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How To Write A Lab Report | Step-by-Step Guide & Examples

Published on May 20, 2021 by Pritha Bhandari . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A lab report conveys the aim, methods, results, and conclusions of a scientific experiment. The main purpose of a lab report is to demonstrate your understanding of the scientific method by performing and evaluating a hands-on lab experiment. This type of assignment is usually shorter than a research paper .

Lab reports are commonly used in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This article focuses on how to structure and write a lab report.

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Table of contents

Structuring a lab report, introduction, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about lab reports.

The sections of a lab report can vary between scientific fields and course requirements, but they usually contain the purpose, methods, and findings of a lab experiment .

Each section of a lab report has its own purpose.

  • Title: expresses the topic of your study
  • Abstract : summarizes your research aims, methods, results, and conclusions
  • Introduction: establishes the context needed to understand the topic
  • Method: describes the materials and procedures used in the experiment
  • Results: reports all descriptive and inferential statistical analyses
  • Discussion: interprets and evaluates results and identifies limitations
  • Conclusion: sums up the main findings of your experiment
  • References: list of all sources cited using a specific style (e.g. APA )
  • Appendices : contains lengthy materials, procedures, tables or figures

Although most lab reports contain these sections, some sections can be omitted or combined with others. For example, some lab reports contain a brief section on research aims instead of an introduction, and a separate conclusion is not always required.

If you’re not sure, it’s best to check your lab report requirements with your instructor.

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Your title provides the first impression of your lab report – effective titles communicate the topic and/or the findings of your study in specific terms.

Create a title that directly conveys the main focus or purpose of your study. It doesn’t need to be creative or thought-provoking, but it should be informative.

  • The effects of varying nitrogen levels on tomato plant height.
  • Testing the universality of the McGurk effect.
  • Comparing the viscosity of common liquids found in kitchens.

An abstract condenses a lab report into a brief overview of about 150–300 words. It should provide readers with a compact version of the research aims, the methods and materials used, the main results, and the final conclusion.

Think of it as a way of giving readers a preview of your full lab report. Write the abstract last, in the past tense, after you’ve drafted all the other sections of your report, so you’ll be able to succinctly summarize each section.

To write a lab report abstract, use these guiding questions:

  • What is the wider context of your study?
  • What research question were you trying to answer?
  • How did you perform the experiment?
  • What did your results show?
  • How did you interpret your results?
  • What is the importance of your findings?

Nitrogen is a necessary nutrient for high quality plants. Tomatoes, one of the most consumed fruits worldwide, rely on nitrogen for healthy leaves and stems to grow fruit. This experiment tested whether nitrogen levels affected tomato plant height in a controlled setting. It was expected that higher levels of nitrogen fertilizer would yield taller tomato plants.

Levels of nitrogen fertilizer were varied between three groups of tomato plants. The control group did not receive any nitrogen fertilizer, while one experimental group received low levels of nitrogen fertilizer, and a second experimental group received high levels of nitrogen fertilizer. All plants were grown from seeds, and heights were measured 50 days into the experiment.

The effects of nitrogen levels on plant height were tested between groups using an ANOVA. The plants with the highest level of nitrogen fertilizer were the tallest, while the plants with low levels of nitrogen exceeded the control group plants in height. In line with expectations and previous findings, the effects of nitrogen levels on plant height were statistically significant. This study strengthens the importance of nitrogen for tomato plants.

Your lab report introduction should set the scene for your experiment. One way to write your introduction is with a funnel (an inverted triangle) structure:

  • Start with the broad, general research topic
  • Narrow your topic down your specific study focus
  • End with a clear research question

Begin by providing background information on your research topic and explaining why it’s important in a broad real-world or theoretical context. Describe relevant previous research on your topic and note how your study may confirm it or expand it, or fill a gap in the research field.

This lab experiment builds on previous research from Haque, Paul, and Sarker (2011), who demonstrated that tomato plant yield increased at higher levels of nitrogen. However, the present research focuses on plant height as a growth indicator and uses a lab-controlled setting instead.

Next, go into detail on the theoretical basis for your study and describe any directly relevant laws or equations that you’ll be using. State your main research aims and expectations by outlining your hypotheses .

Based on the importance of nitrogen for tomato plants, the primary hypothesis was that the plants with the high levels of nitrogen would grow the tallest. The secondary hypothesis was that plants with low levels of nitrogen would grow taller than plants with no nitrogen.

Your introduction doesn’t need to be long, but you may need to organize it into a few paragraphs or with subheadings such as “Research Context” or “Research Aims.”

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A lab report Method section details the steps you took to gather and analyze data. Give enough detail so that others can follow or evaluate your procedures. Write this section in the past tense. If you need to include any long lists of procedural steps or materials, place them in the Appendices section but refer to them in the text here.

You should describe your experimental design, your subjects, materials, and specific procedures used for data collection and analysis.

Experimental design

Briefly note whether your experiment is a within-subjects  or between-subjects design, and describe how your sample units were assigned to conditions if relevant.

A between-subjects design with three groups of tomato plants was used. The control group did not receive any nitrogen fertilizer. The first experimental group received a low level of nitrogen fertilizer, while the second experimental group received a high level of nitrogen fertilizer.

Describe human subjects in terms of demographic characteristics, and animal or plant subjects in terms of genetic background. Note the total number of subjects as well as the number of subjects per condition or per group. You should also state how you recruited subjects for your study.

List the equipment or materials you used to gather data and state the model names for any specialized equipment.

List of materials

35 Tomato seeds

15 plant pots (15 cm tall)

Light lamps (50,000 lux)

Nitrogen fertilizer

Measuring tape

Describe your experimental settings and conditions in detail. You can provide labelled diagrams or images of the exact set-up necessary for experimental equipment. State how extraneous variables were controlled through restriction or by fixing them at a certain level (e.g., keeping the lab at room temperature).

Light levels were fixed throughout the experiment, and the plants were exposed to 12 hours of light a day. Temperature was restricted to between 23 and 25℃. The pH and carbon levels of the soil were also held constant throughout the experiment as these variables could influence plant height. The plants were grown in rooms free of insects or other pests, and they were spaced out adequately.

Your experimental procedure should describe the exact steps you took to gather data in chronological order. You’ll need to provide enough information so that someone else can replicate your procedure, but you should also be concise. Place detailed information in the appendices where appropriate.

In a lab experiment, you’ll often closely follow a lab manual to gather data. Some instructors will allow you to simply reference the manual and state whether you changed any steps based on practical considerations. Other instructors may want you to rewrite the lab manual procedures as complete sentences in coherent paragraphs, while noting any changes to the steps that you applied in practice.

If you’re performing extensive data analysis, be sure to state your planned analysis methods as well. This includes the types of tests you’ll perform and any programs or software you’ll use for calculations (if relevant).

First, tomato seeds were sown in wooden flats containing soil about 2 cm below the surface. Each seed was kept 3-5 cm apart. The flats were covered to keep the soil moist until germination. The seedlings were removed and transplanted to pots 8 days later, with a maximum of 2 plants to a pot. Each pot was watered once a day to keep the soil moist.

The nitrogen fertilizer treatment was applied to the plant pots 12 days after transplantation. The control group received no treatment, while the first experimental group received a low concentration, and the second experimental group received a high concentration. There were 5 pots in each group, and each plant pot was labelled to indicate the group the plants belonged to.

50 days after the start of the experiment, plant height was measured for all plants. A measuring tape was used to record the length of the plant from ground level to the top of the tallest leaf.

In your results section, you should report the results of any statistical analysis procedures that you undertook. You should clearly state how the results of statistical tests support or refute your initial hypotheses.

The main results to report include:

  • any descriptive statistics
  • statistical test results
  • the significance of the test results
  • estimates of standard error or confidence intervals

The mean heights of the plants in the control group, low nitrogen group, and high nitrogen groups were 20.3, 25.1, and 29.6 cm respectively. A one-way ANOVA was applied to calculate the effect of nitrogen fertilizer level on plant height. The results demonstrated statistically significant ( p = .03) height differences between groups.

Next, post-hoc tests were performed to assess the primary and secondary hypotheses. In support of the primary hypothesis, the high nitrogen group plants were significantly taller than the low nitrogen group and the control group plants. Similarly, the results supported the secondary hypothesis: the low nitrogen plants were taller than the control group plants.

These results can be reported in the text or in tables and figures. Use text for highlighting a few key results, but present large sets of numbers in tables, or show relationships between variables with graphs.

You should also include sample calculations in the Results section for complex experiments. For each sample calculation, provide a brief description of what it does and use clear symbols. Present your raw data in the Appendices section and refer to it to highlight any outliers or trends.

The Discussion section will help demonstrate your understanding of the experimental process and your critical thinking skills.

In this section, you can:

  • Interpret your results
  • Compare your findings with your expectations
  • Identify any sources of experimental error
  • Explain any unexpected results
  • Suggest possible improvements for further studies

Interpreting your results involves clarifying how your results help you answer your main research question. Report whether your results support your hypotheses.

  • Did you measure what you sought out to measure?
  • Were your analysis procedures appropriate for this type of data?

Compare your findings with other research and explain any key differences in findings.

  • Are your results in line with those from previous studies or your classmates’ results? Why or why not?

An effective Discussion section will also highlight the strengths and limitations of a study.

  • Did you have high internal validity or reliability?
  • How did you establish these aspects of your study?

When describing limitations, use specific examples. For example, if random error contributed substantially to the measurements in your study, state the particular sources of error (e.g., imprecise apparatus) and explain ways to improve them.

The results support the hypothesis that nitrogen levels affect plant height, with increasing levels producing taller plants. These statistically significant results are taken together with previous research to support the importance of nitrogen as a nutrient for tomato plant growth.

However, unlike previous studies, this study focused on plant height as an indicator of plant growth in the present experiment. Importantly, plant height may not always reflect plant health or fruit yield, so measuring other indicators would have strengthened the study findings.

Another limitation of the study is the plant height measurement technique, as the measuring tape was not suitable for plants with extreme curvature. Future studies may focus on measuring plant height in different ways.

The main strengths of this study were the controls for extraneous variables, such as pH and carbon levels of the soil. All other factors that could affect plant height were tightly controlled to isolate the effects of nitrogen levels, resulting in high internal validity for this study.

Your conclusion should be the final section of your lab report. Here, you’ll summarize the findings of your experiment, with a brief overview of the strengths and limitations, and implications of your study for further research.

Some lab reports may omit a Conclusion section because it overlaps with the Discussion section, but you should check with your instructor before doing so.

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A lab report conveys the aim, methods, results, and conclusions of a scientific experiment . Lab reports are commonly assigned in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The purpose of a lab report is to demonstrate your understanding of the scientific method with a hands-on lab experiment. Course instructors will often provide you with an experimental design and procedure. Your task is to write up how you actually performed the experiment and evaluate the outcome.

In contrast, a research paper requires you to independently develop an original argument. It involves more in-depth research and interpretation of sources and data.

A lab report is usually shorter than a research paper.

The sections of a lab report can vary between scientific fields and course requirements, but it usually contains the following:

  • Abstract: summarizes your research aims, methods, results, and conclusions
  • References: list of all sources cited using a specific style (e.g. APA)
  • Appendices: contains lengthy materials, procedures, tables or figures

The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.

In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.

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How to Write a Lab Report

Lab Reports Describe Your Experiment

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Lab reports are an essential part of all laboratory courses and usually a significant part of your grade. If your instructor gives you an outline for how to write a lab report, use that. Some instructors require a lab report to be included in a lab notebook , while others will request a separate report. Here's a format for a lab report you can use if you aren't sure what to write or need an explanation of what to include in the different parts of the report.

A lab report is how you explain what you did in ​your experiment, what you learned, and what the results meant.

Lab Report Essentials

Not all lab reports have title pages, but if your instructor wants one, it would be a single page that states:​

  • The title of the experiment.
  • Your name and the names of any lab partners.
  • Your instructor's name.
  • The date the lab was performed or the date the report was submitted.

The title says what you did. It should be brief (aim for ten words or less) and describe the main point of the experiment or investigation. An example of a title would be: "Effects of Ultraviolet Light on Borax Crystal Growth Rate". If you can, begin your title using a keyword rather than an article like "The" or "A".

Introduction or Purpose

Usually, the introduction is one paragraph that explains the objectives or purpose of the lab. In one sentence, state the hypothesis. Sometimes an introduction may contain background information, briefly summarize how the experiment was performed, state the findings of the experiment, and list the conclusions of the investigation. Even if you don't write a whole introduction, you need to state the purpose of the experiment, or why you did it. This would be where you state your hypothesis .

