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BIO 150 Assignment Playbook

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Assignment Description

microscopeFor this assignment, you are asked to write three of the sections that would go in a full lab report: the Introduction, the Materials & Methods section, and the References. Your mini report will discuss the gram staining techniques you performed in the lab. 

This playbook walks you through the assignment and clarifies concepts -- make sure you read the entire playbook as well as your instructor's materials.

The Introduction

A report's Introduction provides readers with background information about the experiment and about what the researchers were hoping to achieve/discover and why. 

The introduction should include information about  the following:

The experimental question or questions that led the researcher to conduct the experiment or study.  

The question is basically what you want to find out. For example, if a researcher suspects there is a relationship between stress and insomnia, the experimental question could be: What is the relationship between stress and insomnia?  In the report, the researcher would write something like: "The experiment sought to identify a relationship between stress and insomnia." Please note there can always be more than one experimental question.

Why asking this question is important

Studies and experiments always happen for important reasons, such as increasing understanding, or finding solutions or cures. Why is your experiment important? Why do you think gram staining is useful? Relate your experiment to the big picture: what will be gained by identifying a bacterium via gram staining?

The experiments that were performed to answer the question

This should be brief, because you will write more about it in another section. Still, you should give your reader a general idea about what you did to find out the answer to your question. 

A statement of your hypothesis (that is, what you think the outcome of the experiment will be)

Here you briefly explain what you suspect or predict will happen. For example, in the stress and insomnia example above, a reasonable hypothesis would be that stress causes insomnia. The researcher could write the following in his report: "The working hypothesis leading to the experiment was that stress plays a significant part in the development of insomnia."

In-text references to scholarly works

In the introduction, be sure to reference your textbook, lab manual, and at least one external, scholarly article. For your references/citations, you will be following the Journal of Microbiology style. This is not MLA or APA; it's a specific style used by the Journal of Microbiology.  (For more information, see the References Section box).

You will be asked to paraphrase the information from your sources, instead of quoting it directly. This means you should write the information using your own words. If you need to learn about paraphrasing, see this example from MIT

Note:  When you search for sources for your report, keep in mind you are looking for materials that address one or more aspects of "the bigger picture." You are not looking for articles that describe the identification process you just did in the lab. See the example below.

Example: if your experiment dealt with Staphylococcus aureus, you might look for articles that describe the impact of S. aureus on populations and relate that to the need to identify this bacterium in order to prevent the damage it may cause. Look for sources that tie into  the "bigger picture" issues that you have identified, and that backup the arguments you made. Needless to say, you must identify the bigger picture issues before you conduct your searches for sources. 

Materials & Methods Section

microscope and beakersThe materials and methods section describes how the experiment was performed, with enough detail that someone else could reproduce the experiment just by the information in the report.  

The materials part of the section lists what materials were used (for example, slides, stain, etc.). This part can sometimes be written as a list.  

The methods part describes what was done. Make sure to include the major steps, not every single detail.

It is fine to say that two drops of crystal violet were added to the slide, but it is not necessary to say that the researcher walked three steps to a corner counter to get the crystal violet. Use enough detail for someone else to replicate the experiment, but no more. 

Find sources here

References Section

For this assignment you will cite your sources using the Journal of Microbiology style. Please note this style is particular to this one journal; to see some examples of formatted citations check the class handout linked in this section. Please note this document is limited in the type of citations it gives examples of. This is the only available document with information about this citation style.

This style abbreviates the titles of journals.  To find the abbreviation, go to  the National Library of Medicine Catalog and in the search box type the title of the journal whose abbreviation you need, then click "Search."

Your results will include the journal abbreviation:

Red arrow pointing to example of search result from NLM

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