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
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?