List everything needed to complete your experiment.

Describe the steps you completed during your investigation. This is your procedure. Be sufficiently detailed that anyone could read this section and duplicate your experiment. Write it as if you were giving direction for someone else to do the lab. It may be helpful to provide a figure to diagram your experimental setup.

Numerical data obtained from your procedure usually presented as a table. Data encompasses what you recorded when you conducted the experiment. It's just the facts, not any interpretation of what they mean.

Describe in words what the data means. Sometimes the Results section is combined with the Discussion.

Discussion or Analysis

The Data section contains numbers; the Analysis section contains any calculations you made based on those numbers. This is where you interpret the data and determine whether or not a hypothesis was accepted. This is also where you would discuss any mistakes you might have made while conducting the investigation. You may wish to describe ways the study might have been improved.

Conclusions

Most of the time the conclusion is a single paragraph that sums up what happened in the experiment, whether your hypothesis was accepted or rejected, and what this means.

Figures and Graphs

Graphs and figures must both be labeled with a descriptive title. Label the axes on a graph, being sure to include units of measurement. The independent variable is on the X-axis, the dependent variable (the one you are measuring) is on the Y-axis. Be sure to refer to figures and graphs in the text of your report: the first figure is Figure 1, the second figure is Figure 2, etc.

If your research was based on someone else's work or if you cited facts that require documentation, then you should list these references.

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Writing Lab Reports

Writing lab reports follows a straightforward and structured procedure. It is important to recognize that each part of a lab report is important, so take the time to complete each carefully. A lab report is broken down into eight sections: title, abstract, introduction, methods and materials, results, discussion, conclusion, and references. 

  • Ex: "Determining the Free Chlorine Content of Pool Water"
  • Abstracts are a summary of the experiment as a whole and should familiarize the reader with the purpose of the research. 
  • Abstracts will always be written last, even though they are the first paragraph of a lab report. 
  • Not all lab reports will require an abstract. However, they are often included in upper-level lab reports and should be studied carefully. 
  • Why was the research done or experiment conducted?
  • What problem is being addressed?
  • What results were found?
  • What are the meaning of the results?
  • How is the problem better understood now than before, if at all?

Introduction

  • The introduction of a lab report discusses the problem being studied and other theory that is relevant to understanding the findings. 
  • The hypothesis of the experiment and the motivation for the research are stated in this section. 
  • Write the introduction in your own words. Try not to copy from a lab manual or other guidelines. Instead, show comprehension of the experiment by briefly explaining the problem.

Methods and Materials

  • Ex: pipette, graduated cylinder, 1.13mg of Na, 0.67mg Ag
  • List the steps taken as they actually happened during the experiment, not as they were supposed to happen. 
  • If written correctly, another researcher should be able to duplicate the experiment and get the same or very similar results. 
  • The results show the data that was collected or found during the experiment. 
  • Explain in words the data that was collected.
  • Tables should be labeled numerically, as "Table 1", "Table 2", etc. Other figures should be labeled numerically as "Figure 1", "Figure 2", etc. 
  • Calculations to understand the data can also be presented in the results. 
  • The discussion section is one of the most important parts of the lab report. It analyzes the results of the experiment and is a discussion of the data. 
  • If any results are unexpected, explain why they are unexpected and how they did or did not effect the data obtained. 
  • Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the design of the experiment and compare your results to other similar experiments.
  • If there are any experimental errors, analyze them.
  • Explain your results and discuss them using relevant terms and theories.
  • What do the results indicate?
  • What is the significance of the results?
  • Are there any gaps in knowledge?
  • Are there any new questions that have been raised?
  • The conclusion is a summation of the experiment. It should clearly and concisely state what was learned and its importance.
  • If there is future work that needs to be done, it can be explained in the conclusion.
  • If using any outside sources to support a claim or explain background information, those sources must be cited in the references section of the lab report. 
  • In the event that no outside sources are used, the references section may be left out. 

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Lab Report Format: Step-by-Step Guide & Examples

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Learn about our Editorial Process

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

On This Page:

In psychology, a lab report outlines a study’s objectives, methods, results, discussion, and conclusions, ensuring clarity and adherence to APA (or relevant) formatting guidelines.

A typical lab report would include the following sections: title, abstract, introduction, method, results, and discussion.

The title page, abstract, references, and appendices are started on separate pages (subsections from the main body of the report are not). Use double-line spacing of text, font size 12, and include page numbers.

The report should have a thread of arguments linking the prediction in the introduction to the content of the discussion.

This must indicate what the study is about. It must include the variables under investigation. It should not be written as a question.

Title pages should be formatted in APA style .

The abstract provides a concise and comprehensive summary of a research report. Your style should be brief but not use note form. Look at examples in journal articles . It should aim to explain very briefly (about 150 words) the following:

  • Start with a one/two sentence summary, providing the aim and rationale for the study.
  • Describe participants and setting: who, when, where, how many, and what groups?
  • Describe the method: what design, what experimental treatment, what questionnaires, surveys, or tests were used.
  • Describe the major findings, including a mention of the statistics used and the significance levels, or simply one sentence summing up the outcome.
  • The final sentence(s) outline the study’s “contribution to knowledge” within the literature. What does it all mean? Mention the implications of your findings if appropriate.

The abstract comes at the beginning of your report but is written at the end (as it summarises information from all the other sections of the report).

Introduction

The purpose of the introduction is to explain where your hypothesis comes from (i.e., it should provide a rationale for your research study).

Ideally, the introduction should have a funnel structure: Start broad and then become more specific. The aims should not appear out of thin air; the preceding review of psychological literature should lead logically into the aims and hypotheses.

The funnel structure of the introducion to a lab report

  • Start with general theory, briefly introducing the topic. Define the important key terms.
  • Explain the theoretical framework.
  • Summarise and synthesize previous studies – What was the purpose? Who were the participants? What did they do? What did they find? What do these results mean? How do the results relate to the theoretical framework?
  • Rationale: How does the current study address a gap in the literature? Perhaps it overcomes a limitation of previous research.
  • Aims and hypothesis. Write a paragraph explaining what you plan to investigate and make a clear and concise prediction regarding the results you expect to find.

There should be a logical progression of ideas that aids the flow of the report. This means the studies outlined should lead logically to your aims and hypotheses.

Do be concise and selective, and avoid the temptation to include anything in case it is relevant (i.e., don’t write a shopping list of studies).

USE THE FOLLOWING SUBHEADINGS:

Participants

  • How many participants were recruited?
  • Say how you obtained your sample (e.g., opportunity sample).
  • Give relevant demographic details (e.g., gender, ethnicity, age range, mean age, and standard deviation).
  • State the experimental design .
  • What were the independent and dependent variables ? Make sure the independent variable is labeled and name the different conditions/levels.
  • For example, if gender is the independent variable label, then male and female are the levels/conditions/groups.
  • How were the IV and DV operationalized?
  • Identify any controls used, e.g., counterbalancing and control of extraneous variables.
  • List all the materials and measures (e.g., what was the title of the questionnaire? Was it adapted from a study?).
  • You do not need to include wholesale replication of materials – instead, include a ‘sensible’ (illustrate) level of detail. For example, give examples of questionnaire items.
  • Include the reliability (e.g., alpha values) for the measure(s).
  • Describe the precise procedure you followed when conducting your research, i.e., exactly what you did.
  • Describe in sufficient detail to allow for replication of findings.
  • Be concise in your description and omit extraneous/trivial details, e.g., you don’t need to include details regarding instructions, debrief, record sheets, etc.
  • Assume the reader has no knowledge of what you did and ensure that he/she can replicate (i.e., copy) your study exactly by what you write in this section.
  • Write in the past tense.
  • Don’t justify or explain in the Method (e.g., why you chose a particular sampling method); just report what you did.
  • Only give enough detail for someone to replicate the experiment – be concise in your writing.
  • The results section of a paper usually presents descriptive statistics followed by inferential statistics.
  • Report the means, standard deviations, and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for each IV level. If you have four to 20 numbers to present, a well-presented table is best, APA style.
  • Name the statistical test being used.
  • Report appropriate statistics (e.g., t-scores, p values ).
  • Report the magnitude (e.g., are the results significant or not?) as well as the direction of the results (e.g., which group performed better?).
  • It is optional to report the effect size (this does not appear on the SPSS output).
  • Avoid interpreting the results (save this for the discussion).
  • Make sure the results are presented clearly and concisely. A table can be used to display descriptive statistics if this makes the data easier to understand.
  • DO NOT include any raw data.
  • Follow APA style.

Use APA Style

  • Numbers reported to 2 d.p. (incl. 0 before the decimal if 1.00, e.g., “0.51”). The exceptions to this rule: Numbers which can never exceed 1.0 (e.g., p -values, r-values): report to 3 d.p. and do not include 0 before the decimal place, e.g., “.001”.
  • Percentages and degrees of freedom: report as whole numbers.
  • Statistical symbols that are not Greek letters should be italicized (e.g., M , SD , t , X 2 , F , p , d ).
  • Include spaces on either side of the equals sign.
  • When reporting 95%, CIs (confidence intervals), upper and lower limits are given inside square brackets, e.g., “95% CI [73.37, 102.23]”
  • Outline your findings in plain English (avoid statistical jargon) and relate your results to your hypothesis, e.g., is it supported or rejected?
  • Compare your results to background materials from the introduction section. Are your results similar or different? Discuss why/why not.
  • How confident can we be in the results? Acknowledge limitations, but only if they can explain the result obtained. If the study has found a reliable effect, be very careful suggesting limitations as you are doubting your results. Unless you can think of any c onfounding variable that can explain the results instead of the IV, it would be advisable to leave the section out.
  • Suggest constructive ways to improve your study if appropriate.
  • What are the implications of your findings? Say what your findings mean for how people behave in the real world.
  • Suggest an idea for further research triggered by your study, something in the same area but not simply an improved version of yours. Perhaps you could base this on a limitation of your study.
  • Concluding paragraph – Finish with a statement of your findings and the key points of the discussion (e.g., interpretation and implications) in no more than 3 or 4 sentences.

Reference Page

The reference section lists all the sources cited in the essay (alphabetically). It is not a bibliography (a list of the books you used).

In simple terms, every time you refer to a psychologist’s name (and date), you need to reference the original source of information.

If you have been using textbooks this is easy as the references are usually at the back of the book and you can just copy them down. If you have been using websites then you may have a problem as they might not provide a reference section for you to copy.

References need to be set out APA style :

Author, A. A. (year). Title of work . Location: Publisher.

Journal Articles

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (year). Article title. Journal Title, volume number (issue number), page numbers

A simple way to write your reference section is to use Google scholar . Just type the name and date of the psychologist in the search box and click on the “cite” link.

google scholar search results

Next, copy and paste the APA reference into the reference section of your essay.

apa reference

Once again, remember that references need to be in alphabetical order according to surname.

Psychology Lab Report Example

Quantitative paper template.

Quantitative professional paper template: Adapted from “Fake News, Fast and Slow: Deliberation Reduces Belief in False (but Not True) News Headlines,” by B. Bago, D. G. Rand, and G. Pennycook, 2020,  Journal of Experimental Psychology: General ,  149 (8), pp. 1608–1613 ( https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000729 ). Copyright 2020 by the American Psychological Association.

Qualitative paper template

Qualitative professional paper template: Adapted from “‘My Smartphone Is an Extension of Myself’: A Holistic Qualitative Exploration of the Impact of Using a Smartphone,” by L. J. Harkin and D. Kuss, 2020,  Psychology of Popular Media ,  10 (1), pp. 28–38 ( https://doi.org/10.1037/ppm0000278 ). Copyright 2020 by the American Psychological Association.

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Writing Studio

Writing a lab report: introduction and discussion section guide.

In an effort to make our handouts more accessible, we have begun converting our PDF handouts to web pages. Download this page as a PDF:   Writing a Lab Report Return to Writing Studio Handouts

Part 1 (of 2): Introducing a Lab Report

The introduction of a lab report states the objective of the experiment and provides the reader with background information. State the topic of your report clearly and concisely (in one or two sentences). Provide background theory, previous research, or formulas the reader should know. Usually, an instructor does not want you to repeat whatever the lab manual says, but to show your understanding of the problem.

Questions an Effective Lab Report Introduction Should Answer

What is the problem.

Describe the problem investigated. Summarize relevant research to provide context, key terms, and concepts so that your reader can understand the experiment.

Why is it important?

Review relevant research to provide a rationale for the investigation. What conflict, unanswered question, untested population, or untried method in existing research does your experiment address? How will you challenge or extend the findings of other researchers?

