Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Biology: The BIOL 130 Lab Report (Fall 2021)

Before you begin

Before you can begin to write your lab report, you will need

  • your data, and be mindful that you can only use YOUR experiment's data for the lab report. 
  • and your results, calculated from your data. 

You will also need, 

  • The Fall 2021 BIOL 130 course guide on LEARN. which has detailed instructions for style, formatting, and submission of lab reports. 
  • Your WatIAM credentials in order to login to the University of Waterloo's Library resources. such as the databases that you need to find peer-reviewed journal articles. If you are having trouble signing in ASK US at the library. 
  • Access to a word processor to write the lab report, ie. Microsoft Word, iOS Keynote, etc. University of Waterloo faculty, staff, and students have anytime, anywhere access to the Microsoft 365.
  • Access to a reference manager to organize, save and use the citations for your sources. Popular reference managers on campus include Refworks (free uWaterloo student access), Mendeley, Papers, Endnote, Zotero and more. Citation management and referecing for your lab report will be explored further in the References sections, below. 
  • Time. Plan accordingly to give yourself enough time. The Library has an excellent lab report planner to help you with this.

Hello BIOL 130,

My name is Brie McConnell and I am the Biology Liaison Librarian here at the University of Waterloo. I specialize in scientific data; from how to organize it, store it, read it, visualize it, and communicate that data into research and policy. 

I have designed this guide to organize library resources by the sections of your lab report that they can support. The Introduction is a good place to begin, because it focuses your attention on the problem or phenomenon under investigation, and on the expected results.  However, if you have trouble getting started, you may want to start with the simplest section first, that being the Materials and Methods. Next up are the Results, and  then the Discussion should be written last.  Each of these sections, together with the title page and list of references are discussed in more detail below, in the order in which they are assembled to make a complete report. 

As the Biology Librarian, I can help you find articles and demo a database search. I can also help you with formatting issues, referencing questions, and accessing high-quality academic literature. Undergrad is actually the perfect time to start making meaningful connections with your campus Library, as we have the expertise and resources to help you with every level of your academic career! 

Book Office Hours with me online

The Introduction

This is where you will introduce the purpose and objectives of your experiment. The introduction is also where you provide the reader with critical background information such as definitions of principles. 

Common sources of information to support you Introduction, include

  • science encyclopedias and dictionaries. In the Library, these resources and books will be in the reference section. The Library has online access to a ton of great online reference that allows for quick searching, and easy citation. 
  • your textbooks 

In-text example: 

When mushrooms are cut, monophenol oxidase causes the browning of the surface that is exposed to air (Bender, 2014). 

Citation:

Bender, D. phenol oxidases. In A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 9 Sep. 2021, from https://www-oxfordreference-com.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/view/10.1093/acref/9780191752391.001.0001/acref-9780191752391-e-4152.

Reference databases

The Materials and Methods

You lab manual will provide you with the essential methods for this section. To cite your lab manual, refer to the appropriate section in the manual, giving the course number, the year in which the manual was printed, and the page numbers.  If the experiment is not performed exactly as outlined in the laboratory manual, the changes must be noted.  

This is the only section of the lab report where you are supposed to refer to  (and cite) the lab manual. Do not forget to include the current version of lab manual as one of the references in the Reference section (see below). 

Again, for BIOL 130, your lab manual will contain the protocols that need to be used. However in the future and for excellent examples, be aware of the Springer Nature Experiments database. 

The Results

The heart of the report, this section presents the information derived from your experiment in any of four forms; your major concern is to choose the form(s) that provides the most clarity for the reader.    

  1. Tables are appropriate for data derived from repeated trials.  Title and number each table at the top, and arrange similar elements in columns without vertical lines between them. 
  2. Figures such as line graphs or histograms can best present data that show a trend or relationship. Give each figure a number and title at the bottom.  Label the graph axes so that the dependent variable (that which you measured) is on the vertical axis or ordinate, and the independent variable (that which you manipulated) is on the horizontal axis or abscissa. Diagrams and illustrations can be presented as figures.  
  3. Descriptive text is necessary for reporting data that cannot be presented in a figure, table or graph (such as the appearance of cells). However, even if your results are exclusively numerical, the results section must contain a small amount of descriptive text to lead the reader through your findings.  (This text is sometimes called “linker text”.) The descriptive text should contain a short description of your results done through referring to the tables and figures, without repeating and/or interpreting the information they contain. In this section you should note if you had any problems in getting the results.

The results section should contain all of the information yielded from the experiment.  If your experiment produced no results at all consult your TA as soon as possible.  

Refer to the Fall 2021 BIOL 130 course guide on LEARN. which has detailed instructions for style, formatting, and submission of lab reports. 

Figure 1: A photographic comparison of apple slices in four conditions.

The Discussion

In this section, you may refer to your raw data, but do not restate it. Instead, offer some analysis as to WHY the results occurred. Relate the results to the theory that motivated the experiment as well as any previously published results that may be relevant. Remember to use in-text citations for any references to the current literature.

Typical library resources used for the Discussion:

  • Peer-reviewed research and review articles. 
  • Use research databases like Pubmed, Scopus, or Web of Science, to find peer-reviewed journal articles. All of these databases allow for automatic exporting of results to reference managers like Refworks, Endnote and Mendeley. 

The discussion should be a presentation of the principles, relationships and generalizations shown by the results without recapitulating the results section.  To do this, each result should be compared to expected values, a class average, or values of a control group.  It will be necessary to compare your results and interpretations with work found in the literature, so do not forget to cite your sources.  There should be comment on how the results are integrated with principles given in the introduction.  In some cases you may confirm or reject a hypothesis. 

Database Help Series

Learn how to search a database effectively, as well as import and export results to a reference manager. You can also schedule a virtual demo  of a database with the Librarian. 

Pubmed (coming soon)
Scopus
Web of Science

This is a web search engine, not a research database, such as Pubmed or Scopus. So while Google Scholar can be great for large scans and "seeings what's out there," it should not be the only place you are searching because it is not actually a research database. 

Helpful hints:

The References

Referencing has multiple purposes:

  • It demonstrates academic integrity; by acknowledging all sources you have used, you will avoid committing potential academic offences/misconducts
  • It demonstrates the depth of your reading
  • It helps your reader (and your TA!) to check your statements for correctness
  • It supports your own conclusions and ideas, which will make your work more valid.  

When writing a Lab Report for Biol 130L you have to provide at least three sources that will support your statements and/or experimental results. For example, the textbook for Biol130 is a valid source for definitions and background information. 

References/sources used in writing Introduction and Discussion parts of a lab report have to be listed in a Reference List, which should be placed after Discussion section of lab report.

For properly writing both in-text citations and a Reference List refer to the Fall 2021 BIOL 130 course guide on LEARN. which has detailed instructions for style, formatting, and submission of lab reports. 

RefWorks is fully supported by the Library, and is free for the University of Waterloo community. You can export your citations directly to RefWorks from our library catalogue and many other library subscription databases. In addition to Refworks, we also have Librains who work extensively with Endnote, Mendeley, Zotero, Papers, and more.