Biochemistry is a collective enterprise the growth of which depends on the clear exchange of information. Since no experiment can contribute to scientific knowledge unless it has been clearly and accurately described, good writing is as indispensable in biochemistry as in other academic disciplines. For this reason, the primary aim of writing in biochemistry is to communicate the relevant information as clearly, succinctly and accurately as possible.
The most common type of writing you will be required to produce during your biochemistry degree is the lab report. A strong lab report demands careful planning and attention to detail. It is important that you give yourself sufficient time to compose your report, which may need to go through several drafts before you have a version suitable for submission.
The lab report typically includes the following information:
- Cover page
- Course name
- Course number
- Lab title
- Names of participants
- Name of lecturer
Lab reports share a format common to most scientific articles. The sections of your paper should be as follows:
- Cover page
- Experimental (Materials and Methods)
- Appendix (optional)
Each section heading should be typed in bold to distinguish it from the main text.
A typical biochemistry paper will have a concise, informative title, followed by a brief, one-paragraph abstract of the paper to follow (which is usually written last).
The introduction then presents your objectives and hypothesis, and may also indicate the broader scientific context and significance of the work.
The rationale and parameters thereby clearly stated, the next section will describe your experimental procedure (also referred to as the materials and methods section). This is a crucial component of any formal lab report, at once providing a detailed account of the procedures that were followed and serving as a set of instructions for others to replicate the experiment. This section should be thorough and precise yet avoid unnecessary detail, including only what is necessary in order for the experiment to be accurately reproduced.
Next, the results section presents your findings in a clear, well-structured and accessible way (perhaps using a chart or graph format), highlighting those observations that are most relevant to your hypothesis. This section should not contain an interpretation of the results, which must instead be presented in a separate discussion section.
Your discussion section is where you assess the quality and limitations of your data and procedure, evaluate the extent to which the findings support your hypothesis, draw upon your background knowledge in biology to provide plausible explanations for your outcomes, and compare your results with those of other studies.
Your conclusion will succinctly summarise your findings, address their limitations and implications, and suggest potential follow-up studies.
Finally, be sure to provide complete references, listing all the literature you cite or otherwise draw upon in your paper. These must appear in alphabetical order and in accordance with your department’s preferred citation style.
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