What solution (or step toward a solution) do you propose?

Briefly describe your experiment : hypothesis , research question , general experimental design or method , and a justification of your method (if alternatives exist).

Tips on Composing Your Lab Report’s Introduction

  • Move from the general to the specific – from a problem in research literature to the specifics of your experiment.
  • Engage your reader – answer the questions: “What did I do?” “Why should my reader care?”
  • Clarify the links between problem and solution, between question asked and research design, and between prior research and the specifics of your experiment.
  • Be selective, not exhaustive, in choosing studies to cite and the amount of detail to include. In general, the more relevant an article is to your study, the more space it deserves and the later in the introduction it appears.
  • Ask your instructor whether or not you should summarize results and/or conclusions in the Introduction.
  • “The objective of the experiment was …”
  • “The purpose of this report is …”
  • “Bragg’s Law for diffraction is …”
  • “The scanning electron microscope produces micrographs …”

Part 2 (of 2): Writing the “Discussion” Section of a Lab Report

The discussion is the most important part of your lab report, because here you show that you have not merely completed the experiment, but that you also understand its wider implications. The discussion section is reserved for putting experimental results in the context of the larger theory. Ask yourself: “What is the significance or meaning of the results?”

Elements of an Effective Discussion Section

What do the results indicate clearly? Based on your results, explain what you know with certainty and draw conclusions.

Interpretation

What is the significance of your results? What ambiguities exist? What are logical explanations for problems in the data? What questions might you raise about the methods used or the validity of the experiment? What can be logically deduced from your analysis?

Tips on the Discussion Section

1. explain your results in terms of theoretical issues..

How well has the theory been illustrated? What are the theoretical implications and practical applications of your results?

For each major result:

  • Describe the patterns, principles, and relationships that your results show.
  • Explain how your results relate to expectations and to literature cited in your Introduction. Explain any agreements, contradictions, or exceptions.
  • Describe what additional research might resolve contradictions or explain exceptions.

2. Relate results to your experimental objective(s).

If you set out to identify an unknown metal by finding its lattice parameter and its atomic structure, be sure that you have identified the metal and its attributes.

3. Compare expected results with those obtained.

If there were differences, how can you account for them? Were the instruments able to measure precisely? Was the sample contaminated? Did calculated values take account of friction?

4. Analyze experimental error along with the strengths and limitations of the experiment’s design.

Were any errors avoidable? Were they the result of equipment?  If the flaws resulted from the experiment design, explain how the design might be improved. Consider, as well, the precision of the instruments that were used.

5. Compare your results to similar investigations.

In some cases, it is legitimate to compare outcomes with classmates, not in order to change your answer, but in order to look for and to account for or analyze any anomalies between the groups. Also, consider comparing your results to published scientific literature on the topic.

The “Introducing a Lab Report” guide was adapted from the University of Toronto Engineering Communications Centre and University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center.

The “Writing the Discussion Section of a Lab Report” resource was adapted from the University of Toronto Engineering Communications Centre and University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center.

Last revised: 07/2008 | Adapted for web delivery: 02/2021

In order to access certain content on this page, you may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader or an equivalent PDF viewer software.

Purdue University

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Chemistry Lab Resources (for CHM 1XX and 2XX Labs)

  • Organizing Your Lab Notebook
  • Parts of a Lab Report
  • Writing Your Lab Report/Worksheet
  • Graphs/Tables
  • Common Calculations
  • Citing Sources
  • Finding Chemical Properties
  • Lab techniques, instrumentation, and protocols
  • Chemical Safety

General tips

Whether you are filling out lab worksheets or writing up entire lab reports, there are a few tips that will help you to create more detailed and professional documents and to assist in grading:

  • Always label your units
  • Show all of your calculations (don’t leave out steps)
  • Use complete sentences
  • Write neatly
  • Strike out mistakes with a single line
  • Be aware of significant figures, noting the sensitivity of the device you are using for your measurements

Why do we write lab reports in passive voice?

It’s part of the scientific point of view.  We observe and record as objectively as possible, avoiding personal bias by removing ourselves.  Using the passive voice also clarifies procedures and descriptions so they can be easily reproduced and compared.

NOTE: DO NOT write reports as directions, such as those given in your lab manual. For example, do not write, "Heat the solution until it boils." Instead, write "The solution was heated to boiling."

Write in the third person - Scientific experiments demonstrate facts that do not depend on the observer, therefore, reports should avoid using the first and second person (I,me,my,we,our, OR us.)

Using the correct verb tense - Lab reports and research papers should be mainly written in the present tense. You should limit the use of the past tense to (1) describe specific experimental methods and observations, and (2) citing results published in the past.

Tables and Figures - Should be used when they are a more efficient ways to convey information than verbal description. They must be independent units, accompanied by explanatory captions that allow them to be understood by someone who has not read the text.

Writing in the passive voice

Examples of passive voice in lab reports.

200mL of distilled water was poured into a 500 mL beaker.

I poured 200mL of distilled water in a beaker. (active voice)

Pour 200mL water in a beaker. (direction/command)

The covered crucible was mounted on a ring stand.

We put the crucible on a ring stand. (active voice)

Set the crucible on a ring stand. (direction/command)

The temperature was initially measured at 75°C.

I measured the temperature at 75°C. (active voice)

Measure and write down the temperature. (direction/command)

It's understood that all actions were done by the experimenter.

Avoiding Plagiarism

  • Avoiding Plagiarism From Purdue's OWL

Passive voice information derived from original work at Delta College Teaching/Learning Center

http://www.delta.edu/files/TLC/Writing%20Lab%20Reports%2009.doc

Writing a Lab Report

Purdue students explain strategies for dividing the workload for writing a lab report.

Sample Lab Reports

  • Determination of the Alcohol Content of Whiskey [Courtesy of Univ. of Oregon]
  • Synthesis and Characterization of Luminol [Courtesy of Truman State Univ.]
  • Production of Biodiesel [Courtesy of Univ. of Vermont]
  • << Previous: Parts of a Lab Report
  • Next: Graphs/Tables >>
  • Last Edited: Feb 12, 2024 9:29 AM
  • URL: https://guides.lib.purdue.edu/chemlabs

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Scientific Reports

What this handout is about.

This handout provides a general guide to writing reports about scientific research you’ve performed. In addition to describing the conventional rules about the format and content of a lab report, we’ll also attempt to convey why these rules exist, so you’ll get a clearer, more dependable idea of how to approach this writing situation. Readers of this handout may also find our handout on writing in the sciences useful.

Background and pre-writing

Why do we write research reports.

You did an experiment or study for your science class, and now you have to write it up for your teacher to review. You feel that you understood the background sufficiently, designed and completed the study effectively, obtained useful data, and can use those data to draw conclusions about a scientific process or principle. But how exactly do you write all that? What is your teacher expecting to see?

To take some of the guesswork out of answering these questions, try to think beyond the classroom setting. In fact, you and your teacher are both part of a scientific community, and the people who participate in this community tend to share the same values. As long as you understand and respect these values, your writing will likely meet the expectations of your audience—including your teacher.

So why are you writing this research report? The practical answer is “Because the teacher assigned it,” but that’s classroom thinking. Generally speaking, people investigating some scientific hypothesis have a responsibility to the rest of the scientific world to report their findings, particularly if these findings add to or contradict previous ideas. The people reading such reports have two primary goals:

  • They want to gather the information presented.
  • They want to know that the findings are legitimate.

Your job as a writer, then, is to fulfill these two goals.

How do I do that?

Good question. Here is the basic format scientists have designed for research reports:

  • Introduction

Methods and Materials

This format, sometimes called “IMRAD,” may take slightly different shapes depending on the discipline or audience; some ask you to include an abstract or separate section for the hypothesis, or call the Discussion section “Conclusions,” or change the order of the sections (some professional and academic journals require the Methods section to appear last). Overall, however, the IMRAD format was devised to represent a textual version of the scientific method.

The scientific method, you’ll probably recall, involves developing a hypothesis, testing it, and deciding whether your findings support the hypothesis. In essence, the format for a research report in the sciences mirrors the scientific method but fleshes out the process a little. Below, you’ll find a table that shows how each written section fits into the scientific method and what additional information it offers the reader.

Thinking of your research report as based on the scientific method, but elaborated in the ways described above, may help you to meet your audience’s expectations successfully. We’re going to proceed by explicitly connecting each section of the lab report to the scientific method, then explaining why and how you need to elaborate that section.

Although this handout takes each section in the order in which it should be presented in the final report, you may for practical reasons decide to compose sections in another order. For example, many writers find that composing their Methods and Results before the other sections helps to clarify their idea of the experiment or study as a whole. You might consider using each assignment to practice different approaches to drafting the report, to find the order that works best for you.

What should I do before drafting the lab report?

The best way to prepare to write the lab report is to make sure that you fully understand everything you need to about the experiment. Obviously, if you don’t quite know what went on during the lab, you’re going to find it difficult to explain the lab satisfactorily to someone else. To make sure you know enough to write the report, complete the following steps:

  • What are we going to do in this lab? (That is, what’s the procedure?)
  • Why are we going to do it that way?
  • What are we hoping to learn from this experiment?
  • Why would we benefit from this knowledge?
  • Consult your lab supervisor as you perform the lab. If you don’t know how to answer one of the questions above, for example, your lab supervisor will probably be able to explain it to you (or, at least, help you figure it out).
  • Plan the steps of the experiment carefully with your lab partners. The less you rush, the more likely it is that you’ll perform the experiment correctly and record your findings accurately. Also, take some time to think about the best way to organize the data before you have to start putting numbers down. If you can design a table to account for the data, that will tend to work much better than jotting results down hurriedly on a scrap piece of paper.
  • Record the data carefully so you get them right. You won’t be able to trust your conclusions if you have the wrong data, and your readers will know you messed up if the other three people in your group have “97 degrees” and you have “87.”
  • Consult with your lab partners about everything you do. Lab groups often make one of two mistakes: two people do all the work while two have a nice chat, or everybody works together until the group finishes gathering the raw data, then scrams outta there. Collaborate with your partners, even when the experiment is “over.” What trends did you observe? Was the hypothesis supported? Did you all get the same results? What kind of figure should you use to represent your findings? The whole group can work together to answer these questions.
  • Consider your audience. You may believe that audience is a non-issue: it’s your lab TA, right? Well, yes—but again, think beyond the classroom. If you write with only your lab instructor in mind, you may omit material that is crucial to a complete understanding of your experiment, because you assume the instructor knows all that stuff already. As a result, you may receive a lower grade, since your TA won’t be sure that you understand all the principles at work. Try to write towards a student in the same course but a different lab section. That student will have a fair degree of scientific expertise but won’t know much about your experiment particularly. Alternatively, you could envision yourself five years from now, after the reading and lectures for this course have faded a bit. What would you remember, and what would you need explained more clearly (as a refresher)?

Once you’ve completed these steps as you perform the experiment, you’ll be in a good position to draft an effective lab report.

Introductions

How do i write a strong introduction.

For the purposes of this handout, we’ll consider the Introduction to contain four basic elements: the purpose, the scientific literature relevant to the subject, the hypothesis, and the reasons you believed your hypothesis viable. Let’s start by going through each element of the Introduction to clarify what it covers and why it’s important. Then we can formulate a logical organizational strategy for the section.

The inclusion of the purpose (sometimes called the objective) of the experiment often confuses writers. The biggest misconception is that the purpose is the same as the hypothesis. Not quite. We’ll get to hypotheses in a minute, but basically they provide some indication of what you expect the experiment to show. The purpose is broader, and deals more with what you expect to gain through the experiment. In a professional setting, the hypothesis might have something to do with how cells react to a certain kind of genetic manipulation, but the purpose of the experiment is to learn more about potential cancer treatments. Undergraduate reports don’t often have this wide-ranging a goal, but you should still try to maintain the distinction between your hypothesis and your purpose. In a solubility experiment, for example, your hypothesis might talk about the relationship between temperature and the rate of solubility, but the purpose is probably to learn more about some specific scientific principle underlying the process of solubility.

For starters, most people say that you should write out your working hypothesis before you perform the experiment or study. Many beginning science students neglect to do so and find themselves struggling to remember precisely which variables were involved in the process or in what way the researchers felt that they were related. Write your hypothesis down as you develop it—you’ll be glad you did.

As for the form a hypothesis should take, it’s best not to be too fancy or complicated; an inventive style isn’t nearly so important as clarity here. There’s nothing wrong with beginning your hypothesis with the phrase, “It was hypothesized that . . .” Be as specific as you can about the relationship between the different objects of your study. In other words, explain that when term A changes, term B changes in this particular way. Readers of scientific writing are rarely content with the idea that a relationship between two terms exists—they want to know what that relationship entails.

