There are different report formats in a lab, but the most common lab report format is the “3-column” report. In this format, you have a column on the left side for your data and results, then another one in the middle for your methods and findings summary. The column on the right is for conclusions based on those findings.
This format is organized and straightforward, with everything separated into three sections: Data/Results (left), Procedure (middle), Conclusions (right). You need to fill out all three sections before turning in an assignment or poster to ensure it’s complete!
A lab report consists of the following parts: Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion, References, and Appendices.
The title page contains the title of the experiment, the name of the student(s), and a mentor’s signature. It also contains information about where you got your materials and information about chemicals used in the Procedure.
For lab reports, this page is written in APA style and includes the following elements:
- Running head(only for professional papers) and page number
- Paper title(Experiment Title)
- Author(Your name and lab partners’ names)
- Institutional affiliation
- Note from the author
- Course information(student’s paper)
All the text should be double-spaced, Font 12, Times New Roman. Other suitable fonts are Arial 11, Georgia 11, and Calibri 11.
The first letters of essential words are capitalized, and all words are centered.
The abstract should be between 1-2 paragraphs. It briefly summarizes the main points of your report. The abstract is a concise summary of the experimental setup, lists the main findings, and summarizes the conclusions of your experimental results.
An abstract example:
|This experiment examined the effects of several concentrations of 5% acetic acid on the seeds’ germination rate. The experiment was done in triplicates (repeated three times), 10 seeds were planted in each tube of soil. After 16 days, the germinated seeds were counted and compared to the control group that was not treated with acetic acid. The results show that the rate of germination of the treated seeds is lower than the control group.|
The introduction states the current study objectives. In this section, you briefly state what you’re trying to achieve in the experiment. You should address the following elements in your introduction:
- A brief explanation of what this experiment is about
- The reason why you are conducting this experiment
- Your objectives
- The related research you’ve done so far
It’s also important to mention which theories are being tested in the current experiment. You can also give some background information about the relevant concepts in the experiment.
An introduction example:
|In this experiment, we will be investigating the effects of different concentrations of acetic acid on germination rate. This is because other organisms have been observed to show a decrease in germination rate when exposed to acetic acid.|
The method section is one of the most important parts of your paper. It should detail the materials and methods used in your experiment. Your reader should have no trouble understanding exactly what you did because you explain all the steps clearly.
In a lab report, methods are the specific procedures you followed to achieve the objectives of your experiment. Materials include chemicals, reagents, or kits that you used in your experiment.
Examples of materials or substances used in the experiment are:
- Printed material
- Tube racks
Procedures for applying the experimental treatment include:
- Tube labeling
- Tube rinsing procedure
- Chemical preparation steps for reagents or solutions
- Calibration of instruments
- Plant seed preparation
- Temperature readings
Some statistical analysis methods are:
Here are some important factors to keep in mind when you are writing the methods section.
- In a lab report, this part should be written in the past tense.
- Include enough details to explain the experiment properly. Include any special conditions, such as the temperature of a room or specific concentrations of chemicals.
- Clearly explain what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, and what steps are involved.
- Include materials and equipment that may not be readily available to your reader.
- Include any calculations you made and where you got the data from.
The results section should contain all the data you’ve collected throughout your experiment. This section should be written in a standard format that is easy to follow. It’s also essential to use graphs where appropriate, so your reader can easily interpret the data.
The data should be presented in a table with headings, and the corresponding graph or chart should be placed directly underneath the table.
The results section should contain only facts. Number the tables and include titles above each table. Use proper units to label the figure axes and put composite figures together to make comparisons easy.
The discussion section is where you interpret your data and draw conclusions from what you’ve been able to achieve in the experiment.
All your findings from the experiment should be presented in a table or graph format for easy understanding. Tables also make data interpretation and concluding easier.
In a lab report discussion section, you’ll need to answer the following questions:
- Are your results consistent with what others have found?
- What are the possible explanations for your findings?
- What would be necessary to perform further tests on this experiment?
- How does this experiment relate to other scientific experiments?
- What applications might the results of your experiment have in everyday life?
The conclusion is your final thoughts on your experiment and what you’ve gotten out of it.
In a lab report, the conclusions should be clear and concise. Three possible conclusions are:
|1. Your experiment was a success, your results support the current hypothesis and were in line with the lab handout.|
2. Your experiment failed to support the hypothesis
3. Your experiment was inconclusive, you couldn’t determine whether your hypothesis was correct or not.
The references section is the last section of the lab report. Here you need to list all the sources you used throughout your experiment besides the lab manual.
Every source you use should have a corresponding reference number. This number should be placed next to the relevant information in your lab report.
The references should be organized in alphabetical order by author. It’s helpful to list the relevant references at the end of each section instead of only inserting them in the final references section.
This part of the report includes the raw data obtained from the experiment. However, the appendices section is optional, so you decide whether to have it or not. Organize the appendix by placing the appendix table or graph with a brief description at its top. Also, list all tables or graphs in numerical order.
Some simple guidelines to follow are as listed below:
• Independent variable
• Dependent variable
State your hypothesis and explain the experimental design (independent variable, dependent variable, constants)
- Hypothesis: A statement that describes what you believe will happen during the experiment.
- Independent variable: The independent variable is what you change in the experiment. It’s also known as the factor.
- Dependent variable: The dependent variable is what you measure in the experiment. It’s also known as the response.
- Constants: Constants are elements in your experiment that remain the same throughout. For example, you might control human error by using a stopwatch to measure the same thing throughout the experiment.
Report your results in a clear, concise format. The results section will contain all of the numerical data you gathered from your experiment.
Include a graph that summarizes your data from the experiment. Make sure the y-axis is clearly labeled, and the proper units separate all values.
Include any possible sources of error and explain how they could have affected your experiment.
The conclusion section should be concise and straightforward. If you can, end your lab report with a suggestion for future research.
Conclusions should include the following:
- Any possible errors in your lab report that you think need to be addressed
- A brief explanation of your key findings
- How the results relate to the hypothesis and how they could be applied in everyday life.
- A speculation of the results’ implications on future research.
- Avoid overusing the passive voice. You’ll achieve this by sparingly using the first person.
- When you’re writing a lab report, it’s important to remember that your reader is not involved in the experiment and doesn’t know the details of what you did. Make sure your readers will understand everything in your lab report without any extra explanation.
- Use prose as opposed to listings
- Provide sufficient detail for anyone to reproduce your experiment and get the same results
- Be consistent in your tense as you narrate the experiment
- Avoid jargon overuse
- Use formal language
There are no strict rules when it comes to formatting in a lab report, but you’ll need to follow a standard format. This is necessary because this kind of writing is the basis for most other types of scientific papers.
Lab report formats can vary depending on your resident country, but some general guidelines should be followed. Follow the guidelines given here to write a report that’s concise, clear, and organized.