How to Structure an Abstract for a Lab Report (With Examples)

How to Structure an Abstract for a Lab Report (With Examples)

Introduction

Suppose you are a researcher working on your Literature Review, and you have tons of lab reports to go through as you seek relevant materials from previous research. As such, the quickest way to evaluate the relevance of various lab reports published in your area of study is by reading the papers’ description (Commonly known as the lab report abstract).

A good lab report abstract acts as the sales page of your research paper. It is a concise summary of your research as it explains your intent, the significance of your study, your data handling and analysis methods, and the significant results of your experiment. Remember that the not so important information goes to the appendix. The laboratory report abstract describes the entire research paper in three hundred or fewer words. As such, whether you will convince readers to read your entire laboratory report is dependent on whether you have a good abstract or otherwise.

Pro Tip Before You Proceed: Always write your lab report’s abstract last. Many students get stuck with writing their research papers because they don’t know what to write in their abstract section (because it comes immediately after the title or contents page and immediately before your introduction page). However, research has proved that you are better placed to write an abstract after interacting with your data, clearly explaining your methods section, and having a comprehensive knowledge of the information contained in your paper.

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Tips for Writing a Laboratory Report Abstract

Follow these tips as you write your abstract for a lab report:

  1. Write your lab report in third person point of view (The “researcher observed” in place of “I observed.”
  2. Present your lab report abstract in the past tense (“The researcher analyzed the enzyme activity,” which is in the past tense instead of “The researcher will observe” which is in the future tense, or “The researcher is observing,” which is in the present tense
  3. Give the background information of your lab experiment (Explain the relationship between the existing knowledge on your topic and what your experiment aims at solving)
  4. Choose your preferred lab report abstract model and stick to its specific guidelines paying particular attention to the word count (Check lab report abstract types in a few paragraphs)
  5. Place your abstract section immediately before the introduction page.
  6. Write your lab report abstract in continuous prose.

4 Basic Components of a Lab Report Abstract

Colleges and universities insist on well-written lab report abstracts that are clear, concise, and give a comprehensive summary of your entire lab report. Your abstract comes immediately after the title page, and it is the first section that prospective readers of your lab report check the essential aspects of your work and whether it is

Your lab report should answer the following questions regardless of the type of lab report you are writing:

Why did you Do the Experiment?

You probably are doing the scientific investigation because your university professor requires you to research and present your findings in a research paper. Nevertheless, students who do not give reasons that are beyond curriculum requirements are likely to fail.   

On the other hand, students who give a detailed description of how their experiment tests a scientific challenge are more likely to score highly from their lab report. Additionally, such research papers are read widely mainly because they have informational abstracts. Finally, a good laboratory abstract explains why you chose to carry out the experiment and why you think it is significant.

 Why was Your Experiment Important?

When writing your abstract, ask yourself, what is the significance of this study? How do my key findings enhance scientific reasoning?

The primary aim of scientific research is to enhance knowledge. Any prospective reader of your work will evaluate your paper with reference to how much new information your experiment generated. You, therefore, should ensure that your abstract clearly explains why the investigation is essential.

 What are Your Key Findings?

Your results section determines what your key findings are. How are they related to your hypothesis? Key findings report the behavior of your raw data during the experiment. Suppose you did an experiment that involved boiling. In that case, you would state the change in temperature, the increased motion of particles, among other changes.  

 Major Conclusions of Your Lab Investigation 

 A person looking for new materials to add to their research is more likely to read your lab report if you write an abstract that explains the new knowledge you gathered from your experiment. When writing an abstract, it would help if you state your conclusion, based on the results you got after using scientific methods to evaluate raw data, subjecting your samples through the experiment procedure, and analyzed the results. Sometimes, it is always important to back up the methods you used by citing them using APA or MLA styles.

Pro Tip Before You Proceed: As you write an abstract, it would help if you considered the limited number of words at your disposal. As such, your abstract should make references to your project without having to give away the contents of the entire project.

