Research Notebook

Completing the Research Notebook for AP Biology Laboratories.


The Idea: A lot of time is spent on the part of the teacher and student in preparing and

conducting AP Biology laboratories. The twelve laboratories teach numerous biology concepts in

addition to providing students with opportunities to experience inquiry and lab safety.

Furthermore, after completing laboratories, there is opportunity to write and critically analyze data

that is collected.


In an effort to focus students on lab topics and to provide them opportunities for laboratory

reporting, I require that a laboratory research notebook be maintained throughout the year. There

are numerous companies that sell research notebooks, but I use the notebook from Jones and

Bartlett Publishers:

The Official Laboratory Research Notebook (100 duplicate sets)

Jones and Bartlett Publishers

ISBN: 9780763705169 $14.95.


Students complete a pre-lab before conducting the laboratory, and they finish the lab report

following our class post-lab discussion. I require that students write neatly in their own

handwriting, tear out the duplicate copy and keep the original copy in their notebook to use for

future educational endeavors.


I have developed 12 Lab assignment sheets which describe what students should do prior to

conducting the lab and what they should do following the post-lab discussion. Students will either

have the AP Biology Lab Manual or a Student Guide to a kit that is being used to prepare the lab.

During the lab, I initial the pre-lab in their research notebook as the lab progresses as I am

circulating around the room. I give students a weekend following a lab to finish this lab reporting.


AP Biology Lab Reports.

Prior to each laboratory, students are asked to develop these parts in their research notebook:

Part 1, Title

Students are instructed to complete the entire prelab prior to writing a title.

Since they will have read the objectives and the methods, they can write the title in the form of a

question. This helps them critically think about what they will be learning.

Part 2, Objectives.

The objectives are provided in the AP Biology Lab Manual or the Student Guide from the kit.

Part 3, Pre-lab Questions

On the assignment sheet that is given for each lab report, I have developed a set of pre-lab

questions that require the students to read the background information for the biology lab and the

procedure. This section requires students to provide answers to these concept questions.

Part 4, Method

Students are directed to read the entire procedure prior to the lab. (Students will learn quickly to

read procedures and know the general plan if they are required to redo a procedure on their own

time because they were not prepared.). On the assignment sheet, I provide a generalized

method for their research notebooks.

Part 5, Data Tables

Students either design their own tables or copy those provided in the manual or guide.

At this point, students conduct the laboratory and gather data. On the day following the

laboratory, a post-lab discussion clarifies and reviews concepts from the laboratory. During this

time, students attempt to make sense of the data through whole class discussions.

Finishing the lab report:

Part 6, Questions/Answers

The AP Biology Lab Manual or the kit Student Guide provides concept questions for each

exercise of the lab.

Part 7, Graphs

Graphs are required in nine (9) of the AP Biology laboratories. This section gives students

practice at constructing graphs: scaling, labeling scales, plotting points, writing titles for graphs.

Part 8, Theme Correlation

There are eight (8) themes that are inherent in the AP Biology program. Students must analyze

the laboratory and explain how the lab concepts are connected to these themes. They are to

respond to at least one theme, although each lab is connected to multiple themes.

Part 9, Conclusions

The lab questions have addressed the biological concepts from the lab. I have the students

focus on the data in this part of the report. What data was collected? What does it mean in

terms of the concepts involved? What caused unexpected data? How could the data collection

be done differently? What mistakes need to be corrected?