Not a hypothesis:

“It was hypothesized that there is a significant relationship between the temperature of a solvent and the rate at which a solute dissolves.”

Hypothesis:

“It was hypothesized that as the temperature of a solvent increases, the rate at which a solute will dissolve in that solvent increases.”

Put more technically, most hypotheses contain both an independent and a dependent variable. The independent variable is what you manipulate to test the reaction; the dependent variable is what changes as a result of your manipulation. In the example above, the independent variable is the temperature of the solvent, and the dependent variable is the rate of solubility. Be sure that your hypothesis includes both variables.

Justify your hypothesis

You need to do more than tell your readers what your hypothesis is; you also need to assure them that this hypothesis was reasonable, given the circumstances. In other words, use the Introduction to explain that you didn’t just pluck your hypothesis out of thin air. (If you did pluck it out of thin air, your problems with your report will probably extend beyond using the appropriate format.) If you posit that a particular relationship exists between the independent and the dependent variable, what led you to believe your “guess” might be supported by evidence?

Scientists often refer to this type of justification as “motivating” the hypothesis, in the sense that something propelled them to make that prediction. Often, motivation includes what we already know—or rather, what scientists generally accept as true (see “Background/previous research” below). But you can also motivate your hypothesis by relying on logic or on your own observations. If you’re trying to decide which solutes will dissolve more rapidly in a solvent at increased temperatures, you might remember that some solids are meant to dissolve in hot water (e.g., bouillon cubes) and some are used for a function precisely because they withstand higher temperatures (they make saucepans out of something). Or you can think about whether you’ve noticed sugar dissolving more rapidly in your glass of iced tea or in your cup of coffee. Even such basic, outside-the-lab observations can help you justify your hypothesis as reasonable.

Background/previous research

This part of the Introduction demonstrates to the reader your awareness of how you’re building on other scientists’ work. If you think of the scientific community as engaging in a series of conversations about various topics, then you’ll recognize that the relevant background material will alert the reader to which conversation you want to enter.

Generally speaking, authors writing journal articles use the background for slightly different purposes than do students completing assignments. Because readers of academic journals tend to be professionals in the field, authors explain the background in order to permit readers to evaluate the study’s pertinence for their own work. You, on the other hand, write toward a much narrower audience—your peers in the course or your lab instructor—and so you must demonstrate that you understand the context for the (presumably assigned) experiment or study you’ve completed. For example, if your professor has been talking about polarity during lectures, and you’re doing a solubility experiment, you might try to connect the polarity of a solid to its relative solubility in certain solvents. In any event, both professional researchers and undergraduates need to connect the background material overtly to their own work.

Organization of this section

Most of the time, writers begin by stating the purpose or objectives of their own work, which establishes for the reader’s benefit the “nature and scope of the problem investigated” (Day 1994). Once you have expressed your purpose, you should then find it easier to move from the general purpose, to relevant material on the subject, to your hypothesis. In abbreviated form, an Introduction section might look like this:

“The purpose of the experiment was to test conventional ideas about solubility in the laboratory [purpose] . . . According to Whitecoat and Labrat (1999), at higher temperatures the molecules of solvents move more quickly . . . We know from the class lecture that molecules moving at higher rates of speed collide with one another more often and thus break down more easily [background material/motivation] . . . Thus, it was hypothesized that as the temperature of a solvent increases, the rate at which a solute will dissolve in that solvent increases [hypothesis].”

Again—these are guidelines, not commandments. Some writers and readers prefer different structures for the Introduction. The one above merely illustrates a common approach to organizing material.

How do I write a strong Materials and Methods section?

As with any piece of writing, your Methods section will succeed only if it fulfills its readers’ expectations, so you need to be clear in your own mind about the purpose of this section. Let’s review the purpose as we described it above: in this section, you want to describe in detail how you tested the hypothesis you developed and also to clarify the rationale for your procedure. In science, it’s not sufficient merely to design and carry out an experiment. Ultimately, others must be able to verify your findings, so your experiment must be reproducible, to the extent that other researchers can follow the same procedure and obtain the same (or similar) results.

Here’s a real-world example of the importance of reproducibility. In 1989, physicists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman announced that they had discovered “cold fusion,” a way of producing excess heat and power without the nuclear radiation that accompanies “hot fusion.” Such a discovery could have great ramifications for the industrial production of energy, so these findings created a great deal of interest. When other scientists tried to duplicate the experiment, however, they didn’t achieve the same results, and as a result many wrote off the conclusions as unjustified (or worse, a hoax). To this day, the viability of cold fusion is debated within the scientific community, even though an increasing number of researchers believe it possible. So when you write your Methods section, keep in mind that you need to describe your experiment well enough to allow others to replicate it exactly.

With these goals in mind, let’s consider how to write an effective Methods section in terms of content, structure, and style.

Sometimes the hardest thing about writing this section isn’t what you should talk about, but what you shouldn’t talk about. Writers often want to include the results of their experiment, because they measured and recorded the results during the course of the experiment. But such data should be reserved for the Results section. In the Methods section, you can write that you recorded the results, or how you recorded the results (e.g., in a table), but you shouldn’t write what the results were—not yet. Here, you’re merely stating exactly how you went about testing your hypothesis. As you draft your Methods section, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much detail? Be precise in providing details, but stay relevant. Ask yourself, “Would it make any difference if this piece were a different size or made from a different material?” If not, you probably don’t need to get too specific. If so, you should give as many details as necessary to prevent this experiment from going awry if someone else tries to carry it out. Probably the most crucial detail is measurement; you should always quantify anything you can, such as time elapsed, temperature, mass, volume, etc.
  • Rationale: Be sure that as you’re relating your actions during the experiment, you explain your rationale for the protocol you developed. If you capped a test tube immediately after adding a solute to a solvent, why did you do that? (That’s really two questions: why did you cap it, and why did you cap it immediately?) In a professional setting, writers provide their rationale as a way to explain their thinking to potential critics. On one hand, of course, that’s your motivation for talking about protocol, too. On the other hand, since in practical terms you’re also writing to your teacher (who’s seeking to evaluate how well you comprehend the principles of the experiment), explaining the rationale indicates that you understand the reasons for conducting the experiment in that way, and that you’re not just following orders. Critical thinking is crucial—robots don’t make good scientists.
  • Control: Most experiments will include a control, which is a means of comparing experimental results. (Sometimes you’ll need to have more than one control, depending on the number of hypotheses you want to test.) The control is exactly the same as the other items you’re testing, except that you don’t manipulate the independent variable-the condition you’re altering to check the effect on the dependent variable. For example, if you’re testing solubility rates at increased temperatures, your control would be a solution that you didn’t heat at all; that way, you’ll see how quickly the solute dissolves “naturally” (i.e., without manipulation), and you’ll have a point of reference against which to compare the solutions you did heat.

Describe the control in the Methods section. Two things are especially important in writing about the control: identify the control as a control, and explain what you’re controlling for. Here is an example:

“As a control for the temperature change, we placed the same amount of solute in the same amount of solvent, and let the solution stand for five minutes without heating it.”

Structure and style

Organization is especially important in the Methods section of a lab report because readers must understand your experimental procedure completely. Many writers are surprised by the difficulty of conveying what they did during the experiment, since after all they’re only reporting an event, but it’s often tricky to present this information in a coherent way. There’s a fairly standard structure you can use to guide you, and following the conventions for style can help clarify your points.

  • Subsections: Occasionally, researchers use subsections to report their procedure when the following circumstances apply: 1) if they’ve used a great many materials; 2) if the procedure is unusually complicated; 3) if they’ve developed a procedure that won’t be familiar to many of their readers. Because these conditions rarely apply to the experiments you’ll perform in class, most undergraduate lab reports won’t require you to use subsections. In fact, many guides to writing lab reports suggest that you try to limit your Methods section to a single paragraph.
  • Narrative structure: Think of this section as telling a story about a group of people and the experiment they performed. Describe what you did in the order in which you did it. You may have heard the old joke centered on the line, “Disconnect the red wire, but only after disconnecting the green wire,” where the person reading the directions blows everything to kingdom come because the directions weren’t in order. We’re used to reading about events chronologically, and so your readers will generally understand what you did if you present that information in the same way. Also, since the Methods section does generally appear as a narrative (story), you want to avoid the “recipe” approach: “First, take a clean, dry 100 ml test tube from the rack. Next, add 50 ml of distilled water.” You should be reporting what did happen, not telling the reader how to perform the experiment: “50 ml of distilled water was poured into a clean, dry 100 ml test tube.” Hint: most of the time, the recipe approach comes from copying down the steps of the procedure from your lab manual, so you may want to draft the Methods section initially without consulting your manual. Later, of course, you can go back and fill in any part of the procedure you inadvertently overlooked.
  • Past tense: Remember that you’re describing what happened, so you should use past tense to refer to everything you did during the experiment. Writers are often tempted to use the imperative (“Add 5 g of the solid to the solution”) because that’s how their lab manuals are worded; less frequently, they use present tense (“5 g of the solid are added to the solution”). Instead, remember that you’re talking about an event which happened at a particular time in the past, and which has already ended by the time you start writing, so simple past tense will be appropriate in this section (“5 g of the solid were added to the solution” or “We added 5 g of the solid to the solution”).
  • Active: We heated the solution to 80°C. (The subject, “we,” performs the action, heating.)
  • Passive: The solution was heated to 80°C. (The subject, “solution,” doesn’t do the heating–it is acted upon, not acting.)

Increasingly, especially in the social sciences, using first person and active voice is acceptable in scientific reports. Most readers find that this style of writing conveys information more clearly and concisely. This rhetorical choice thus brings two scientific values into conflict: objectivity versus clarity. Since the scientific community hasn’t reached a consensus about which style it prefers, you may want to ask your lab instructor.

How do I write a strong Results section?

Here’s a paradox for you. The Results section is often both the shortest (yay!) and most important (uh-oh!) part of your report. Your Materials and Methods section shows how you obtained the results, and your Discussion section explores the significance of the results, so clearly the Results section forms the backbone of the lab report. This section provides the most critical information about your experiment: the data that allow you to discuss how your hypothesis was or wasn’t supported. But it doesn’t provide anything else, which explains why this section is generally shorter than the others.

Before you write this section, look at all the data you collected to figure out what relates significantly to your hypothesis. You’ll want to highlight this material in your Results section. Resist the urge to include every bit of data you collected, since perhaps not all are relevant. Also, don’t try to draw conclusions about the results—save them for the Discussion section. In this section, you’re reporting facts. Nothing your readers can dispute should appear in the Results section.

Most Results sections feature three distinct parts: text, tables, and figures. Let’s consider each part one at a time.

This should be a short paragraph, generally just a few lines, that describes the results you obtained from your experiment. In a relatively simple experiment, one that doesn’t produce a lot of data for you to repeat, the text can represent the entire Results section. Don’t feel that you need to include lots of extraneous detail to compensate for a short (but effective) text; your readers appreciate discrimination more than your ability to recite facts. In a more complex experiment, you may want to use tables and/or figures to help guide your readers toward the most important information you gathered. In that event, you’ll need to refer to each table or figure directly, where appropriate:

“Table 1 lists the rates of solubility for each substance”

“Solubility increased as the temperature of the solution increased (see Figure 1).”

If you do use tables or figures, make sure that you don’t present the same material in both the text and the tables/figures, since in essence you’ll just repeat yourself, probably annoying your readers with the redundancy of your statements.

Feel free to describe trends that emerge as you examine the data. Although identifying trends requires some judgment on your part and so may not feel like factual reporting, no one can deny that these trends do exist, and so they properly belong in the Results section. Example:

“Heating the solution increased the rate of solubility of polar solids by 45% but had no effect on the rate of solubility in solutions containing non-polar solids.”

This point isn’t debatable—you’re just pointing out what the data show.

As in the Materials and Methods section, you want to refer to your data in the past tense, because the events you recorded have already occurred and have finished occurring. In the example above, note the use of “increased” and “had,” rather than “increases” and “has.” (You don’t know from your experiment that heating always increases the solubility of polar solids, but it did that time.)

You shouldn’t put information in the table that also appears in the text. You also shouldn’t use a table to present irrelevant data, just to show you did collect these data during the experiment. Tables are good for some purposes and situations, but not others, so whether and how you’ll use tables depends upon what you need them to accomplish.

Tables are useful ways to show variation in data, but not to present a great deal of unchanging measurements. If you’re dealing with a scientific phenomenon that occurs only within a certain range of temperatures, for example, you don’t need to use a table to show that the phenomenon didn’t occur at any of the other temperatures. How useful is this table?

