To write a lab report, you should follow the instructions provided by your professor. However, in most cases, you will have to include certain sections that allow your report reader to understand what was conducted in your experiment. It is also important that you use proper lab report format so that all information is gathered together and presented in a way that is easy to understand. Here, we will discuss the basic sections and elements of a lab report and provide examples on how they should be written.
Lab reports are written as the end product of scientific experiments and allows the scientific community to review your findings. This is important as they may not be able to repeat the experiment themselves, and you will be providing them with all necessary information about your work.
A lab report is also very important as it can be used as proof of your experiment and serves as a record of what was carried out.
After the experiment is conducted, reporting the results is of the utmost importance. The general structure of a lab report is as follows:
- Results and analysis
The title should be a clear, concise statement that reflects the aim of your experiment.
For example, ‘The effect of temperature on the growth rate of yeast.’
An abstract is a summary that should include the main aim of your experiment, key points, and findings. Although not required for all experiments, an abstract allows you to provide readers with the information they require without reading the rest of your report.
The abstract is written last, after every other section in the report has been written. However, it is placed second on the outline, just after the title.
The abstract being a summary, you are not required to provide details of your experiment. Instead, you should just include the most important points that were found in your results.
The introduction of your report should begin with an outline of the purpose and details of your experiment.
Including this information assists your reader in understanding what they are about to read and allows them to get an idea of the experiment’s outcome. You mustn’t include any new information not already stated in your abstract.
An introduction of a lab report will consist of the following four elements:
1) Purpose of the experiment.
The purpose of the experiment should not be confused with the hypothesis.
The purpose of the experiment is the broad reason for experimenting, whereas the hypothesis is specific to the findings of your experiment.
For example: ‘The aim of this experiment was to determine whether sucrose solution affects yeast.’
2) Relevant scientific literature.
Previous research and experiments on the topic should be referred to, and appropriate sources included. This is not a requirement for all reports; however, it provides readers with background information about the process and allows them to understand how your results were developed. This section will also let you discuss any conflicting evidence that opposes your hypothesis.
This is a specific statement which you hypothesize the outcome of your experiment to be. For example: ‘The hypothesis for this experiment is that increasing concentrations of sucrose solution will decrease the growth rate of yeast.’
4) Support your hypothesis.
These are the reasons why you believe the hypothesis is viable.
For example: ‘I believe the hypothesis is viable because sucrose inhibits yeast growth.’
The method section is a detailed explanation of how your experiment was conducted. The method section is all about the process and not the results.
The contents of the method section are as follows:
1) Description of the process.
Describe the materials and method used to conduct your experiment. Include any special procedures in this section.
a) List each item in your experiment that you have used, by indicating clearly what it is, the quantity, and where they are located in your laboratory work.
b) Describe all apparatus with precise detail by providing dimensions when possible. Indicate the source of all apparatus.
3) Reagents and solutions
a) Identify each reagent by giving the common or chemical name, together with any code marks on the containers where necessary. In addition, state clearly how large a volume of reagent is required and the degree of purity.
b) The sources from which the reagents and solutions were obtained should be mentioned.
a) State clearly and concisely the steps taken in the experimental procedure, starting with the preparation of reagents, if necessary.
b) For certain operations carried out under prescribed conditions of time or temperature, mention is made in some detail of the prescribed conditions. The period should be made clear to the reader.
When writing the method section in a lab report, several things need to be taken into consideration. Don’t forget that this is about describing what you did to get your results and not the results themselves.
The following steps should help you structure the content of your method section:
1) Use subsections
Subsections make it easy for the reader to follow your description of what you did. Information that needs to be sectioned include:
This section should include:
a) The type of apparatus
b) Where it is located in the lab
c) How it looks.
This section reveals what you did to set up your experiment, collect data, and analyze results. Separate subsections should be made for different stages, e.g., background research, planning the experiment.
