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Biology 117L: Lab Assignment: Getting Started

This guide will provide students with resources useful for completing the laboratory assignment.

Find Background Information

Frequently students will need to find background or basic information on terms or concepts in science. Here are two sources with content from dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks.

LabWrite: Improving Lab Reports


from North Carolina State University and the National Science Foundation (NSF)

This web page will walk you through the various steps of writing a lab report.  Click on PreLab, InLab, PostLab, or LabCheck to get started.

How to Summarize

You will need to be able to summarize primary sources / research articles for your own writing. Before you can summarize, you need to properly read the article yourself. Start by skimming, and look for a few basic things.

  • Research question / hypothesis
  • Methods
  • Results (including any data)
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion

Make note of these key points using your own words, as this will be the basis of your summary. If you can't restate the source in your own words, it could mean you don't understand it, and are at a higher risk for accidental plagiarism. With those notes, you can start on a summary. In general, a summary should contain the following:

  1. What is the research question, and why is it relevant or interesting?
  2. State the hypothesis.
  3. Summarize the research methods used and how any data obtained was analyzed.
  4. Describe the results, and their possible implications, especially to your own research.

A summary should be short, ideally a few sentences at most, and contain citations to the primary source / research you are summarizing. When in doubt, look at the source you are citing, and see how they summarize their own citations.

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