Here are several general comments that should be considered as you plan and
execute writing of your first lab report.
1. Unless one person is truly a principal author, i.e., is primarily responsible for
the idea and execution of a project, authors should be listed alphabetically by
last name. Author names should be placed under the title as follows:
A Really Good Biology Study
Abigail Adams, Bruce Boxleiter, Chris Carter and Ronald Reagan, Department of
Biology, Saint Ambrose University
Submitted (insert date)
2. Your title should be informative. Be sure that it fully expresses what the
study is about. That usually will include mention of the type of organism
(and its classification) , principal variable(s) investigated, and relationships
3. As a general rule, write in past tense, active voice. You are describing events
that took place in the past and should use an appropriate tense. Use active
voice whenever possible. Your writing will be crisper--relationships,
methods and other aspects of your work will be presented most forcefully.
On occasion, you will have to mix tenses. This is most likely to occur when
you must state an on-going general relationship based upon already
established facts. For example, "Doofus and Doofus (1986) found that pillbug
activity was correlated to ambient light intensity. Activity of invertebrate
animals is commonly determined by one or only a few key environmental
4. Cite relevant research. If you know anything from anywhere, please cite it.
Do not use encyclopedias for anything other than entry points for looking for
research material. Consider using the WWW for research but be careful in
evaluating internet sources that you use and please cite them properly (see
the SAU library home pages for information on proper ways to cite internet
5. Please place your section titles in the center of the page.
6. You do not need to make a separate listing of materials in your materials and
methods section. The narrative of your materials and methods should
adequately describe all equipment needs. Don't include trivial equipment or
instructions for common procedures (e.g., your reader probably does not
need to be instructed in the use of a ruler, thermometer, etc.).
7. If you designed any special apparatus for your experiment, describe it
carefully. A well-prepared figure or drawing that illustrates your apparatus
can be very valuable.
8. Statistical and other analytical methods used to treat your raw data should be
mentioned in the methods. They are a part of the method that precedes your
9. Tables and Figures should be referenced properly in the text. State what they
are about using a form such as, "Figure 1 illustrates the relationship between
isopod activity and ambient light level." Figure 1 should follow as the next
available page (insert it into the textual narrative). Be careful in titling your
figures and tables. Their contents and your meaning are not immediately
obvious to a reader. Be sure to let the reader know precisely what you're
thinking. Put only one table or figure per page, and place them in order at
the back of your main text.
10. Pay attention to quality control elements of your paper. Reviewers,
Admission Committee Members, Potential Employers, and others all look for
easy ways to evaluate the work and people before them. Don't make it easy
for others to dismiss you and your work because you have failed to take care
of details correctable by careful proofreading and editing.