BISC 111/113:Science Writing Guidelines

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General Instructions for Writing Scientific Papers or Lab Reports

Prior to writing a report, you may discuss the laboratory experiment with your peers or your instructor. However, the final content, organization, and wording of the report must be of your own design. You may not use figures and graphs or statistical analyses prepared by others and presented to the class in the oral presentations. All data analysis must be your own.

Late reports will be penalized 5% per day.

How to get started? Our suggestion for writing a lab report is to start by analyzing your data and working on the Results section’s presentation of these data. You should finish with the abstract. It is best to start with the Results section, since you must thoroughly understand your results to form conclusions. When you know what you are able to conclude about the plants or beetles, it is easier to see what background information is appropriate for the introduction. The Methods and Materials section, which should be fairly straightforward, can be written at any point. Use the checklist below after you have written your first draft.

You might also refer to the Carlton College lab report guide as an additional source for science writing suggestions ([1]).

Lab Report Format

A report written in the correct format in most courses will have the following sections, in this order:
Methods and Materials
Results: Tables, Figures and separate results text
Acknowledgment (optional)
References (or Literature Cited)

However, you will only be asked to include a title, methods, results, discussion, and references sections in the sole report in this course.


Compose a title that provides specific information about the variables being tested and reflects the major conclusion of the paper. The major conclusion is often called "the take-home message".

Compare and contrast these potential titles:
"Response of patients to different doses of ice cream"
"Frequent administration of ice cream boosts patients' morale"
“Morale in hospital patients is improved by serving more ice cream”

As you analyze the titles consider these questions:

  1. Can you easily identify the main topic and the variable that was tested?
  2. Is the take home message clear?
  3. Think about the word choices: Are any words in the titles ambiguous e.g. What was the patient response? What doses were used?


In this section, use paragraphs rather than lists, to accurately summarize the final procedures/methods that were employed to collect and analyze your data. The materials (your plants or insects, controlled conditions, equipment used, etc.) are incorporated into the narrative. Provide enough detail so that a reader following this section can evaluate and repeat your experiment. The Carlton College lab report guide is a great reference if you are struggling with this section. ([2])