Types of Lab Report Abstracts

There are three major types of abstracts in academic writing:

  1. Descriptive Abstract
  2. Informative Abstract
  3. Critical Abstract

 Descriptive Abstract

A descriptive abstract describes the key points of your paper without giving away the results or conclusions of your experiment. It, however, explains why you did your research, why the investigation is essential, and the scope of your work. A descriptive abstract whets the reader’s appetite to read the entire lab report.

Descriptive abstracts are relatively short and can barely exceed a 100-word limit (. As such, you have no space to provide judgment of the project; it is essentially an outline of your experiment’s report.

Informational Abstract

An informative abstract is similar to a descriptive abstract, only that it is more detailed. It makes references to the results and conclusions of your experiment in addition to the purpose, significance, and scope of your investigation. An Informational abstract also makes a brief reference to your recommendations regarding the topic of research.

The significant advantage of writing an informational abstract is that it provides a self-contained summary of your lab report and attracts readers who thoroughly know the paper’s content. On the other hand, this abstract writing method gives away too much detail, and some (lazy) researchers may sample abstract information and fail to read the entire lab report.

  Critical Abstracts

As the word ‘critical’ denotes, a critical lab report abstract only makes sense when evaluating your project critically. Critical abstracts compare your research to other papers in your field. This lab report abstract states how valid, reliable, or complete your significant findings are. Critics of this model claim that the extraneous information could make readers draw conclusions about the lab report before reading its content.

You might want to check our guide on citing book chapters or even the bible, haha, if you intend to critically evaluate others will referencing their work.

 Lab Report Abstract Samples

Lab Report Abstract Example 1

 The experiment was conducted to observe and investigate the effect of fluid flow rate in the bed’s pressure drop. The data obtained is used to calculate the theoretical pressure drop compared with the practical pressure drop. An experimental or percentage error is also made to evaluate the theoretical value’s closeness from the one obtained in the experiment. Ergun concepts were used to calculate the pressure drops in air and water fluid flow experiments. The fluidization practical or experiment’s main aim was to investigate the characteristics and behavior associated with fluids (water and then air) being forced to flow vertically from the bottom through a bed of granular material. Other experimental objectives included determining the head loss (pressure drop) as a fluid flow rate function.

Additionally, Verifying the Carman-Kozeny equation and its application as a prediction tool for the onset of fluidization, observe when fluidization begins to occur, and differentiate various characteristics associated with fluidized and fixed beds. Additionally, the experiment requires us to compare the predicted onset of fluidization with the measured pressure drop. Determining the bed height as a function of fluid velocity was the final experimental objective.

The above lab report sample is short yet informative. The abstract clearly states the objectives of the assignment, the scientific method used in the calculations and, the possibility of error is stated. This is an example of a well-written descriptive abstract, and you can use this method to write an abstract.

Abstract Example 2

The purpose of this experiment was to study the tensile properties of two samples. The tensile properties being inspected were the modulus of elasticity and Poisson’s ratio. One of the samples was made of steel, and the other aluminum. The test was conducted using an INSTRON tensile testing machine. The samples were gripped between the two jaws of the device. Power was then supplied to the machine to increase the distance between the two jaws, thus stretching the sample. An input panel connected to the machine was used to set values of loads applied to the samples. Two VISHAY strain gauges are mounted on the sample. One was mounted axially, and the other was mounted transversely with respect to the direction of loading. These strain gauges were connected to a VISHAY strain indicator box which gave out readings of the strains being sensed by the strain gauges. The modulus of elasticity was 3 × 107 psi for the steel sample and 9 × 106 psi for the aluminum sample. Poisson’s ratio is 0.271 for the steel sample and 0.332 for the aluminum sample.

This informative lab report abstract sample is, as the name sounds, packed with details of the experiment, the scientific method used, and includes the background information of the experiment. The writer uses the abstract to explain the entire procedure used and even provides the significant results of the investigation.

Abstract Example 3

 Purpose: Staphylococcus aureus has become resistant to most antibiotics. The most notorious strain is the methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA). This paper reports an experiment that was carried out to determine the gene profiles of the virulence factors of the two strains of MRSA, CA-MRSA, and HA-MRSA and the differences in antibiotic susceptibility between the two strains.

