How to write the Corrèze lab reports
First, gather all the documents and information you will need for each of the 6 investigations:
Find all the photocopies which were given out during the trip: the methods for each experiment plus all the explanations concerning the principles of ecology.
Find all your notes taken during the classes and during the field work. In some cases, only one person in the group took notes – you may have to contact that person for a copy.
Get a copy of all the data collected during all 6 experiments. Most of that can be downloaded from the web. However, some data is for your group only and is either in someone’s calculator or written down somewhere (especially the last experiment – the project at the river).
Find (or print out) a copy of the pages in the IB Programme Guide for Biology which explain what the criteria are for internal assessment. (DCP, CE, etc.) Also, many of the sections about ecology were covered in our evening lessons so you can look over those sections in the Guide to be sure you understood.
Although you do not have to, it is sometimes nice to include a photo or two of the work or the results. Do not go overboard with this, though. One or two effectively annotated pictures is better than a whole photo album. Since you are e-mailing the reports, photos will greatly increase the file size and slow down sending times. Be sure to put a caption under a photo to explain what it is and it is polite to give the name of the person who took the photo. Also, it is best to have a reference to it in the text of your report such as “See Photo 1 on page 2”.
Second, organize your ideas:
Ask yourself for each experiment, “What are we trying to prove or show in this investigation?” In other words, what is the aim? What is the research question? If you do not know this, you will not be able to write a good lab report. To get inspiration and guidance, reread the photocopies given to you about each experiment.
Then look at your data and observations – how can you use them to prove or show what was outlined in the aim or research question? Again, if you do not understand or you do not see the connection, look back at the photocopies.
Start thinking about how you will present the data – tables? graphs? prose? Be careful of how many decimal places you use and always show units.
For some investigations, you may want to do some research about the organisms we found. Typing the Latin name (scientific name) into Google is usually a very quick and easy way to obtain information about the plants and invertebrates we studied. However, do not inundate your report with countless facts and figures. Also, cite your sources properly.
Think about the criteria which are being evaluated. Obviously you have to write a full report for each experiment (although you only have to write the method if one was not given, such as for the project work) but you should spend extra time and energy following the instructions for the criteria which will be evaluated. (DCP and/or CE)
Before you start writing, think about who will be reading this report. You should write it in such a way that anyone who picks it up will know exactly what you are talking about. Do not think – “Oh, this is for my teacher and he knows what I mean.” Your reports may be sent off to the IB for moderation and read by a person who has never been to Corrèze and never seen the work we did.
Remember that your report must be written in your own words. This means you write all the text, you make all your own tables and graphs, and if you use someone else’s photos or if you use information from Internet, you give credit to the photographer or to the web site.
Third, now you should be ready to start writing your lab reports:
Start with good record keeping. Include the following vital information on the first page: your name, date, “Biology Standard Level”, “Field Course in Corrèze, France”, and the title of the investigation. For clarity, please use the same title that is written on the photocopy of the method.
Write a clear, concise introduction for each experiment. For the method, write “See method sheet …” and include the title of the photocopy concerned. Starting from the beginning and all through the write-up, you should use the vocabulary words you learned during the week.
Make connections between the theory learned in the evening classes (populations, habitat, etc.) and the field work done during the day. If some things are not clear in the photocopies, try looking up information in your biology book.
Be careful of how you present your data. You need to present it in your own way but you need to follow the conventions of how to set up a table or a graph. The Open Door Web site has some good explanations about how to make tables and graphs so that you do not lose any points for presentation. Knockonthedoor.com > Biology > IB Biology Web
You should know how to make a graph in Excel. To insert one into Word, click on the graph once to select it, copy and paste it into your report. If you do not know how to make graphs in Excel, you can draw your own and scan it or take a good quality photo.
n some cases, you will want a separate graph for each set of data. However, if you are trying to find a connection or correlation between two factors, it is best to have one graph superposed on another or to graph one measured factor against another. This would be necessary to show if a certain abiotic factor such as humidity had any influence on something else… But be careful because the light measurements on the LabQuest probes only go up to 0.99 max (or 1.00) whereas humidity can go up to 100 – so if they are graphed at the same scale, changes in light will be too small to see on the graph!
For certain investigations it would be appropriate to have a sketched map of the area studied. For that, you could draw it using a computer program but in science it is better to draw in pencil and then scan it. Do not forget clear titles and labels.
Certain lab reports will require mathematical calculations. For this, clearly show all your work step by step. Some calculations will be for your group’s results alone. Others will be for the all the groups’ results. In some cases, you can do your own calculations and then compare with other groups who were working near you or on an area very different from yours. This would allow for a comparison. Remember, all calculations must be your own work.
Little things to watch out for: 1) do not use “experience” for the word “experiment”, 2) try not to have a new section start at the bottom of a page (insert a page break or saut de page instead), 3) if a table is cut in two because the top is on one page and the bottom is on the other, either push the table onto the next page so it is not cut or copy the headings onto the second page, 4) write subscripts correctly: O2 and not O2 for oxygen, 5) do not use first person (“I” or “we”): rather than “I measured the pH every 5 meters”, you should write “The pH was measured every 5 meters”. 6) It would be helpful to include page numbers on the reports. 7) Remember to put Latin names in italics.
Last but not least, do not “fudge” the data. To fudge means to change the numbers in order to make them look good. If some numbers seem “wrong”, do not ignore them or change them to look better. In your report, you need to give reasons why you think the data is not accurate.
Any questions? Email me.