Lab Report Hints for PY103 General 1) Read the article on science writing and do your best to apply its principles. We also recommend that you become very familiar with Strunk and White, the Elements of Style. 2) Before uploading your lab report, make it into one document that includes Title Page, Abstract, Body of the Paper, Figure Captions, References, Tables, and Figures. Don’t forget to number the pages. 3) Make sure you follow your lab instructions. Follow APA guidelines for the manuscript. There are guidelines and samples on the course webpage, including a sample manuscript. 4) Write your report as if this is a manuscript reporting a research study (as opposed to a lab report) with a proper title. In other words, don’t write, “For this lab we ….” You can make up whatever title seems to be appropriate, for example “Lack of effects of stress on memory” or “Stress and memory in rats”. 5) If you are not sure how to word or describe something in a lab report check out a few papers from the journal Behavioral Neuroscience. This is an APA journal and Brown has an electronic subscription. You can do a search for similar studies using PubMed and include the journal in the search strategy. For wording neuroanatomy concepts a standard cytoarchitectonic study in the Journal of Comparative Neurology can be helpful. 6) Technical language should be defined the first time it is used. Make sure that you understand all the terms you are using and use them correctly. If you do not completely understand the terms you are using, it will not be possible to communicate clearly to the reader. 7) Your research report will generally be in the past tense. Introduction 8) Spell out terms that are abbreviated the first time they are used. Avoid abbreviations in the abstract. Define technical terms the first time they are used. 9) Be sure to cite substantial background information from your readings. You may even need to consult additional research papers. Your introduction should review the science that the current experiment is based on. 10) Your hypothesis will usually be somewhat general and your experiment will be specific test of that hypothesis. For example, you might hypothesize that traumatic emotional experiences facilitate attention to negative events. Then state that you tested that hypothesis by …… Finally, you might say that it was predicted that …….
Methods 11) Give your experimental groups descriptive names and use this throughout the report, including the legends of your figures. For example, instead of groups 1, 2, and 3, call your groups LESION and CONTROL. 12) When you are describing results of the experiment, begin descriptively and then add your statistical finding. For example, “ The LESION group exhibited significantly longer latencies on the final probe test. This was confirmed by a significant main effect of LESION on LATENCY [F(1,15)= 12.5, P<.01].” 13) A data analysis section should be included in the methods. It should state what software you will use to perform statistical tests and what statistical tests are planned. 14) To save space, use citations to shorten the methods. For example, “Behavioral procedures were adapted from Smith et al. (1999) with the following exceptions:…..” Results 15) Your manuscript will be much easier to understand if you describe your result conceptually and then follow up with the statistics. For example, “Rats with cortical lesions were significantly impaired in acquiring the delayed-non-matching-to-sample task as evidenced by significantly greater trials to criterion for the lesioned group as compared to the control group [F(1,15) = 5.89, p<0.05].” A statement like the following gives no information about the meaning of a finding, or even the direction of the effect, “There was a significant main effect of latency.” That sentence doesn’t answer the question of whether the latency was longer or shorter or what a change in latency might mean. In some paradigms a short latency might reflect impairment (e.g., passive avoidance). In others it might mean facilitated performance (e.g., water maze). 16) Results should always be presented in a narrative form even if results are also presented in a table. Tables can be especially useful when results are complicated. 17) Sometimes other analyses that were not initially planned may be appropriate. This can be described in the results section. “To further explore this idea, a post hoc analyses was conducted. A difference score was constructed by subtracting the test latency from the training latency. …..” 18) If your results are complicated, it is permissible to have a summary paragraph at the end of the results section. 19) Avoid beginning sentences with “Figure X…”. Instead make your point and put the figure in parentheses at the end of the sentence. For example: Rats in the HIGH DOSE group were significantly more active than rats in the LOW DOSE or the SALINE groups (Figure 3).
Discussion 20) The most important part of the discussion is tying your results in with prior studies. This is where you make sense of what you have done. 21) In the discussion, it is good to end with some indication of what might be done next to follow up the experiment you are reporting. This is a place to be creative. Figures 22) Make sure figures have appropriate legions (for x axis, y axis, and groups). You want your reader to be able to look at the figure and see what they need to know. If you use Group 1 and 2, it will not be very informative. Use descriptive group names. 23) Figures should not have super captions. In print they have subcaptions, but in a manuscript the figure captions are on a separate page (see APA instructions). Remember that captions should explain what is in the figure and include any abbreviations used. 24) Typically, group means with standard errors are shown in figures. Data for individual subjects are typically not shown. Exceptions would be when there are very small numbers of subjects, or when showing individual data illustrates points that need to be supported but cannot be explained in the text or illustrated by means±SEM. 25) Don’t use smoothed curves in graphs unless there is a reason. For example, dose response curves are generally curves, but simple repeated measures are not. 26) Usually control data are placed on the left of a figure or table, in order for the reader to better assess the effects of the manipulation. 27) Spend some time figuring out how to customize your charts and graphs in excel. Having colors or patterns match across figures can help the reader process the information. Also, there are alternatives in terms of scale, whether tick marks go inside or out, and whether you want gridlines. Usually, you would not want a graph to be on a grey background. It is better to change the background to white. Aspects of your graphs can be changed either by clicking on the component you want to change, or by going to the menu and selecting Chart/Chart Options. 28) Do not include your analyses as figures or tables. Normally, they are not included in a manuscript, but if you feel you must include analyses or individual data, include them in an appendix. Appendices should go at the very end of your report. 29) If you conduct many analyses it is helpful to use an F table, but don’t simply include the table from your SPSS analysis. Make up a new table and combine the information in your analyses. Only enter the appropriate values for the effects you are reporting, for
example, the main effects and interactions. Normally, you would include only the degrees of freedom, the F value, and the p value. EXAMPLE Group Lesion Group by Lesion Degrees of Freedom
29) Do not include individual data in figures unless specifically directed in lab instructions. If you want to include individual data, this could be in a table in the appendices. Remember. Appendices always goes at the end after tables and figures. References 30) For anatomy and physiology experiments, don’t forget to reference the atlases used. 31) There shouldn’t be anything in your references that isn’t cited in the body of your report or in figure captions.