A table labeled Effect of Temperature on Rate of Solubility with temperature of solvent values in 10-degree increments from -20 degrees Celsius to 80 degrees Celsius that does not show a corresponding rate of solubility value until 50 degrees Celsius.

As you can probably see, no solubility was observed until the trial temperature reached 50°C, a fact that the text part of the Results section could easily convey. The table could then be limited to what happened at 50°C and higher, thus better illustrating the differences in solubility rates when solubility did occur.

As a rule, try not to use a table to describe any experimental event you can cover in one sentence of text. Here’s an example of an unnecessary table from How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , by Robert A. Day:

A table labeled Oxygen requirements of various species of Streptomyces showing the names of organisms and two columns that indicate growth under aerobic conditions and growth under anaerobic conditions with a plus or minus symbol for each organism in the growth columns to indicate value.

As Day notes, all the information in this table can be summarized in one sentence: “S. griseus, S. coelicolor, S. everycolor, and S. rainbowenski grew under aerobic conditions, whereas S. nocolor and S. greenicus required anaerobic conditions.” Most readers won’t find the table clearer than that one sentence.

When you do have reason to tabulate material, pay attention to the clarity and readability of the format you use. Here are a few tips:

  • Number your table. Then, when you refer to the table in the text, use that number to tell your readers which table they can review to clarify the material.
  • Give your table a title. This title should be descriptive enough to communicate the contents of the table, but not so long that it becomes difficult to follow. The titles in the sample tables above are acceptable.
  • Arrange your table so that readers read vertically, not horizontally. For the most part, this rule means that you should construct your table so that like elements read down, not across. Think about what you want your readers to compare, and put that information in the column (up and down) rather than in the row (across). Usually, the point of comparison will be the numerical data you collect, so especially make sure you have columns of numbers, not rows.Here’s an example of how drastically this decision affects the readability of your table (from A Short Guide to Writing about Chemistry , by Herbert Beall and John Trimbur). Look at this table, which presents the relevant data in horizontal rows:

A table labeled Boyle's Law Experiment: Measuring Volume as a Function of Pressure that presents the trial number, length of air sample in millimeters, and height difference in inches of mercury, each of which is presented in rows horizontally.

It’s a little tough to see the trends that the author presumably wants to present in this table. Compare this table, in which the data appear vertically:

A table labeled Boyle's Law Experiment: Measuring Volume as a Function of Pressure that presents the trial number, length of air sample in millimeters, and height difference in inches of mercury, each of which is presented in columns vertically.

The second table shows how putting like elements in a vertical column makes for easier reading. In this case, the like elements are the measurements of length and height, over five trials–not, as in the first table, the length and height measurements for each trial.

  • Make sure to include units of measurement in the tables. Readers might be able to guess that you measured something in millimeters, but don’t make them try.
  • Don’t use vertical lines as part of the format for your table. This convention exists because journals prefer not to have to reproduce these lines because the tables then become more expensive to print. Even though it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll be sending your Biology 11 lab report to Science for publication, your readers still have this expectation. Consequently, if you use the table-drawing option in your word-processing software, choose the option that doesn’t rely on a “grid” format (which includes vertical lines).

How do I include figures in my report?

Although tables can be useful ways of showing trends in the results you obtained, figures (i.e., illustrations) can do an even better job of emphasizing such trends. Lab report writers often use graphic representations of the data they collected to provide their readers with a literal picture of how the experiment went.

When should you use a figure?

Remember the circumstances under which you don’t need a table: when you don’t have a great deal of data or when the data you have don’t vary a lot. Under the same conditions, you would probably forgo the figure as well, since the figure would be unlikely to provide your readers with an additional perspective. Scientists really don’t like their time wasted, so they tend not to respond favorably to redundancy.

If you’re trying to decide between using a table and creating a figure to present your material, consider the following a rule of thumb. The strength of a table lies in its ability to supply large amounts of exact data, whereas the strength of a figure is its dramatic illustration of important trends within the experiment. If you feel that your readers won’t get the full impact of the results you obtained just by looking at the numbers, then a figure might be appropriate.

Of course, an undergraduate class may expect you to create a figure for your lab experiment, if only to make sure that you can do so effectively. If this is the case, then don’t worry about whether to use figures or not—concentrate instead on how best to accomplish your task.

Figures can include maps, photographs, pen-and-ink drawings, flow charts, bar graphs, and section graphs (“pie charts”). But the most common figure by far, especially for undergraduates, is the line graph, so we’ll focus on that type in this handout.

At the undergraduate level, you can often draw and label your graphs by hand, provided that the result is clear, legible, and drawn to scale. Computer technology has, however, made creating line graphs a lot easier. Most word-processing software has a number of functions for transferring data into graph form; many scientists have found Microsoft Excel, for example, a helpful tool in graphing results. If you plan on pursuing a career in the sciences, it may be well worth your while to learn to use a similar program.

Computers can’t, however, decide for you how your graph really works; you have to know how to design your graph to meet your readers’ expectations. Here are some of these expectations:

  • Keep it as simple as possible. You may be tempted to signal the complexity of the information you gathered by trying to design a graph that accounts for that complexity. But remember the purpose of your graph: to dramatize your results in a manner that’s easy to see and grasp. Try not to make the reader stare at the graph for a half hour to find the important line among the mass of other lines. For maximum effectiveness, limit yourself to three to five lines per graph; if you have more data to demonstrate, use a set of graphs to account for it, rather than trying to cram it all into a single figure.
  • Plot the independent variable on the horizontal (x) axis and the dependent variable on the vertical (y) axis. Remember that the independent variable is the condition that you manipulated during the experiment and the dependent variable is the condition that you measured to see if it changed along with the independent variable. Placing the variables along their respective axes is mostly just a convention, but since your readers are accustomed to viewing graphs in this way, you’re better off not challenging the convention in your report.
  • Label each axis carefully, and be especially careful to include units of measure. You need to make sure that your readers understand perfectly well what your graph indicates.
  • Number and title your graphs. As with tables, the title of the graph should be informative but concise, and you should refer to your graph by number in the text (e.g., “Figure 1 shows the increase in the solubility rate as a function of temperature”).
  • Many editors of professional scientific journals prefer that writers distinguish the lines in their graphs by attaching a symbol to them, usually a geometric shape (triangle, square, etc.), and using that symbol throughout the curve of the line. Generally, readers have a hard time distinguishing dotted lines from dot-dash lines from straight lines, so you should consider staying away from this system. Editors don’t usually like different-colored lines within a graph because colors are difficult and expensive to reproduce; colors may, however, be great for your purposes, as long as you’re not planning to submit your paper to Nature. Use your discretion—try to employ whichever technique dramatizes the results most effectively.
  • Try to gather data at regular intervals, so the plot points on your graph aren’t too far apart. You can’t be sure of the arc you should draw between the plot points if the points are located at the far corners of the graph; over a fifteen-minute interval, perhaps the change occurred in the first or last thirty seconds of that period (in which case your straight-line connection between the points is misleading).
  • If you’re worried that you didn’t collect data at sufficiently regular intervals during your experiment, go ahead and connect the points with a straight line, but you may want to examine this problem as part of your Discussion section.
  • Make your graph large enough so that everything is legible and clearly demarcated, but not so large that it either overwhelms the rest of the Results section or provides a far greater range than you need to illustrate your point. If, for example, the seedlings of your plant grew only 15 mm during the trial, you don’t need to construct a graph that accounts for 100 mm of growth. The lines in your graph should more or less fill the space created by the axes; if you see that your data is confined to the lower left portion of the graph, you should probably re-adjust your scale.
  • If you create a set of graphs, make them the same size and format, including all the verbal and visual codes (captions, symbols, scale, etc.). You want to be as consistent as possible in your illustrations, so that your readers can easily make the comparisons you’re trying to get them to see.

How do I write a strong Discussion section?

The discussion section is probably the least formalized part of the report, in that you can’t really apply the same structure to every type of experiment. In simple terms, here you tell your readers what to make of the Results you obtained. If you have done the Results part well, your readers should already recognize the trends in the data and have a fairly clear idea of whether your hypothesis was supported. Because the Results can seem so self-explanatory, many students find it difficult to know what material to add in this last section.

Basically, the Discussion contains several parts, in no particular order, but roughly moving from specific (i.e., related to your experiment only) to general (how your findings fit in the larger scientific community). In this section, you will, as a rule, need to:

Explain whether the data support your hypothesis

  • Acknowledge any anomalous data or deviations from what you expected

Derive conclusions, based on your findings, about the process you’re studying

  • Relate your findings to earlier work in the same area (if you can)

Explore the theoretical and/or practical implications of your findings

Let’s look at some dos and don’ts for each of these objectives.

This statement is usually a good way to begin the Discussion, since you can’t effectively speak about the larger scientific value of your study until you’ve figured out the particulars of this experiment. You might begin this part of the Discussion by explicitly stating the relationships or correlations your data indicate between the independent and dependent variables. Then you can show more clearly why you believe your hypothesis was or was not supported. For example, if you tested solubility at various temperatures, you could start this section by noting that the rates of solubility increased as the temperature increased. If your initial hypothesis surmised that temperature change would not affect solubility, you would then say something like,

“The hypothesis that temperature change would not affect solubility was not supported by the data.”

Note: Students tend to view labs as practical tests of undeniable scientific truths. As a result, you may want to say that the hypothesis was “proved” or “disproved” or that it was “correct” or “incorrect.” These terms, however, reflect a degree of certainty that you as a scientist aren’t supposed to have. Remember, you’re testing a theory with a procedure that lasts only a few hours and relies on only a few trials, which severely compromises your ability to be sure about the “truth” you see. Words like “supported,” “indicated,” and “suggested” are more acceptable ways to evaluate your hypothesis.

Also, recognize that saying whether the data supported your hypothesis or not involves making a claim to be defended. As such, you need to show the readers that this claim is warranted by the evidence. Make sure that you’re very explicit about the relationship between the evidence and the conclusions you draw from it. This process is difficult for many writers because we don’t often justify conclusions in our regular lives. For example, you might nudge your friend at a party and whisper, “That guy’s drunk,” and once your friend lays eyes on the person in question, she might readily agree. In a scientific paper, by contrast, you would need to defend your claim more thoroughly by pointing to data such as slurred words, unsteady gait, and the lampshade-as-hat. In addition to pointing out these details, you would also need to show how (according to previous studies) these signs are consistent with inebriation, especially if they occur in conjunction with one another. To put it another way, tell your readers exactly how you got from point A (was the hypothesis supported?) to point B (yes/no).

Acknowledge any anomalous data, or deviations from what you expected

You need to take these exceptions and divergences into account, so that you qualify your conclusions sufficiently. For obvious reasons, your readers will doubt your authority if you (deliberately or inadvertently) overlook a key piece of data that doesn’t square with your perspective on what occurred. In a more philosophical sense, once you’ve ignored evidence that contradicts your claims, you’ve departed from the scientific method. The urge to “tidy up” the experiment is often strong, but if you give in to it you’re no longer performing good science.

Sometimes after you’ve performed a study or experiment, you realize that some part of the methods you used to test your hypothesis was flawed. In that case, it’s OK to suggest that if you had the chance to conduct your test again, you might change the design in this or that specific way in order to avoid such and such a problem. The key to making this approach work, though, is to be very precise about the weakness in your experiment, why and how you think that weakness might have affected your data, and how you would alter your protocol to eliminate—or limit the effects of—that weakness. Often, inexperienced researchers and writers feel the need to account for “wrong” data (remember, there’s no such animal), and so they speculate wildly about what might have screwed things up. These speculations include such factors as the unusually hot temperature in the room, or the possibility that their lab partners read the meters wrong, or the potentially defective equipment. These explanations are what scientists call “cop-outs,” or “lame”; don’t indicate that the experiment had a weakness unless you’re fairly certain that a) it really occurred and b) you can explain reasonably well how that weakness affected your results.

If, for example, your hypothesis dealt with the changes in solubility at different temperatures, then try to figure out what you can rationally say about the process of solubility more generally. If you’re doing an undergraduate lab, chances are that the lab will connect in some way to the material you’ve been covering either in lecture or in your reading, so you might choose to return to these resources as a way to help you think clearly about the process as a whole.

This part of the Discussion section is another place where you need to make sure that you’re not overreaching. Again, nothing you’ve found in one study would remotely allow you to claim that you now “know” something, or that something isn’t “true,” or that your experiment “confirmed” some principle or other. Hesitate before you go out on a limb—it’s dangerous! Use less absolutely conclusive language, including such words as “suggest,” “indicate,” “correspond,” “possibly,” “challenge,” etc.

