How to write a lab report and evaluate one for Life Science students
Recap: It may seem completely alien at first, at it may be your first time writing a scientific report. But believe me, it gets easier the more and more you practice and with the more papers you read. You may be wondering where you can access published papers and the answer is google scholar. As a Life Science student you will become very familiar with google scholar and you will even start to become more critical of certain papers!
Previously discussed was: reading the title, abstract and introduction, method, results, and introducing the discussion.
Discussions can get a bit repetitive but this because, if there is a point to be made, then this will be very clear. If something big has been found, this will be emphasised.
Lastly, the conclusion. Now you’ve already read it once, but this time it should make more sense as it should tie things together if the conclusion is clear and valid. Do not worry if you cannot remember it all, as it is a long and complex piece of text. The important thing is that you note down or highlight important parts, and this way you can refresh your memory if you’re going to need to talk about this paper. After reading the paper fully, I’d then go back and read it again. Continue to analyse, you may have missed something or not have understood something as well. Evaluate all aspects of the paper, is the point clear, is there any bias, are these valid controls? Should something be added to their experiments? You can then go beyond this paper, and check other papers. Is the paper you are studying in line with these other papers, or does it go against the conclusions other papers have made? If so, why? Have the experiments been repeated and are they biologically plausible? Are they in the correct time sequence? There are all sorts of questions to consider. But remember, evaluating does not always mean completely picking apart the paper, you can point out what is good about the work, and what arguments are strong. You can ask the same questions that I have previously stated, supporting their arguments.
How to write a lab report?
Your university will state what they would like from you, giving you headings and word limits. So it is likely your report will be shorter than the published papers you have read. But this means you need to be concise. You need to get your point across in less words. Presentation needs to be clear, give headings and graphs being correctly formatted is crucial. Formatting of graphs is a whole other topic to get into! For each figure you use, you need to label it with a figure legend, this should be below the figure. For tables, the figure legend should be on top of the table. You will need an abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion and conclusion. Start with writing the introduction, this gives some background information on the topic. This should be the kind of information you would find in a text book for example. Next, the methods, describe the methods you used, units used and any calculations needed. Then the results section, describe your results and only describe them, do not explain. The discussion section is where you explain your results. Then you can make conclusions. Lastly write your abstract, it will be a lot easier to summarise your whole paper once the paper is written rather than before.