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AP Biology Lab Reports

On-Line Summary of Required AP Biology Labs

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Analysis questions

Our AP Biology lab activities are designed to provide a wide variety of experiences. They will fall into two general categories: "observational" or "skill" labs, and " experimental labs.”   "Observational labs" will mainly involve watching or observing natural phenomena occur or performing some scientific technique, while "experimental labs" will involve science process skills, such as hypothesis formation, manipulation of variables, gathering, tabulating and graphically displaying data, etc. In college, lab report requirements vary greatly. Some are quite rigorous and require that a review of the pertinent scientific literature be included in the introduction. Since we are greatly limited by time in this course, our write-ups will be brief and less rigorous than ones that you may do in college.

Prelab preparation
It is essential that you prepare for labs before coming to class.  You will be required to keep a lab notebook in which you will write prelabs, record data, and note any conclusions or thoughts that you have as you perform each lab.  At the beginning of class on lab days, prelabs will be checked.  The following components should be completed:
    1.  Title and date of the lab
    2.  Purpose - 1-2 sentences describing the major goal of the experiment
    3.  Procedure - an easy to follow numbered list of steps that will be performed in the lab,
         written in your own words.  For labs with several parts, divide your procedure accordingly.  
    You may wish to sketch diagrams to help you visualize the steps of the lab.  Once you are
    done, you should be able to do your lab report without consulting with the lab book.
    4.  List the following:  independent and dependent variables, control and experimental groups, constants, and hypothesis.
    5.  Data - As you write your prelab, create all the data tables you will need.  Read the procedure
    carefully to determine all the information you will be recording, and organize it neatly.  Remember to include units at the top of each column.

During the lab
    1.  Fill in your data tables.
    2.  Note any changes that you make to the procedure.  
    3.  Conclusions - Leave a space where you can jot down notes and other thoughts during the lab.  
    This will help you to write your lab report later.  

After the lab
Lab reports are due two days after the completion of the lab in class.  This gives you enough time to ask any questions about the lab or get help with concepts you don’t understand.  Lab reports must be typed, handwritten work will not be accepted (exception:  data tables and graphs may be done by neatly hand).  1/2 credit will be given to lab reports that are late, up to 24 hours.  Remember that if you are tardy to class the day any assignment is due, your assignment will be counted late.  After 24 hours, reports will not be accepted.  Keep all returned lab reports.  Labs constitute a significant portion of the AP exams.  

Title:  This should indicate what the lab is all about. Be brief, but indicate the nature of the investigation. What was the specific question being investigated? Specifically, what was being observed ? Please do not exceed 25 words.

Tips for writing titles:

Methods: What procedures were followed, what purposes did they serve, and what materials and equipment were used?  For experimental labs and AP Labs, be sure to identify the independent and dependent variables, the constants, and the control group. For observational labs explain what you did.  Never use personal pronouns. Do not create a list of materials, just include them within the context of your procedure.

Tips for writing methods:

Results: This part of the report will display, in table form and with a proper title, the data that you collected. It should also include any graphs labeled properly and in proper graph form. It should be neatly and clearly presented. If the lab is "observational" in nature, you should include diagrams and/or descriptions of structures (labeled as instructed), chemical reactions, behaviors, etc. DO NOT FUDGE YOUR DATA!! Put only the data that you, or your lab group, or the class collected, not what you think that you should have seen. Use graph paper to graphically display your data wherever appropriate.

Tips for writing results:                                 Table 2:  Number of pill bugs in the acidic choice chamber
                            Figure 2:  Pill bug (side view)
                            Figure 3:  Average number of pill bugs present in wet choice chamber
                            (In the above example, the first 2 figures are drawings, the third is a graph.)

Discussion: Here you present a summary of the data generated by the lab. Put into your own words what the numbers or observations tell you. How do you interpret the data or observations in light of your hypothesis or your own expectations? Do not make the mistake of looking for the "right answer" and please do not ask, "what was supposed to happen?" Nature does not lie, but is often frustratingly difficult to figure out. In this section you must discuss YOUR results. If you come up with results that do not make sense, examine your methods and materials for sources of experimental error and describe them here. For purely observational exercises, your discussion should include reactions to what you have just done and learned. Additionally, error should be thoroughly discussed. This is, perhaps, the most important part of the lab discussion. Your discussion of error will help the reader decide whether or not your experiment is valid or invalid. Note: for our purposes in this class, measurement errors are not acceptable because this could be used as an excuse on every lab, and does not that you are thinking on how the design or execution of this experiment could be improved. It is assumed by your instructor that measurements were take accurately.

Tips for writing discussions:

Analysis questions: In this section, put the answers to ALL questions asked within the lab, and at the end of the lab. Answers should be given in complete sentences.  Remember, the write-up is due 2 days after the labs are completed in class.
NOTE:  YOU WILL HAVE EXAMS ON LABS. There will be stations or video slides that cover the material. Don't waste lab time or you will be given less time to do them!!!!!!!!