Relate your findings to previous work in the field (if possible)

We’ve been talking about how to show that you belong in a particular community (such as biologists or anthropologists) by writing within conventions that they recognize and accept. Another is to try to identify a conversation going on among members of that community, and use your work to contribute to that conversation. In a larger philosophical sense, scientists can’t fully understand the value of their research unless they have some sense of the context that provoked and nourished it. That is, you have to recognize what’s new about your project (potentially, anyway) and how it benefits the wider body of scientific knowledge. On a more pragmatic level, especially for undergraduates, connecting your lab work to previous research will demonstrate to the TA that you see the big picture. You have an opportunity, in the Discussion section, to distinguish yourself from the students in your class who aren’t thinking beyond the barest facts of the study. Capitalize on this opportunity by putting your own work in context.

If you’re just beginning to work in the natural sciences (as a first-year biology or chemistry student, say), most likely the work you’ll be doing has already been performed and re-performed to a satisfactory degree. Hence, you could probably point to a similar experiment or study and compare/contrast your results and conclusions. More advanced work may deal with an issue that is somewhat less “resolved,” and so previous research may take the form of an ongoing debate, and you can use your own work to weigh in on that debate. If, for example, researchers are hotly disputing the value of herbal remedies for the common cold, and the results of your study suggest that Echinacea diminishes the symptoms but not the actual presence of the cold, then you might want to take some time in the Discussion section to recapitulate the specifics of the dispute as it relates to Echinacea as an herbal remedy. (Consider that you have probably already written in the Introduction about this debate as background research.)

This information is often the best way to end your Discussion (and, for all intents and purposes, the report). In argumentative writing generally, you want to use your closing words to convey the main point of your writing. This main point can be primarily theoretical (“Now that you understand this information, you’re in a better position to understand this larger issue”) or primarily practical (“You can use this information to take such and such an action”). In either case, the concluding statements help the reader to comprehend the significance of your project and your decision to write about it.

Since a lab report is argumentative—after all, you’re investigating a claim, and judging the legitimacy of that claim by generating and collecting evidence—it’s often a good idea to end your report with the same technique for establishing your main point. If you want to go the theoretical route, you might talk about the consequences your study has for the field or phenomenon you’re investigating. To return to the examples regarding solubility, you could end by reflecting on what your work on solubility as a function of temperature tells us (potentially) about solubility in general. (Some folks consider this type of exploration “pure” as opposed to “applied” science, although these labels can be problematic.) If you want to go the practical route, you could end by speculating about the medical, institutional, or commercial implications of your findings—in other words, answer the question, “What can this study help people to do?” In either case, you’re going to make your readers’ experience more satisfying, by helping them see why they spent their time learning what you had to teach them.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

American Psychological Association. 2010. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . 6th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Beall, Herbert, and John Trimbur. 2001. A Short Guide to Writing About Chemistry , 2nd ed. New York: Longman.

Blum, Deborah, and Mary Knudson. 1997. A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers . New York: Oxford University Press.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Briscoe, Mary Helen. 1996. Preparing Scientific Illustrations: A Guide to Better Posters, Presentations, and Publications , 2nd ed. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Council of Science Editors. 2014. Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers , 8th ed. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.

Davis, Martha. 2012. Scientific Papers and Presentations , 3rd ed. London: Academic Press.

Day, Robert A. 1994. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , 4th ed. Phoenix: Oryx Press.

Porush, David. 1995. A Short Guide to Writing About Science . New York: Longman.

Williams, Joseph, and Joseph Bizup. 2017. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace , 12th ed. Boston: Pearson.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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The Lab Report

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This document describes a general format for lab reports that you can adapt as needed. Lab reports are the most frequent kind of document written in engineering and can count for as much as 25% of a course yet little time or attention is devoted to how to write them well. Worse yet, each professor wants something a little different. Regardless of variations, however, the goal of lab reports remains the same: document your findings and communicate their significance. With that in mind, we can describe the report’s format and basic components. Knowing the pieces and purpose, you can adapt to the particular needs of a course or professor.

A good lab report does more than present data; it demonstrates the writer’s comprehension of the concepts behind the data. Merely recording the expected and observed results is not sufficient; you should also identify how and why differences occurred, explain how they affected your experiment, and show your understanding of the principles the experiment was designed to examine. Bear in mind that a format, however helpful, cannot replace clear thinking and organized writing. You still need to organize your ideas carefully and express them coherently.

Typical Components

  • Introduction
  • Methods and Materials (or Equipment)
  • Experimental Procedure
  • Further Reading

1. The Title Page needs to contain the name of the experiment, the names of lab partners, and the date. Titles should be straightforward, informative, and less than ten words (i.e. Not “Lab #4” but “Lab #4: Sample Analysis using the Debye-Sherrer Method”). 2. The Abstract summarizes four essential aspects of the report: the purpose of the experiment (sometimes expressed as the purpose of the report), key findings, significance and major conclusions. The abstract often also includes a brief reference to theory or methodology. The information should clearly enable readers to decide whether they need to read your whole report. The abstract should be one paragraph of 100-200 words (the sample below is 191 words).

Quick Abstract Reference

  • Key result(s)
  • Most significant point of discussion
  • Major conclusion

May Include:

  • Brief method
  • Brief theory

Restrictions:

ONE page 200 words MAX.

Sample Abstract

This experiment examined the effect of line orientation and arrowhead angle on a subject’s ability to perceive line length, thereby testing the Müller-Lyer illusion. The Müller-Lyer illusion is the classic visual illustration of the effect of the surrounding on the perceived length of a line. The test was to determine the point of subjective equality by having subjects adjust line segments to equal the length of a standard line. Twenty-three subjects were tested in a repeated measures design with four different arrowhead angles and four line orientations. Each condition was tested in six randomized trials. The lines to be adjusted were tipped with outward pointing arrows of varying degrees of pointedness, whereas the standard lines had inward pointing arrows of the same degree. Results showed that line lengths were overestimated in all cases. The size of error increased with decreasing arrowhead angles. For line orientation, overestimation was greatest when the lines were horizontal. This last is contrary to our expectations. Further, the two factors functioned independently in their effects on subjects’ point of subjective equality. These results have important implications for human factors design applications such as graphical display interfaces.

3. The introduction is more narrowly focussed than the abstract. It states the objective of the experiment and provides the reader with background to the experiment. State the topic of your report clearly and concisely, in one or two sentences:

Quick Intro Reference

  • Purpose of the experiment
  • Important background and/or theory

May include:

  • Description of specialized equipment
  • Justification of experiment’s importance
Example: The purpose of this experiment was to identify the specific element in a metal powder sample by determining its crystal structure and atomic radius. These were determined using the Debye-Sherrer (powder camera) method of X-ray diffraction.

A good introduction also provides whatever background theory, previous research, or formulas the reader needs to know. Usually, an instructor does not want you to repeat the lab manual, but to show your own comprehension of the problem. For example, the introduction that followed the example above might describe the Debye-Sherrer method, and explain that from the diffraction angles the crystal structure can be found by applying Bragg’s law. If the amount of introductory material seems to be a lot, consider adding subheadings such as: Theoretical Principles or Background.

Note on Verb Tense

Introductions often create difficulties for students who struggle with keeping verb tenses straight. These two points should help you navigate the introduction:

“The objective of the experiment was…”
“The purpose of this report is…” “Bragg’s Law for diffraction is …” “The scanning electron microscope produces micrographs …”

4. Methods and Materials (or Equipment) can usually be a simple list, but make sure it is accurate and complete. In some cases, you can simply direct the reader to a lab manual or standard procedure: “Equipment was set up as in CHE 276 manual.” 5. Experimental Procedure describes the process in chronological order. Using clear paragraph structure, explain all steps in the order they actually happened, not as they were supposed to happen. If your professor says you can simply state that you followed the procedure in the manual, be sure you still document occasions when you did not follow that exactly (e.g. “At step 4 we performed four repetitions instead of three, and ignored the data from the second repetition”). If you’ve done it right, another researcher should be able to duplicate your experiment. 6. Results are usually dominated by calculations, tables and figures; however, you still need to state all significant results explicitly in verbal form, for example:

Quick Results Reference

  • Number and Title tables and graphs
  • Use a sentence or two to draw attention to key points in tables or graphs
  • Provide sample calculation only
  • State key result in sentence form
Using the calculated lattice parameter gives, then, R = 0.1244nm.

Graphics need to be clear, easily read, and well labeled (e.g. Figure 1: Input Frequency and Capacitor Value). An important strategy for making your results effective is to draw the reader’s attention to them with a sentence or two, so the reader has a focus when reading the graph.

In most cases, providing a sample calculation is sufficient in the report. Leave the remainder in an appendix. Likewise, your raw data can be placed in an appendix. Refer to appendices as necessary, pointing out trends and identifying special features. 7. Discussion is the most important part of your report, because here, you show that you understand the experiment beyond the simple level of completing it. Explain. Analyse. Interpret. Some people like to think of this as the “subjective” part of the report. By that, they mean this is what is not readily observable. This part of the lab focuses on a question of understanding “What is the significance or meaning of the results?” To answer this question, use both aspects of discussion:

More particularly, focus your discussion with strategies like these:

Compare expected results with those obtained.

If there were differences, how can you account for them? Saying “human error” implies you’re incompetent. Be specific; for example, the instruments could not measure precisely, the sample was not pure or was contaminated, or calculated values did not take account of friction.

Analyze experimental error.

Was it avoidable? Was it a result of equipment? If an experiment was within the tolerances, you can still account for the difference from the ideal. If the flaws result from the experimental design explain how the design might be improved.

Explain your results in terms of theoretical issues.

Often undergraduate labs are intended to illustrate important physical laws, such as Kirchhoff’s voltage law, or the Müller-Lyer illusion. Usually you will have discussed these in the introduction. In this section move from the results to the theory. How well has the theory been illustrated?

Relate results to your experimental objective(s).

If you set out to identify an unknown metal by finding its lattice parameter and its atomic structure, you’d better know the metal and its attributes.

Compare your results to similar investigations.

In some cases, it is legitimate to compare outcomes with classmates, not to change your answer, but to look for any anomalies between the groups and discuss those.

Analyze the strengths and limitations of your experimental design.

This is particularly useful if you designed the thing you’re testing (e.g. a circuit). 8. Conclusion can be very short in most undergraduate laboratories. Simply state what you know now for sure, as a result of the lab:

Quick Conclusion Reference

  • State what’s known
  • State significance
  • Suggest further research
Example: The Debye-Sherrer method identified the sample material as nickel due to the measured crystal structure (fcc) and atomic radius (approximately 0.124nm).

Notice that, after the material is identified in the example above, the writer provides a justification. We know it is nickel because of its structure and size. This makes a sound and sufficient conclusion. Generally, this is enough; however, the conclusion might also be a place to discuss weaknesses of experimental design, what future work needs to be done to extend your conclusions, or what the implications of your conclusion are. 9. References include your lab manual and any outside reading you have done. Check this site’s documentation page to help you organize references in a way appropriate to your field. 10. Appendices typically include such elements as raw data, calculations, graphs pictures or tables that have not been included in the report itself. Each kind of item should be contained in a separate appendix. Make sure you refer to each appendix at least once in your report. For example, the results section might begin by noting: “Micrographs printed from the Scanning Electron Microscope are contained in Appendix A.”

To learn more about writing science papers, visit our handout on writing in the sciences .

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Lab Report Format – How to Write a Laboratory Report

A typical lab report format includes a title, introduction, procedure, results, discussion, and conclusions.

A science laboratory experiment isn’t truly complete until you’ve written the lab report. You may have taken excellent notes in your laboratory notebook, but it isn’t the same as a lab report. The lab report format is designed to present experimental results so they can be shared with others. A well-written report explains what you did, why you did it, and what you learned. It should also generate reader interest, potentially leading to peer-reviewed publication and funding.

Sections of a Lab Report

There is no one lab report format. The format and sections might be specified by your instructor or employer. What really matters is covering all of the important information.

Label the sections (except the title). Use bold face type for the title and headings. The order is:

You may or may not be expected to provide a title page. If it is required, the title page includes the title of the experiment, the names of the researchers, the name of the institution, and the date.

The title describes the experiment. Don’t start it with an article (e.g., the, an, a) because it messes up databases and isn’t necessary. For example, a good title might be, “Effect of Increasing Glucose Concentration on Danio rerio Egg Hatching Rates.” Use title case and italicize the scientific names of any species.

