Unknown reports in microbiology are written in scientific format. Scientific writing is written differently from other types of writing. The results of the exercise or experiment are what are being showcased, not the writing. The purpose of scientific writing is not to entertain, but to inform. The writing should be simple and easy to understand. There is a specific style that must be followed when writing scientific reports.
Scientific writing is typically written in the passive voice. The pronouns “I”, “We” and “They” are not typically used.. For example, instead of writing “I used a TSA agar plate to isolate my unknown,” it is customary to write, “A trypticase soy agar (TSA) plate was used to isolate the unknown.”
It is also customary to write in the past tense for most of the report. This includes the introduction, the summary, the description of the materials and methods and the results. The present tense is reserved for the conclusions about the results. See the examples given below. Some other general rules that should be followed are:
Microbial nomenclature: The name of the bacterium should written and spelled correctly. The name should be italicized or underlined. Italicized is preferred. For example, Staphylococcus aureus. The genus is capitalized but the species is not. After the full genus name is given in the paper, it can be written as S. aureus, but still italicized. This is as long as there in no other genera in the paper that starts with the same letter.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
This is where the details of the study are listed. Where did the specimen come from, and what methods were used to identify it? Be specific, but do not re write the lab manual. One way is to mention the names of the materials used and reference the lab manual for the procedure or method and then continue to elaborate when necessary. See example 1. Example 1: “An unknown labeled as letter G was given out by the lab instructor. The methods that have been learned thus far for identifying bacteria have been applied to this unknown. Procedures were followed as stated in the course laboratory manual by De Mers (1), unless otherwise noted.
The first procedure that needed to be done was to streak the unknown out on a Trypticase Soy Agar plate, using the T streak method described in the lab manual.. This needed to be done in order to test the purity of the unknown. After the plates were incubated and grown, the morphology was observed and recorded and a Gram stain was performed. Quality control bacteria were Gram stained along with the unknown to make sure that the Gram stain reaction was done correctly . After determining the Gram reaction, specific biochemical tests were performed. The biochemical tests were chosen from the unknown identification tables that were in the lab manual. Since unknown G was determined to be a Gram negative rod, an oxidase test was performed and the organism was inoculated into a BCP lactose tube. Note all of these tests were performed by the methods listed in the lab manual by De Mers (1). Table 1 lists the test, purpose, reagents and results. All of the following tests were performed on this unknown:
1. Oxidase test
2. BCP Lactose
7. Methyl Red
Another way is to write out the methods in detail in either a paragraph form or listed. This way is not necessary for this type of paper, since this is lab report for the identification of an unknown bacterium and the methods are explained in detail in the lab manual. If there is a procedure that the instructor added or made changes to, or the student used another procedure not in the course lab manual, then it should be written out and referenced.
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