-Reagents and solutions:
This section should include:
a) What is given to you at the beginning of your experiment by the teacher or lab manual. The name of each reagent and a brief description if necessary. This can be combined with materials provided in this section, as well as where they are located.
b) What you use to produce your solutions, including the concentration of each solution. This section can also include any other reagents or procedures used during the experiment.
c) Where you get your solutions from and how they are prepared. Also include information about their concentration if necessary, which was given to you by the teacher or lab manual.
2) Use numbers and abbreviations
Numerical data is the easiest way to indicate which experiments were conducted in a certain sequence, whether or not you used more than one procedure for your experiment, how many trials you completed of each procedure, etc.
Abbreviations are also useful if they are commonly known by people who have worked with the same apparatus you used. If they are not widely known, it is best to spell them out in full.
3) Use past tense
Generally, lab reports are about experiments that have already been done. Therefore, it is generally best to describe them in the past tense.
The results section of a lab report is always about presenting the raw data acquired during the experiment. How this is done may vary depending on what question you are attempting to answer using your experiment.
It should be noted that although modern science emphasizes objectivity, you will find that several human characteristics influence how experiments are conducted.
Do keep in mind that the results section may vary with the type of experiment you are doing, but generally includes:
- Detailing your observations
- Interpreting your observations
The results should correctly correspond to the right part of the experiment it is coming from.
- The required sequence of data presentation is determined by the type of experiment you are conducting.
- The tables and figures you include should support the statements made in the results.
- Use accurate titles for your tables and figures, but generally use more than one sentence when describing them.
- Avoid making statements that cannot be supported by your data or other information in the report.
The discussion section of a lab report discusses the results and how they support or do not support your hypothesis and discusses the limitations of your experiment.
Here, you explore the key findings of the report. Objectivity must be maintained here, as this is where you interpret your results.
In addition to describing how well you have upheld practices used in sound science, this is an opportunity to point out things that went wrong during the experiment and what could be done to improve them.
The conclusions section of a lab research report briefly summarizes the results and their significance, as well as what these results indicate about your hypothesis.
You can also use this section to reiterate what you would do next if you were to repeat the experiment.
This is not an opportunity to go back over everything you have already written in your report, but instead should be limited to much shorter statements. One sentence is usually sufficient.
There is a high probability that your lab report will have in-text citations. The references section of your laboratory report will include a list of all the sources you used.
When writing this section:
– Include only those sources which were cited in the text.
– Include an in-text citation that matches up with the corresponding entry in your reference list.
Check the unit information or lab manual to determine the referencing and citation style required.
Appendices are supplementary material providing a better understanding of the research conducted. There may be a series of tables or images that don’t easily fit into your report, lists including items used in the experiment, background information about the theory being researched, etc.
An appendix serves the purpose of housing information that is too detailed to fit in the report.
- List your equipment and explain any precautions taken when using it. This will help the reader understand your results better.
- Use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation throughout your document.
- Avoid using slang or idioms you are not familiar with, as your audience may not understand them.
- Use simple language that is easy to understand without being too general.
- Avoid making assumptions of what the reader may know already based on their background.
- Be sure to maintain an objective tone.
- Report both positive and negative results as they are relevant to your experiment. Be careful about blame or criticism, as the data cannot support it.
- Remember to use a systematic approach so that each paragraph corresponds to a part of your experiment.
- Use headings and subheadings, as well as bullet points or other forms of emphasis where appropriate.
- Include appendices if there is important supplementary material that does not go with report sections.
All of this information is included in a lab report.
By following these general guidelines, you will produce a high-quality lab report that meets the requirements outlined by your instructor.
If there are any additional steps you need to follow associated with your lab or course, please make sure they are followed accordingly.
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Writing your lab report need not be a difficult task. By following some simple rules, you can produce a coherent, concise document.
Remember to title every part of the lab report so that it is clear what it is about and stick to the correct sections when writing each part. You should also aim for precision in your writing; avoid using jargon or being overly wordy.