Introduction

Sometimes the introduction is broken into separate sections. Otherwise, it’s written as a narrative that includes the following information:

  • State the purpose of the experiment.
  • State the hypothesis.
  • Review earlier work on the subject. Refer to previous studies. Cover the background so a reader understands what is known about a subject and what you hope to learn that is new.
  • Describe your approach to answering a question or solving a problem. Include a theory or equation, if appropriate.

This section describes experimental design. Identify the parameter you changed ( independent variable ) and the one you measured ( dependent variable ). Describe the equipment and set-up you used, materials, and methods. If a reader can’t picture the apparatus from your description, include a photograph or diagram. Sometimes this section is broken into “Materials” and “Methods.”

Your lab notebook contains all of the data you collected in the experiment. You aren’t expected to reproduce all of this in a lab report. Instead, provide labelled tables and graphs. The first figure is Figure 1, the second is Figure 2, etc. The first graph is Graph 1. Refer to figures and graphs by their figure number. For some experiments, you may need to include labelled photographs. Cite the results of any calculations you performed, such as slope and standard deviation. Discuss sources of error here, including instrument, standard, and random errors.

Discussion or Conclusions

While the “Results” section includes graphs and tables, the “Discussion” or “Conclusions” section focuses on what the results mean. This is where you state whether or not the objective of the experiment was met and what the outcome means.  Propose reasons for discrepancies between expected and actual outcomes. Finally, describe the next logical step in your research and ways you might improve on the experiment.

References or Bibliography

Did you build upon work conducted by someone else? Cite the work. Did you consult a paper relating to the experiment? Credit the author. If you’re unsure whether to cite a reference or not, a good rule of thumb is to include a reference for any fact not known to your audience. For some reports, it’s only necessary to list publications directly relating to your procedure and conclusions.

The Tone of a Lab Report

Lab reports should be informative, not entertaining. This isn’t the place for humor, sarcasm, or flowery prose. A lab report should be:

  • Concise : Cover all the key points without getting crazy with the details.
  • Objective : In the “Conclusions” section, you can propose possible explanations for your results. Otherwise, keep your opinions out of the report. Instead, present facts and an analysis based on logic and math.
  • Critical : After presenting what you did, the report focuses on what the data means. Be on the lookout for sources of error and identify them. Use your understanding of error to determine how reliable your results are and gauge confidence in your conclusions.

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Lab Report - A Complete Writing Guide With Examples

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Writing lab reports can be a challenging task for students. Many struggle with structuring their reports effectively and presenting their findings in a clear and concise manner.

This challenge often leads to lower grades and frustration among students, hindering their academic progress and confidence in scientific writing.

In this blog, we provide a comprehensive guide tailored specifically for students. 

We will walk you through the process of creating an outstanding lab report step by step to convey the experiment's purpose.

Let's embark on this journey of improving your lab report writing skills together.

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What is a Lab Report?

A lab report is a structured document that provides a detailed account of a scientific experiment or investigation.

It serves as a crucial tool for researchers and students alike, enabling them to communicate their findings, methods, and conclusions in a standardized and organized format.

Lab reports vary in format and requirements depending on the specific discipline and institution. They play a vital role in the scientific community by allowing others to evaluate and replicate research, contributing to the advancement of knowledge in various fields.

Lab Report Format

The lab report format is a critical element that ensures the clear and organized presentation of your scientific findings.

While specific requirements may vary between institutions and disciplines, here's a general lab report template to help you structure your lab report effectively:

Formatting Guidelines

Follow specific formatting instructions from your instructor or institution regarding font, margins, spacing, and citation style.

  • Use a clear and legible font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in 12-point size.
  • Double-space the entire report for readability.

How to Write a Lab Report?

Steps for writing a lab report

Writing a lab manual is a tricky job as it requires several important  parts. No matter which type of lab report you are writing and for which level, there is a basic writing structure that works for all.

When a student writes a report for the first time, it is essential to learn the basics. Without knowing the basics, the writing process can be challenging.  

The lab report writing consists of the following information:

  • The context of the study.
  • Contains pertinent background and information about the experiment. 
  • It is written in the passive past tense. Make sure you do not use present tense.
  • Contain the methods applied. 

If you are writing a lab report for your academics and instructor, make sure you are taking the right writing steps. The following are the steps in which a lab report is written.

Identify the Primary Goal

Before starting your lab report, make sure you understand the experiment.

  • What scientific question are you trying to answer?
  • What is the overall goal or purpose of your experiment?

Research and Background

To provide context for your experiment, research the relevant background information. This includes reviewing scientific literature, theories, and previous studies related to your topic.

Understanding what others have done in your field can help you position your experiment in the broader scientific context.

Write the Title and Abstract

The title and the abstract are the two most visible and striking parts of a lab report cover page.

The title should be concise but descriptive, giving readers an idea of what your experiment is about.

To make your title interesting, make sure that it reflects what you have done in the experiment and some interesting findings.

For your abstract, keep it concise. It should be based on just one paragraph of 200 words.

The abstract of a lab report contains the following information:

  • The primary motivation or purpose of the experiment
  • How does your experiment differ from the previous one?
  • The methodology used to obtain experimental results
  • Noteworthy findings, if any

Carefully Craft Introduction

The lab report introduction serves as a roadmap for readers, answering key questions and providing essential context.

  • What is the setting of the issue or problem?
  • What is the issue you are trying to solve?
  • Why is the problem important to discuss?
  • Is the problem solved, or is it still unsolved?

It outlines the problem's setting, the issue being addressed, and its significance.Additionally, it states whether the problem has been solved or remains unsolved.

In this section, you'll find information about:

  • Why was the problem so difficult to solve?
  • How did the writer solve the problem?
  • The circumstances in which the findings and results are applicable
  • Major key results
  • How have you organized your report?

Materials and Methods

In this section of your lab report, list all the materials, equipment, and chemicals used in your experiment. Include specific details such as quantities and measurements.

Provide a step-by-step account of how the experiment was conducted. This should be detailed enough for someone else to replicate your experiment.

Data Collection

During the experiment, record all data, observations, and measurements. Ensure accuracy and precision in your data collection.

In the results section, present your data in a clear and organized manner. Use tables, graphs, or charts to help readers visualize the data.

Label and caption each figure or table appropriately to explain what it represents.

In the discussion section, interpret what your results show. Explain the meaning of the data in the context of your research question and hypothesis.

Address any unexpected results and discuss potential experimental errors. Compare your findings with existing scientific knowledge and theories.

Conclude the Lab Report

Summarize the main findings of your experiment and their implications. Restate your hypothesis and indicate whether it was supported or rejected.

Explain the broader significance of the results of your research and how it contributes to the field.

Provide References

List all the sources you consulted during your research.

Cite them according to a specific citation style (e.g., APA, MLA) as per your institution's guidelines.

Lab Report Examples 

To give you a better understanding of the lab reports’ writing process and structure, we have gathered some helpful examples.

Go through these examples and write your lab report accordingly.

Guidelines to Write a Lab Report

Lab Report Sample Pdf

Sample Lab Report Biology

Lab Report Format Chemistry

Lab Report Writing Tips 

Writing a lab report can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can create a clear, concise, and informative document.

Here are some essential tips to help you craft an effective lab report:

  • Understand the Purpose: Before you start writing, grasp the purpose of your experiment. This way the reader can understand the research question, hypothesis, and the significance of your findings.
  • Follow the Structure: Adhere to the standard lab report structure. Each section has a specific purpose; make sure to address them all.
  • Be Clear and Concise: Use clear and straightforward language to convey your ideas. Avoid unnecessary jargon and jumbled sentences. 
  • Detail the Methods: Be specific about the materials, measurements, and techniques employed. This section should be precise enough for someone else to replicate your experiment.
  • Present Data Effectively: Use graphs, charts, tables and figures to present your data visually. Make sure to label all figures and tables appropriately, and include units for all measurements.
  • Interpret Results: In the discussion section, interpret your results and explain their significance. Compare your findings with existing literature and theories. Address any discrepancies or unexpected outcomes.

Lab reports can be challenging if you are writing them for the first time. If you want your report to be impressive, make sure it includes an overview of the complete experiment and an objective interpretation of the results.

Following this guide will let you plan your experiment and write its report in the most professional and accurate manner.

If you still find it difficult to write your lab report, get professional assistance from our report writing service . 

MyPerfectWords.com  is committed to providing the best reports for all fields and types of assignments. Our expert writers are trained to write accurate and precise lab reports to help you out. 

So hire our write my essay service now and get expert reports at affordable prices.

Frequently Asked Question

How many pages is a lab report.

A typical lab report should not have more than 10 pages. It needs to be single-spaced, and the font needs to be 12 points.

What is the main use of lab reports?

A laboratory report is a formal record of an experiment. It should discuss the objectives, procedures, and results. If you want to do the same experiment as someone else, they will know what to do because of your report.

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Writing a scientific paper, the scientific paper,   scientific communication, guides from other universities and professional societies.

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Dear Novice Writer,

When I was in your shoes and preparing my first paper, I consulted a book on how to write. I found there a sentence encouraging the reader to do the following:

" After standing in boiling water for an hour, examine the contents of the flask."

I had a pretty good idea what was wrong with the sentence but, at the time I couldn't figure out how to revise it, and the author didn't tell me.

From: How to write and Illustrate a Scientific Paper (2nd ed.) Bjorn Gustavii.

No one knows how to write a scientific paper without practice and help.  Many science students practice this skill when they are asked to write lab reports. This guide will describe some best practices for scientific writing and give you some additional sources to explore.

If you have read scientific papers, you will have noticed that a standard format is frequently used. This format allows a researcher to present information clearly and concisely. Scientists communicate new ideas by publishing their research in a specialized format called the journal article . 

This form usually includes 6 parts:

1) abstract (a summary of the article)

2) introduction (a brief review of why they chose this experiment)

3) materials and methods (what organisms and equipment were used)

4) results (what was found)

5) discussion (what it means)

6) references (the list of journal articles and books that the scientist referred to in the paper).

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Writing a scientific lab report is significantly different from writing for other classes like philosophy, English, and history. The most prominent form of writing in biology, chemistry, and environmental science is the lab report, which is a formally written description of results and discoveries found in an experiment. College lab reports should emulate and follow the same formats as reports found in scholarly journals, such as Nature , Cell , and The American Journal of Biochemistry .

Report Format

Title: The title says what you did. It should be brief (aim for ten words or less) and describe the main point of the experiment or investigation.

  • Example:  Caffeine Increases Amylase Activity in the Mealworm ( Tenebrio molitar).
  • If you can, begin your title using a keyword rather than an article like “The” or “A.”

Abstract: An abstract is a very concise summary of the purpose of the report, data presented, and major conclusions in about 100 - 200 words.  Abstracts are also commonly required for conference/presentation submissions because they summarize all of the essential materials necessary to understand the purpose of the experiment. They should consist of a background sentence , an introduction sentence , your hypothesis/purpose of the experiment, and a sentence about the results and what this means.

Introduction: The introduction of a lab report defines the subject of the report, provides background information and relevant studies, and outlines scientific purpose(s) and/or objective(s).

  • The introduction is a place to provide the reader with necessary research on the topic and properly cite sources used.
  • Summarizes the current literature on the topic including primary and secondary sources.
  • Introduces the paper’s aims and scope.
  • States the purpose of the experiment and the hypothesis.

Materials and Methods: The materials and methods section is a vital component of any formal lab report. This section of the report gives a detailed account of the procedure that was followed in completing the experiment as well as all important materials used. (This includes bacterial strains and species names in tests using living subjects.)

  • Discusses the procedure of the experiment in as much detail as possible.
  • Provides information about participants, apparatus, tools, substances, location of experiment, etc.
  • For field studies, be sure to clearly explain where and when the work was done.
  • It must be written so that anyone can use the methods section as instructions for exact replications.
  • Don’t hesitate to use subheadings to organize these categories.
  • Practice proper scientific writing forms. Be sure to use the proper abbreviations for units. Example: The 50mL sample was placed in a 5ºC room for 48hrs.

Results: The results section focuses on the findings, or data, in the experiment, as well as any statistical tests used to determine their significance.

  • Concentrate on general trends and differences and not on trivial details.
  • Summarize the data from the experiments without discussing their implications (This is where all the statistical analyses goes.)
  • Organize data into tables, figures, graphs, photographs, etc.  Data in a table should not be duplicated in a graph or figure. Be sure to refer to tables and graphs in the written portion, for example, “Figure 1 shows that the activity....”
  • Number and title all figures and tables separately, for example, Figure 1 and Table 1 and include a legend explaining symbols and abbreviations. Figures and graphs are labeled below the image while tables are labeled above.

