Investigating cells with a light microscope

Once slides have been prepared, they can be examined under a microscope.

Aims of the experiment

  • To use a light microscope to examine animal or plant cells.
  • To make observations and draw scale diagrams of cells.


Investigating cells with a light microscope


Rotate the objective lenses so that the low power, eg x10, is in line with the stage.


  • Care must be taken when looking down the microscope if the illumination is too bright.
  • Care must be taken when using microscope stains.
  • Care must be taken when handling coverslips and microscope slides.

Drawing the image

Record the microscope images using labelled diagrams or produce digital images.

When first examining cells or tissues with low power, draw an image at this stage, even if going on to examine the slide with high power.

A low power diagram is used:

  • as a plan to show the arrangement of any distinct regions of the tissue, for example the tissues in a plant root
  • to show the outline of individual cells that make up the tissue, if the tissue is uniform

A high power diagram is then produced – a detailed image of a part of the slide. It is usually drawn to show a single cell, eg of a single cheek cell or onion cell.

A lower and high power diagram showing the number of cellsMake sure that microscope drawings are fully labelled