MCB 301
Experimental Microbiology
School of Molecular and Cellular Biology
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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Laboratory Notebooks

Lab notebooks can be handwritten or typed and completed as outlined in the section “Laboratory Notebook Assignments” of this lab manual and should include all of the information specified in the “Lab Notebook Assignment” description at the end of each exercise. In addition to the listed items, each report score will include an assessment for grammar, format, etc. for a maximum of 3 points.

The schedule of lab notebook due dates is included in the course syllabus and on the course website. Lab notebook assignments are due as you enter the lab. You are not allowed to work on a lab notebook assignment during the TA presentation given at the beginning of lab. Any reports turned in after the first 5 minutes of class will be scored as follows:

1 minute to 48 hours late = 1/2 credit
Over 48 hours late = 0

Due Dates for Late Lab Notebooks scored for 1/2 credit

Due on Monday

Due by 5:00pm on Wednesday

Due on Tuesday

Due by 5:00pm on Thursday

Due on Wednesday

Due by 5:00pm on Friday

Due on Thursday

Scanned copy emailed to Renee Alt by 5:00pm on Saturday, paper copy due by 5:00pm on Monday



a.)All late lab notebooks are to be turned into Renee Alt in 232 Burrill Hall by the day and time listed above. Do not turn in late notebooks to your TA.

b.)For unexcused absences (including unexcused absences for tardiness of later than 30 minutes), lab notebooks must be turned in before the due date in order to receive credit for the assignment. If you have an unexcused absence the day a notebook is due you will receive a “0” for that assignment if not turned in early. You will also not be able to use the “one late assignment policy” for these assignments. This policy does not apply to Day 26, any lab reports not turned in during class time without an excused absence will result in a score of zero for the report (even if turned in early).

c.)If you have an excused absence, lab notebooks are due at the beginning of the lab period in which you are making up the lab. Notebooks turned in late due to an unexcused absence will be scored as indicated above in section 4b.

d.)Each student will be allowed to turn in one late lab notebook assignment without penalty, provided they are submitted within 48 hours of the original due date.

All MCB 301 students are required to keep a laboratory notebook.  A notebook with duplicate numbered pages is required (see required materials for MCB 301).  Full lab notebook assignments will typically be collected one week after completion of the exercise or per your teaching assistant’s instructions.  Instructions on what to include in each assignment are given on the last page of the experiment in the lab manual (Lab Notebook Assignment).  Total point values are noted there as well.  Please note that though an itemized list of report components is given in the lab manual, the format of the report should be as specified below.

Your notebook is a personal record of your work and keeping it thorough and neat is an essential part of your scientific research.  All reports should be handwritten, not typed.  It is important that your notes are legible enough for someone else to read and clear enough for someone else to understand exactly what you did.  They should be able to repeat the experiment in its entirety by referring to your notes. Errors should be crossed out with a single line so they remain legible.  Do not erase or scratch out errors or tear pages out of your notebook.  If an error is made, you should include a comment on what went wrong and how the error was resolved.

Notice that this book is carbonless.  There are white and yellow sheets, each with the same page number.  Both sheets need to be placed on top of the notebook cover before you begin writing.  Turn in the white pages (original copies) to your TA and keep all yellow pages in your notebook for reference and proof of your work.

Write your name and lab section on the cover of your lab notebook and your lab manual.  If either is misplaced they can easily be returned to you.

The organizational format that should be used in your notebook throughout the semester is as follows:

  1. Name, Section, Title of the Exercise and the Date the exercise begins.  The date is important because reagents and cultures may differ from day to day.

  2. Purpose/Relevance. Begin with a short explanation of the goals of the laboratory exercise.

  3. Data.  Record the actual raw data and any observations that were made during the experiment in your notebook.  Include all necessary calculations, including dilutions. 

