, Boston. Pp. 361-381.
Hunter LE (2009) The Processes of Life: An Introduction to Molecular Biology. The MIT Press,
Cambridge, London. Pp. 119-138.
Biswal UC, Biswal B, Raval MK (2003) Chloroplast Biogenesis: From Proplastid to Gerontoplast.
Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 353 pp.
[NB: This is not a citation from a portion of a publication, but the reference is to the
book as a whole; hence, the abbreviation pp. goes after the number of pages.]
Review chapter in a book
Byron K, Cervantes-Cervantes M, Wang JTL (2010) Biological Informatics: Data, Tools, and
Applications. Pp. 59-69 in: Maulik U, Bandyopadhyay S, Wang JTL (eds.),
Computational Intelligence and Pattern Analysis in Biological informatics. Wiley, Hoboken,
Schroeder JI, Hagiwara S (1990) Voltage-dependent activation of Ca2+-regulated anion
channels and K+ uptake channels in Vicia faba guard cells. Pp. 144-150, in: Leonard RT
and Hepler PK (eds.), Calcium in Plant Growth and Development, Current Topics in Plant
Physiology, Vol. 4. American Society of Plant Physiologists. Rockville, Maryland.
Robertson, D., I. Anderson, and M. Bachmann. 1978. Pigment-deficient mutants: Genetic,
biochemical and developmental studies. Pp. 461-494, in: Walden, D. (ed.), Maize
Breeding and Genetics. John Wiley & Sons, New York.
Journal article
Abduallah Y, Turki T, Byron K, Du Z, Cervantes-Cervantes M, Wang JT (2017) MapReduce
Algorithms for Inferring Gene Regulatory Networks from Time-Series Microarray
Data Using an Information-Theoretic Approach. Biomed Res Int 2017:6261802
Liu CI, Liu GY, Song Y, Yin F, Hensler ME, Jeng WY, Nizet V, Wang AH, Oldfield E (2008) A
cholesterol biosynthesis inhibitor blocks Staphylococcus aureus virulence. Science
Szabo CM, Matsumura Y, Fukura S, Martin MB, Sanders JM, Sengupta S, Cieslak JA, Loftus
TC, Lea CR, Lee HJ, Koohang A, Coates RM, Sagami H, Oldfield E (2002) Inhibition of
geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase by bisphosphonates and diphosphates: A
potential route to new bone antiresorption and antiparasitic agents. J Med Chem
Online-only journal articles
When searching the internet for bona fide, authentic scientific journal articles, you may find
three different types of journals:
A) Exclusively online journals, i.e., those which were established in electronic format. For
example, the several journals published under the umbrella of PLOS, the Public
Library of Science (www.plos.org/publications/journals/).
B) Journals that are transitioning from printed form to electronic. So, it has been reported
that the many journals and magazines published by the American Chemical Society
will not be printed, but available only through the web
C) Printed journals (usually available in the library or in professor’s personal stacks)
which also have online articles (i.e., their entire issues are available in both formats).
Examples are: the prestigious journals Science, Nature, Cell and the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. (better known as PNAS).
In recent years, online-only journals have established a different way to cite. Since there are
no paper pages, it suffices to have a number (i.e., an initial page) to indicate where the article
starts. In addition, some journals ofer downloadable citation files so writers are be able to cite
articles in a more standardized manner.
Zoppoli P, Morganella S, Ceccarelli M (2010) TimeDelay-ARACNE: Reverse engineering of
gene networks from time-course data by an information theoretic approach. BMC
Bioinformatics 11:154.
Liang X-J, Xia Z, Zhang L-W, Wu F-X (2012) Inference of gene regulatory subnetworks from
time course gene expression data. BMC Bioinformatics 13(Suppl 9):S3.
Another way to cite online articles, includes the Digital Object Identifier (DOI), which assigns a
unique alphanumeric code to electronic papers. For example check the citation for an article
from the Public Library of Science: Neglected Tropical Diseases:
Teixeira DE, Benchimol M, Crepaldi PH, de Souza W (2012) Interactive multimedia to teach
the life cycle of Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease. PLoS Negl
Trop Dis 6(8): e1749. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0001749
Of course, DOIs can be used to cite papers that are published both in print and online:
Brownlie, D. (2007). Toward effective poster presentations: An annotated bibliography. Eur J
Marketing 41:1245-1283. doi:10.1108/03090560710821161
The DOI offers an excellent alternative to everchanging URLs.
Internet article (not Internet journal article)
Given the wide variety of web pages, one may follow a very simple style (e.g. that of the
American Psychological Association, which is: Contributors’ names (last edited date). Title of
resource. Retrieved (date of retrieval) from web address for resource).
Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderland, L., & Brizee, A. (2010,
May 5). General format. Retrieved from
The Edinborough Cell Wall Group. Professor Stephen Fry’s Research Interests.
Retrieved January 27, 2007 from the Word Wide Web:
Wolf A, Beegle D (1995) Recommended soil tests for macronutrients: Phosphorus, potassium,
calcium and magnesium. In: Recommended soil testing Procedures for the Northeastern
United States, 2nd Edition, Chapter 5, Delaware Cooperative Extension, Publications
from the Soil Testing Laboratory. Northeastern Regional Publication N° 493.
Retrieved August 24, 2009 from the World Wide Web:
A final brief note about using Internet citations: Many of the web pages you will find today will not
be indefinitely available. Web page turnover is very fast! You should not cite more than 2-out-of-10
web pages per bibliography and that you save the corresponding HTML files for future reference (or
print them as PDFs).
You may check websites such as The Write Source of the Modern Language Association for examples
of how to cite Internet references: www.thewritesource.com/mla/ or the Purdue Online Writing Lab
(owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/), cited above.
And please remember: No Wikipedia. No dubious or non-curated sources. You may try Google
Scholar (scholar.google.com/schhp?hl=en&tab=ws, if you must use a popular engine) and the (truly)
intelligently designed WolframAlpha (www.wolframalpha.com).