Laboratory drawings are part of the documentation skills necessary for properly documenting a scientific study. Where observation of structures is part of the study, laboratory drawings should be included in the lab journal under “Results”. Where the study is bound separately, the drawing should be made on a plain white, unlined piece of standard paper and placed together in the “Results” section. Laboratory drawings may also be assigned independently of a study.
The purpose of a laboratory drawing is to make an accurate representation of an observed cell or organism. Accurate representation is the crux of laboratory drawings. They are not meant to be fancy or artistic.
While the lab journal should always be written in ink, laboratory drawings should be made in pencil, preferably with a hard 2H pencil. Mistakes may be erased, so long as no sign of the erased line remains vislble. Should a laboratory drawing begins to get messy, it is better to start over.
All laboratory drawings need a title. Titles always go on the top of a laboratory drawing.
Laboratory drawings of magnified organisms or cells should be drawn inside a circular field that matches the field of vision under magnification. For laboratory drawings of organisms or cells under magnification, the total magnification should also be included underneath the title: which is the product of both the objective lens magnification and the ocular lens magnification.
All significant structures in the laboratory drawing should be labelled with its correct anatomical name. Each structure should be linked to its label by a straight line drawn with a ruler. These lines should not cross, although multiple lines may lead to the same label. Where a microscopic field is used, the labels go outside the field.
All labels should be horizontal relative to the page. Where possible, the drawing should be enough to the left to allow a vertical list of labels to the right. If this is not possible (such as when the drawing is on a diagonal), space the labels neatly to either side of the drawing.
In a typical plant cell, a minimum of the cell walls, nucleus, and cytoplasm should be clearly labelled. Every other significant feature in the laboratory drawing should also be labelled. Where multiple cells are seen, multiple cells should be drawn. The way that the cells are joined or not joined together is an important part of the observation.
Should a study or assignment include multiple laboratory drawings, a maximum of two laboratory drawings may be drawn on a single page. The same side of the page should be used for both drawings: one on the top half of the page and one on the bottom half. The other side of the page should remain blank.
All laboratory drawings should always be kept in the same order as the observations were taken. For assignments or studies which require multiple drawings, each title should be numbered according to the order of the observations.
Laboratory drawings probably won’t be as exact as a photograph. Nevertheless, they should show all anatomical structures that have been observed in their correct relative size, shape, and location, nothing more and nothing less. Even if some expected structures were not visible in the observed cell, do not draw them in unless they were actually seen.