    Data Analysis (Results).Make calculations from your data and include any charts, graphs, tables or photographs that were made. All flow charts, data and observations should be recorded in your notebook, not in your lab manual or on other loose sheets of paper. On occasion, you will have loose computer print outs or forms given to you by your TA. All pertinent information must be stapled to your original notebook pages and turned in to your TA by the stated due date. You should report the biologically significant information, showing what occurred in the exercise using the data you obtained. Results are derived from the data, often by calculation. For example, in an experiment on the effect of pH on growth, a table of the amount of acid or base used to attain a particular pH is data; the result of the experiment is a table or graph of growth vs. pH. In an experiment on killing of bacteria by ultraviolet light, colony counts would be data; the number of viable cells per milliliter at each UV dosage would be results. To obtain a good results section, you should note the following:
    1. This method of organization (Data Presentation and Data Analysis) may mean you need to re-list some information in the analysis section.
    2. All graphs should include a title and labeled axis, including units and what they represent.
    3. Numerical data should be arranged in neat tables, which should include titles, units and explanatory notes.
    4. If calculations are necessary to determine a result, be sure to include at least one sample for each type of calculation.  (Show how you did the entire calculation.)
    5. Along with the tabular and graphic presentations of results, you should include a descriptive statement of why the measurements were made.

  4. Discussion.  Summarize your results and state any general conclusions that you are able to make from the lab. You may compare your results to those from outside sources (scientific literature).  Are the results what you expected? If you do not believe your results are convincing, you should discuss possible sources of problems and ways that the experiment could be changed in future attempts. You may also suggest additional experimental work that goes beyond the results reported. This section should always include a discussion of whether or not you were able to achieve the objectives for this lab and the reasons for any failure to do so. It should always be written in paragraph form. NOTE: Even though you may be working in pairs or groups with other students and obtain the same data, the discussion should always be written in your own words. Lab partners who have discussions that are deemed too similar will be charged with a violation of academic integrity.

Grading Rubric for Laboratory Notebook Assignments

Grades will be assigned to lab notebook assignments based on the following criteria:


Pre-lab (10 points)

  • Graded by LON-CAPA and Grading TAs

Purpose/Relevance (2 points)

  • 2 pts. -The purpose is stated in the students’ own words and the relevance of the experiment to the bigger picture is elaborated.
  • 1 pt. - The purpose is copied from the manual and the relevance is missing.
  • 0 pts. - The purpose and relevance are missing.

Data/Results (varying point totals)

  • See grading rubric of each experiment for the breakdown of points.

Conclusion (varying point totals)
First part of the conclusion (data analysis) is broken down in this manner:

  • 90-100% - All results are clearly interpreted, hypotheses are made and evaluated for the obtained results and their deviation from the “expected” results. There is a good synthesis of the experiment and the results, particularly in the scope of a larger context.
  • 80-89% - All results are clearly interpreted, hypotheses are made and evaluated for the obtained results and their deviation from the “expected” results. The synthesis of the experiment and the results are limited to the context of the experiment.
  • 65-79% - Most results are addressed, though hypotheses for unexpected results are weak and not fully explored. The writing is not concise or complete and is of good quality.
  • 45-64% - Most results are addressed; hypotheses for unexpected results are missing. The synthesis of the experiment is limited to the experiment.
  • 30-44% - Some results are addresses; hypotheses for unexpected results are missing. Synthesizing thoughts about the experiment and its context are absent.
  • 15-29% - Results are acknowledged; hypotheses are missing. The writing is of poor quality and synthesizing thoughts are missing.
  • 0 pts. - The conclusions are missing.

See grading rubric of each experiment for the breakdown of points for conclusion questions and answers.

Proper Grammar and Format (3 points)

  • 2 pts. - All sections are included and properly labeled. Headings for each section stand out. Overall appearance is nice and neat.
  • 1 pt. - Not all sections are included and/or labeled. Overall appearance is somewhat disheveled.
  • 0 pts. - None of the sections are labeled. Overall appearance is poor.
  • 1 pts. - All grammar and spelling is correct and the handwriting is legible.

Post-lab (10 points)

Graded by Grading TAs