Work on succinct writing while maintaining clarity and flow in your transitions

The following are guidelines for your lab report. This has become long and specifically detailed due to the lack of quality in past papers received. While this may seem long, these guidelines can help you put together a great paper. Some of these are requirements for formatting and presenting paper, while some of the information serves as tips for how to put ideas together. It’s not a requirement that the introduction sentences look exactly the way I’ve suggested below; this is a guideline to being succinct and writing with a purpose. Be sure to look up research articles (not only as references for your report), but to see the style and succinctness with which they are written.

General Tips

1.      Start early! You can write intro and methods before the experiment (and adjust after).

2.      Work on succinct writing while maintaining clarity and flow in your transitions.

3.      Finish early and have a friend, classmate, and or writing tutor read/review the paper.Any unclear sections, rambling, or awkward transitions can be identified this way.

4.      Maintain past tense throughout the paper (you already did the experiment).

5.      Avoid using first person (I, we, our, etc.). I understand that a lot of journals allow first person these days, but for NPB 101L lab reports just use passive voice/third person. Example:  The subjects vital signs were measured.

  1. Get started early!

Checklist for turning in report

  1. Do I have my report?
  2. Did it print properly? (Do the figures look good?)
  3. Do I have references attached?
  4. Do I have raw data attached?
  5. Did I put a digital copy on Canvas?

Basic Overall Formatting

  1. Title each section: Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, References
  2. Report should be double spaced
  3. 12 point font (New Times Roman)
  4. Page numbers (top right hand corner please)
  5. 1 inch margins
  6. Single-sided
  7. Figures and Tables (see end of this doc. for examples)
  8. Figure titles/captions are inserted below the figure
  9. Table titles/captions are inserted above the table
  10. All figures and tables should:
    1. Be appropriately sized
    2. Be clearly labeled
    3. Be appropriately scaled
    4. Contain the appropriate units
    5. Appear after (and near) the text where they are discussed
    6. Never be used without being discussed within the report

Title Page

  1. A brief, but descriptive experiment title
  2. Your name
  3. Group member’s names (first and last)
  4. Section number and TA
  5. Date submitted

Introduction(10 pts) (Accomplish in 2 full pages, 2 Pages Max)

  1. 1st Portion – start with a statement that defines the context/topic/physiology of what the experiment studies. Subsequent sentences define what we are looking at and WHY it is important (why should the reader keep reading your report?)
  2. 2nd Portion – presents physiological facts, arguments, andpreliminary evidence about the topic and why we are studying it. This is not a comprehensive lit review about physiology! This should be a brief overview of general physiology relevant to this experiment.The reader only needs enough basic background so the purpose and methods make sense. Have physiology to put the expected results in context and so that the expected results are not out of the blue.
  1. 3rd Portion – starts with concise statement of purpose about the lab or mechanisms being tested. The following sentences state what you are doing to test/demonstrate the hypothesis and what you expect to see (e.g. “The purpose of this experiment was to examine whether muscle activity triggers the exercise pressor reflex…). These objectives should be logically arrayed so they build on the previous (like telling a story).

Format of Introduction:
Materials and Methods (5 pts) (max 2 page),
1st sentence – A complete overview of methods can be found in NPL 101L Physiology Lab Manual second edition (Bautista & Korber, 2009, pgs X-Y).

  1. The following sentences give a brief summary of what you did. Someone should be able to replicate work.
  2. Be explicit with what you changed (independent variables) and what you measured (dependent variables) for each section.The reader should know what to expect in the results section
  3. Explain any experimental changes that differ from the lab manual.
  4. Don’t forget to include data analysis and the experimental subject info (sex, age, build, etc.). Example: The subject was a male in his early twenties of a slim build. The data was collected and analyzed using BIOPAC software.
  5. Include BIOPAC tools you used for analysis and formulas if needed.

Results (30 pts) (no page limit, but stick to relevant results)

  1. Present results in both a narrative (written) and graphical (figures/tables) format.
  2. Do notjust list all data points. Sometimes you will want to point out first and last, max and min, or some specific data values, but try to make the major results/changes clear to the reader without listing every single data point collected along the way.
  3. Think about what you want the reader to know, and how to present your data in the best way to highlight what your results show (e.g. should you use a bar graph, line graph, or tables?  Should you use one value or the average of multiple values?).
    1. Figures illustrate trends
    2. Tables illustrate values
  1. Each subsection should have a sub heading. (Examples: Baseline, Graded Response,Frequency Response, Inhibition by Tubocurare, Direct Stimulation)
  1. The Narrative
  1. State the most important observations, trends, and relationships shown by your data. Do not interpret or discuss the data – this will be done in the discussion section
  2. Numerical results should be labeled with the appropriate units. The maximum force was 100g. The tension decreased from X to Y over the interval B and further decreased from Y to Z over the interval C.
  3. Refer the reader’s attention to the trends or aspects of the data that are important, the physiology of which will be explained in the discussion. In the results narrative, you may refer to a corresponding graph or table, but remember that the narrative should be able to stand on its own.
  1. Tables and Figures
  1. Need clear and explanatory caption (should stand alone from paper). See lab manual preface for examples. No titles.
    1. Table captions ABOVEtable
    2. Figure captions BELOWfigure
  • Do not start caption with “Graph/Table shows…”
  1. Captions are single spaced
  1. Always refer to figures in narrative before presenting figure. Some examples:
    1. “As seen in Figure 1, HR increased…”
    2. “Figure 1 shows a 20% increase in HR following drug injection…”
  • “HR increased 20% above resting values after drug injection (Figure 1).”
  1. Incorporate figures/tables into narrative – do not attachat the end of report
  2. Raw data should only be used where appropriate – please ask me if you’re unsure.