Methods: The study was conducted using two isolates of MRSA, MRSA 522 and FPR 3757. The genes coding for virulence factors in the two strains were identified and quantified using real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). The antibiotic susceptibility of the two strains was tested using the EUCAST disk diffusion test and the E-test. The EUCAST test is only qualitative and was used to group antibiotics as resistant, intermediate, or susceptible to a particular antibiotic. The E test was used to determine the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) using a gentamicin strip.

Results: MRSA 252 isolate gave positive results for the mecA gene and negative results for the PVL gene, while FPR 3757 gave positive results for the PVL gene and negative results for the mecA gene. MRSA 252 was susceptible to ciprofloxacin. FPR 3757 was susceptible to gentamicin, cefoxitin, fusidic acid, ciprofloxacin, and rifampin. Both strains were resistant to erythromycin. MRSA 252 was also resistant to gentamicin, cefoxitin, and rifampin. The minimum inhibitory concentration of MRSA 252 was higher than that of FPR 3757.

Conclusion: MRSA 252 is an HA-MRSA strain because the mecA gene occurs predominantly in HA-MRSA, while FPR 3757 is a CA-MRSA strain because the gene for PVL is mainly expressed in CA-MRSA. CA-MRSA is less resistant to antibiotics than HA-MRSA.

This is another example of an informative abstract, only that the writer clearly labels the various parts of a lab report abstract. Notice how the ‘subheadings’ – Purpose, Methods, Results, and Conclusion are highlighted? You can also utilize this method to write an abstract. However, it would help if you were careful not to dwell too much on one section, as you sometimes have a word limit when writing an abstract for a lab report.

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Abstract Example 4

In construction projects, the geotechnical design is an essential operation conducted before the actual construction begins. The geotechnical survey is done to determine soil properties and the appropriate foundation that can be applied for the project. A Pile foundation is an alternative foundation that can be used for the deep foundation where topsoil is weak and hence, unable to accommodate the load from a structure. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how piles are designed and laboratory tests on the soil before designing the pile. In this report, the design of the pile in both clay and sand soils is discussed. The information constitutes the methodology and procedure, including the results obtained in the laboratory when testing piles in both sand and clay soils. Besides, graphs and charts have been drawn to illustrate piles’ different behavior when exposed to other loading conditions. The equipment and apparatus used in carrying out the test have also been discussed in the report.

Students may also choose to explain the background of their investigation in the abstract section of their paper. The above abstract for a lab report clearly explains why the experiment is essential, makes a brief reference to how the research findings will be used, and even the methodology and the procedure for the investigation.

Abstract Example 5

The fluidization practical or experiment’s main aim was to investigate the characteristics and behavior associated with fluids (water and then air) being forced to flow vertically from the bottom through a bed of granular material. Other experimental objectives included determining the head loss (pressure drop) as a fluid flow rate function. Additionally, Verifying the Carman-Kozeny equation and its application as a prediction tool for the onset of fluidization, observe when fluidization begins to occur, and differentiate various characteristics associated with fluidized and fixed beds. Additionally, the experiment requires us to compare the predicted onset of fluidization with the measured pressure drop. Determining the bed height as a function of fluid velocity was the final experimental objective.

If you prefer descriptive abstracts for your lab reports, then you can adopt the above method. This abstract for a lab report clearly explains all lab report sections using the least possible number of words. The writer combines the investigation methods used for the investigation and the significance of the experiment to entice the reader to read through the entire paper.

Writing Perfect Lab Report Abstracts Depends on Practice

You should write (and read) as many lab report abstracts as you can. Students make the mistake of waiting until they are tasked with an experiment before starting learning how to write a good abstract. You may, for example, go through your school’s library and read all the lab report abstracts on your area of study. Remember that each abstract should be original, and this can be achieved by methods such as paraphrasing.

Finally, it would help if you carefully considered the instructions your supervisors or teachers recommend and stick to the writing style. For instance, if your supervisor prefers informational abstracts, ensure that you provide specific details related to the particular type. Additionally, avoid mixing multiple styles when writing an abstract for a lab report, as you may end up leaving essential information or making your work seem disorganized.

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