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Lab Reports Biology Format Bibliography

Citation styles for lab reports

This article is the third and final installment of our series about lab reports and scientific papers. In the first two parts of the article, we discussed how to write a lab report, scientific paper and lab report formatting, and general layout guidelines.

Citation style is the topic up for discussion in this part. A brief overview of the popular Council of Science Editors (CSE) style guide is also included.

Keep it coherent

Our scientific editors recommend Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers and the National Library of Medicine Recommended Formats for Bibliographic Citation, Supplement: Internet Formats, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in July 2001 as citation style guides for all lab reports and scientific papers (unless otherwise instructed).

The CSE manual is currently widely recognized as the foremost reference guide for writing medical and scientific papers and is an invaluable resource. The 7th edition now covers all the sciences (not just biology and medical terminology, as in previous editions).

Chapters include guides to general writing style and referencing, as well as specific scientific terms, abbreviations, and tips for the preparation of tables, figures, and indexes.

Although the 7th edition of the CSE style manual includes formatting guidelines for electronic journals, the website of the National Library of Medicine is also worth bookmarking in your browser for further reference. The National Library of Medicine—Citing Medicine (and Recommended Formats) guide, which is published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, features more than 100 pages of concise formatting recommendations.

For example, the online manual explains that Internet sites vary in informative detail and do not always adhere to the citation rules of written publications. Furthermore, if you're citing a website in a scientific paper, never assume the webmaster is the author of the webpage.

Get your website citation style right

Citing website sources in a scientific paper or lab report can often be frustrating. To help make things easier, we have briefly outlined some important tips from the National Library of Medicine—Citing Medicine (and Recommended Formats) online guide:

  • As is standard practice for printed works, list author/organization, title, place of publication, publisher, date, and extent or "length" of item; however, as some sites may not have complete referencing information, use whatever is available.
  • Simply listing a URL address is not enough, as webpages expire and sites frequently disappear without notice. Therefore, always cite the source of an item, as in the case of journals with no print equivalent (for example, the Online Journal of Health and Allied Sciences). The format of the item is less relevant than the source, whether it is a journal, monograph (complete book), or database. As with citing printed works, a serial or journal entry is listed differently than a book entry. Again, draw from the information available to you.
  • When citing the date of a webpage, list the date the page was placed on the Internet, the update or revision date, and the date of initial access (this is the date you originally viewed the webpage). This is important because many sites continue to be updated after the original publication date and because pages expire. Keep a copy (either printed or stored) of the site for future reference.
  • Often, a website is part of a larger site, as is the case with many hospital pages that have their own URL identity. An example of this is the website for the cardiology unit of a larger facility. When in doubt, cite the most organizationally specific part of the address you have accessed.
  • When it comes to citing authors in a lab report, do not assume the person listed as webmaster or copyright agent is the one to use. If the only personal name listed is a copyright agent, use this name as the publisher. If no other names of persons are given and it seems the organization that developed the site is both author and publisher, it is considered appropriate to use the name of the organization in the publisher's position. Under no circumstances, however, should you list the author as "anonymous" for lack of a better option.
  • When speaking of the "extent" of a document, there is a bit more leeway with websites; unlike printed works, websites do not always include page numbers. Sometimes this is provided by the publisher (as in the case of a PDF file or for downloading purposes). When citing the length of a website in your lab report, you may use byte size (417K bytes) or an approximation of how long it is using the term "about" in square brackets before the reference, e.g., [about three screens]. Font, printer, and screen sizes vary, but this information about approximate length at least gives your readers a guideline.

Don't hide from your style guide! Let our editors help

Whether you're using CSE, MLA, or APA, we can help ensure you are citing sources correctly. Submit your lab report or scientific paper to our academic editors today.

Image source: Pixabay/Pexels.com

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Proper Citation Format


In Text Referencing

When paraphrasing information from a source, proper credit must be given to the author of that source using the Name-Year system. For example, if you read an article by John Smith which was written in 1989 titled "Deviant Behavior in Newts" and you want to refer to its contents in your paper, you would write (bold lettering for emphasis only):

Smith (1989) found that male newts are attracted to females by the female's odors.


The odor from female newts attracts males (Smith, 1989).


Unlike birds (Robinson, 1969), newts (Smith, 1989) and mammals (Johnson, 1979) use odors to attract mates.

Use the form of the first sentence if the author is to be the subject of the sentence. Use the form of the second sentence if the citation is to be entirely seperate from the grammatical structure of the sentence. Use the form of the third sentence when the sentence refers to different pieces of information gathered from different sources.

Suppose that another author (ex. Martin (1989) and Brown (1994)) studied mating behavior of newts and came to the same conclusion as Smith (1989) did. You would write:

The odor from female newts attracts males (Martin, 1989; Smith, 1989; Brown, 1994).

When using multiple citations as in the above example, order is determined 1) chronologically and 2) alphabetically.

Use the following formats for references with multiple or no authors.

1) Smoking increases the risk of some cancers (Smith and Wilson, 1992). (Two Authors)

2) Acid rain is harmful to freshwater lake ecosystems (Williams et al., 1995). (Three or More Authors)

3) Genetic make-up may be a risk factor for some cancers (Anonymous, 1994). (No Author)

Literature Cited

Each reference used must be listed on a Literature Cited page. Alphabetize the references using the last name of the first author. The format for jounal and book citation is given below with example written above and format following.



Year of Publication.

Book Title,



Place of Publication.

Salisbury, F., and C. Ross. 1985. Plant Physiology, Third Edition. Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.



Boraiko, A.A., and F. Ward. 1980. The pesticide dilemma. National Geographic. 157(2): 145-183.

Author(s). Year of Publication. Article Title. Journal Title. Volume(Issue): Page numbers.



Year published.

Article title.

Journal title.


Page numbers.

Boraiko, A.A., and F. Ward.


The pesticide dilemma.

National Geographic.





The format and instructions for referencing and citation were taken from French, D P., and H. C. Miller. 1997. Biological Sciences 1114: Laboratory and Discussion Session Manual, Fourth Edition.Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK.


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