Discussion (50 pts) (max 8 pages – focus on being complete yet succinct)

  1. Starting out
    1. You can begin the discussion with statement(s) of the major findings your results have demonstrated:
  1. “In this study, the effects of training on rat bone tissue were investigated using a voluntary running wheel exercise…”
  2. “These experiments demonstrate the role of muscle contraction and metabolism in the exercise pressor response of chickens.”
    1. You should start with physiology regarding the particular section and/or leading into your purpose, before stating and explaining your major finding.
  1. “Changes in blood pressure with exercise are regulated through central command and the exercise pressor reflex (EPR). The intent of this study was to demonstrate an EPR response in a male chicken, and examine the various mechanisms contributing to the EPR.  Here we demonstrate the role of muscle contraction and metabolism in generating an EPR response.”
  1. Subsequent paragraphs should address these major findings of the paper in more detail.  Here you must refer back to your figures and major results, to discuss potential physiological mechanisms from each part of the experiment and compare findings with other research papers (NOTE: this is where you discuss the physiology of what you measured).
    1. You should analyze and interpret the results, discussing physiological mechanisms that led you to your major finding for each hypothesis from each part of the experiment.  This discussion of results should require mentioning physiology of whatever you are testing.
    2. Discuss how results do (or do not) support hypothesis and expected outcomes.
    3. Use published literature as resource when discussing info and results (cite references!)
  • “The expected results of clenbuterol treatment are muscular hypertrophy and decreased fat mass (Roth, 2010). In our animals, lean mass was increased by clenbuterol, whereas fat mass was decreased. Muscle hypertrophy induced by this treatment might result from an inhibition of proteolysis or an increase in protein synthesis (Riley, 1998).”
    1. Compare results with published literature (cite references!) (e.g. what have others shown, do your results agree/disagree with previous findings?, etc.)
  1. “Low-calcium diets have been reported to reduce strength, density, and mineral content of bones in sedentary young or adult rats (Hsieh, 2012). In our present experiment, calcium deprivation in sedentary rats did not modify gross tibiae parameters. The apparent discrepancy between our results and the existing data to date could result from…”
  1. Use references for additional explanation of results if necessary

NOTE: The two examples above show how the authors complied with the above recommendation that the discussion include major results, potential physiological mechanisms, and references/comparisons to findings from other research papers. Your explanation of physiology needs to be more in depth than these examples, but do not let it become a book report. Write with a purpose, and be able to express your knowledge of the background physiology relevant to your results.

  1. The discussion can incorporate the ideas from the questions found in the lab manual after each lab, but the questions shouldn’t be answered explicitly like a Q&A. Weave in the answers to the text so that reading the text will answer the questions. The reader should be able to answer all the questions after reading the report.
  2. If appropriate, discuss experimental error or limitations (that did or might have occurred); which need to be considered to fully understand the results. Do not blame everything on human error.
  3. Conclusion: The final paragraph should conclude with a summary of the major findings presented by your results/experiment.  Here you can tie the individual findings together and restate the major finding of the experiments and why this experiment is important (tie this back to the importance you discussed in the introduction).

Be careful not to lose track of your results – stay on topic.  The physiology shouldn’t be paragraphs on paragraphs of only describing (irrelevant) mechanisms. The physiology should be discussed in terms of the results. Make sure that the mechanisms relevant to WHY you observed the results that you did are expressed in detail.

References (5 pts)

  1. Minimum requirement of 6 references.  At least Three references must be primary research articles (journal articles). The remaining references may be review articles from published journals, textbooks, and the lab manual (for methods).
  2. Also cite your lab manual (for the methods section).
  3. Reference Page: All references are to be listed on a new page following the conclusion
  4. You must cite your sources for any information that you used that is not general knowledge.  Repeat your citations wherever you reference your sources. However, when writing about physiology and using a textbook, you can cite just at the end of each paragraph.
  5. Citations are only appropriate in the intro and discussion (except lab manual citation in methods).
  6. In-text citations should be in the APA format (LastName, Year)
      • An example is (Bobo, 2005) found that…” or if many authors (Boron et al., 2005)
      • If citing a textbook, use (LastName, Year, Page#)


  1. No Quotations: prove that you understand the material by conveying ideas in your words.
  2. No Direct Paraphrasing:Do not use any part of anyone else’s statements or words, you should be able to write your report without looking at a book or other reference as you write. This will insure that it’s in your own words.
  3. No Footnotes
  4. Ensure that you attach copies of the first page of each of your sources.
  5. While a minimum of 6 sources is required, it is likely a minimum grade will result.
  • For each part of the experiment, do you have a reference for (1) comparing results (2) Additional insight into mechanism or explanation

Attach screenshots of raw data to the end of the lab report. The raw data will usually be screenshots of the Biopac software. Label each screenshot (a few words of text above each picture). Make sure the key trends are visible to me, but try to keep this printed on as few of pages as possible (i.e. use multiple pictures per page).
Plagiarism will not be tolerated.  If you are having problems writing your lab reports, see me or utilize the Learning Skills Center.  All suspected occurrences of plagiarism will be reported to Student Judicial Affairs. I check all lab reports myself for plagiarism: do not plagiarize!
Figure Formatting Example:
Figure 1. Graph shows Heart Rate vs. Workload.



Figure 1. Heart rate (HR) response to changes in workload during 40 minutes of cycle ergometry.  Data represents mean heart rate during final 30 seconds of each exercise stage for one subject.

Table Formatting Example:


Height vs. Weight

Subject Sex Ht (in) Wt (lbs)
1 M 68 204
2 F 66 137
F 59 122
4 M 72 179

Table 1. Physical characteristics of bad students.

Subject Sex Ht (in) Wt (lbs)
1 M 68 204
2 F 66 137
3 F 59 122
4 M 72 179





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