  Discussion: The discussion section interprets the results, tying them back to background information and experiments performed by others in the past.This is also the area where further research opportunities shold be explored.

  • Interpret the data; do not restate the results.
  • Observations should also be noted in this section, especially anything unusual which may affect your results.

For example, if your bacteria was incubated at the wrong temperature or a piece of equipment failed mid-experiment, these should be noted in the results section.

  • Relate results to existing theories and knowledge.This can tie back to your introduction section because of the background you provided.
  • Explain the logic that allows you to accept or reject your original hypotheses.
  • Include suggestions for improving your techniques or design, or clarify areas of doubt for further research.

Acknowledgements and References: A references list should be compiled at the end of the report citing any works that were used to support the paper. Additionally, an acknowledgements section should be included to acknowledge research advisors/ partners, any group or person providing funding for the research and anyone outside the authors who contributed to the paper or research.

General Tips

  • In scientific papers, passive voice is perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, using “I” or “we” is not.

          Incorrect: We found that caffeine increased amylase levels in Tenebrio molitar.  Correct: It was discovered that caffeine increased amylase levels in Tenebrio molitar.   

  • It is expected that you use as much formal (bland) language and scientific terminology as you can. There should be no emphasis placed on “expressing yourself” or “keeping it interesting”; a lab report is not a narrative.
  • In a lab report, it is important to get to the point. Be descriptive enough that your audience can understand the experiment, but strive to be concise.
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Write a few short sentences briefly summarizing what you did, how you did it, what you found and whether anything went wrong in your experiment.

Describe relevant theories that relate to your experiment here, and the steps to carry out your procedure.

Consider the following questions:

  • What are the relevant theories/principles that you used?
  • What equations did you use? Show how you modeled your experiment.
  • What materials, equipment and/or tools were necessary in making your measurements?
  • Where was this experiment conducted?
  • How did you make your measurements? How many times did you make them?
  • How did you record your measurements?
  • How did you determine and minimize the uncertainties in your measurements? Why did you choose to measure a specific quantity in a certain way?

It can be useful to predict the value (and uncertainty) that you expect to measure before conducting the measurement. You should report on this initial prediction in order to help you better understand the data from your experiment.

  • Predict your measured values and uncertainties. How precise do you expect your measurements to be?
  • What assumptions did you have to make to predict your results?
  • Have these predictions influenced how you should approach your procedure? Make relevant adjustments to the procedure based on your predictions.

Data and Analysis

Present your data. Include relevant tables/graphs. Describe in detail how you analysed the data, including how you propagated uncertainties. If the data do not agree with your model prediction (or the prediction from your proposal), examine whether you can improve your model.

  • How did you obtain the “final” measurement/value from your collected data?
  • How did you propagate uncertainties? Why did you do it that way?
  • What is the relative uncertainty on your value(s)?

Discussion and Conclusion

Summarize your findings, and address whether or not your model described the data. Discuss possible reasons why your measured value is not consisted with your model expectation (is it the model? is it the data?).

  • Were there any systematic errors that you didn’t consider?
  • Did you learn anything that you didn’t previously know? (eg. about the subject of your experiment, about the scientific method in general)
  • If you could redo this experiment, what would you change (if anything)?

Guide for reviewing a lab report

Summarize your overall evaluation of the report in 2-3 sentences. Focus on the experiment’s method and its result. For example, “The authors dropped balls from different heights to determine the value of g”. You don’t need to go into the specific details, just give a high level summary of the report. If the report is unclear, specify this.

  • Is the the procedure well thought-out, clearly and concisely described?
  • Do you have sufficient information that you could repeat this experiment?
  • Does the report clearly describe how different quantities were measured and how the uncertainties were determined?
  • Does the report motivate why the specific procedure was chosen? (e.g. to minimize uncertainties).
  • Does the experiment clearly state how uncertainties were propagated and how the data were analyzed?
  • Do you believe their result to be scientifically valid?

Overall Rating of the Experiment

Give the report an overall score, based on the criteria described above. Use one of the following to rate the proposal and include a sentence to justify your choice.

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How to Write a Science Lab Report

Last Updated: January 30, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Meredith Juncker, PhD . Meredith Juncker is a PhD candidate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. Her studies are focused on proteins and neurodegenerative diseases. There are 15 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 356,384 times.

Depending on the expectations of your program, the preferences of your teacher or adviser, and the level of education you are currently at, there are many variations of science lab reports you might use. Generally speaking, your science lab report should have a title, abstract, introduction, a list of materials used in your experiment, a description of methods used, your results, discussion about your results, and a list of literature cited. [1] X Research source [2] X Research source This may seem like an overwhelming amount of work, but by adhering to a few guidelines and putting in the necessary effort, you'll soon have a report your instructor will love.

Sample Lab Report and Writing Help

how to write a a lab report

Formulating a Plan for Your Report

Step 1 Get a head start on your lab report as soon as possible.

  • You may have performed supplemental experiments/simulations or repeated your initial experience after receiving your first round of feedback.
  • (a) Self-review and revision
  • (b) Peer review and constructive feedback
  • (c) Advisor/instructor review and feedback

Step 2 Write your report with the primary goal of readability.

  • It can help remind yourself of this goal at the beginning of every section before starting writing.
  • When you finish a section of your report, read it through carefully, and at the end of it, ask yourself: was that easy to read and understand? Did I succeed in my goal?

Step 3 Determine your present audience and potential future ones.

  • If you believe your paper might be of use to researchers in another discipline, like social science, you may want to include definitions or explanations for the more technical jargon used in your paper.

Step 4 Outline the general structure of your lab report.

  • Since different instructors have different preferences, you should check your lab report handout or course syllabus to verify expectations for the order and content of your report. [4] X Research source
  • Most lab reports are organized, first to last: background information, problem, hypothesis, materials, procedure, data, and your interpretation of what happened as a conclusion.

Step 5 Break sections of your report into subsections, if necessary.

  • The organization of the body of your lab report will be specific to your problem/experiment.
  • You may also have a separate section for the statement of your design methodology, experimental methodology, or proving subsidiary/intermediary theorems in your report.

Writing a Top-down Outline

Step 1 Familiarize yourself with the top-down approach.

  • The section-level outline
  • The subsection-level outline
  • The paragraph-level outline

Step 2 Write your initial outline in a top-down style.

  • Bullet points are invaluable when you reach the paragraph level of your report. These will allow you to note important terms, phrases, and data that will need to be integrated with the text of your report.
  • Take special note, at the paragraph level, of important symbols, protocols, algorithms, and jargon.

Step 3 Remember figures, tables, and graphs at the paragraph-level.

  • You might also consider using simple figures as a way of cutting down unnecessary wordiness.

Step 4 Use organizational tools, like highlighters and sticky notes.

Writing Your Introduction and Abstract

Step 1 Craft your title and abstract carefully.

  • The title of your report should reflect what you have done and bring out any eye-catching factor of your work.
  • The abstract should be concise, generally about 2 paragraphs or about 200 words in length. [9] X Research source

Step 2 Refine your abstract down to crucial information.

  • (a) Main motivation
  • (b) Main design point
  • (c) Essential differences from previous work
  • (d) Methodology
  • (e) Noteworthy results, if any

Step 3 Devise your introduction.

  • What is the setting of the problem? This is, in other words, the background. In some cases, this may be implicit, and in some cases, this question may be merged with your paper's motivation.
  • What is the problem you are trying to solve? This is also known as the problem statement of your report.
  • Why is your problem important? This is the motivation behind your report. In some cases, it may be implicit in the background, or even the problem statement.
  • Is the problem still unsolved? The constitutes the statement of past/related work, and should be conveyed succinctly. [10] X Research source

Step 4 Model your intro off your top-down outline.

  • Each section of the body of your report can be thought of as an in-depth look at the points mentioned in the introduction.

Step 5 Include substantiation and critical details in your intro.

  • Why is your problem difficult to solve?
  • How have you solved the problem?
  • What are the conditions under which your solution is applicable?
  • What are the main results?
  • What is the summary of your contributions? This, in some cases, maybe implicit in the body of your introduction. Sometimes it helps to state contributions explicitly.
  • How is the rest of your report organized?

Step 6 Provide a background section, if necessary.

Writing the Body of Your Lab Report

Step 1 Write your section on materials and methods.

  • Describe the equipment or theory in a short paragraph.
  • Consider including a diagram of the apparatus for equipment.
  • Theoretical elements should be included in both natural and derived forms. [15] X Research source
  • Include what strategies and methodologies you are using for the experiment.

Step 2 Consider a section interpreting related work.

  • A large quantity of work closely related to your work would likely be best closer to the beginning of your report. This will allow you to point out differences best.
  • Relevant work that is substantially different from your own is probably best toward the end of your report. However, this placement risks leaving your readers wondering about differences until the end of your report.

Step 3 Differentiate your report from past and/or related work, if necessary.

  • Functionality
  • Performance
  • 1. Functionality
  • 3. Implementation
  • 4. Anticipated results or successes

Step 4 Use a table or graph to clearly indicate differences.

  • Make sure to cite the work of others so you can avoid plagiarism and give yourself more credibility.
  • If you decide to use a chart, it is a general convention that you include your own work in either the first or last column.

Step 5 State your results in your data section.

  • All figures and tables should be titled descriptively, numbered sequentially, and include a descriptive legend for symbols, abbreviations, etc.
  • The columns and rows of all tables and the axes of graphs should be labeled. [17] X Research source

Step 6 Summarize your main points for data-heavy results sections.

  • What aspects of your system or algorithm are you trying to evaluate? Why?
  • What are the cases of comparison? If you have proposed an algorithm or a design, what do you compare it with?
  • What are the performance metrics? Why?
  • What are the parameters understudy?
  • What is the experimental setup?

Concluding Your Lab Report

Step 1 Interpret your data and results in the discussion section.

  • Predictions are expected in this section, though these should be clearly identified as such.
  • Future experiments that might clarify your results should be suggested. [18] X Research source

Step 2 Address any other weaknesses in your discussion section.

  • Precisely and in as few words as possible state the main findings of your lab.
  • Answer the question: How has the reader become smarter, or how does your research and work fit into the bigger picture?

Step 5 List all sources used in your lab report.

Getting the Most Out of Peer Review

Step 1 Respect the process.

  • Many academic papers are reviewed 3 times by 3 sets of reviewers before they are published. Take constructive criticism for your lab report if you plan to pursue a career in academics.

Step 2 Seek review from peers involved in different projects.

  • You might also make use of your campus writing center, if available. Here you can have a fresh set of eyes assess the quality of your report.

Step 3 Write a critique checklist.

  • Title/abstract logical, understandable, and eye-catching?
  • All relevant questions answered in the introduction?
  • Overall structure of sections and subsections meaningful?
  • Is there a logical flow of information?
  • Differences between related/past work apparent?
  • Technical sections intelligible?
  • Figures/tables explained properly?
  • Use of terminology clear?
  • Symbols defined appropriately?
  • Results explained properly?
  • Technical holes/flaws?
  • Potential problems or alternatives?

Step 4 Accept feedback from your peers politely.

  • Try to keep your comments as impersonal as possible. Locate specific elements that can be isolated, targeted, and improved.
  • While taking feedback from a peer, take the comments on their technical merit and avoid being defensive.

Expert Q&A

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  • If you're looking for how to write a lab report for elementary, junior, or high school, try Write a Good Lab Conclusion in Science . Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to write a a lab report

  • Under no circumstances should you plagiarize the work of another. Doing so can result in immediate expulsion from most universities, and could tarnish your reputation as an academic. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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Write a Chemistry Lab Report

  • ↑ https://guides.libraries.indiana.edu/c.php?g=992698&p=7182653
  • ↑ http://libguides.lmu.edu/c.php?g=324079&p=2174135
  • ↑ https://www.apu.edu/live_data/files/288/lab_reports.pdf
  • ↑ http://services.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/471276/Writing_Science_Laboratory_Reports_Update_051112.pdf
  • ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/544/02/
  • ↑ http://biology.kenyon.edu/Bio_InfoLit/how/page2.html
  • ↑ https://www.trentu.ca/academicskills/how-guides/how-succeed-math-and-science/writing-lab-reports/writing-lab-reports-figures-and-tables
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.gmu.edu/writing-resources/different-genres/writing-an-abstract
  • ↑ https://www.vanderbilt.edu/writing/resources/handouts/introducing-a-lab-report/
  • ↑ http://writing.engr.psu.edu/workbooks/laboratory.html
  • ↑ http://www.mhhe.com/biosci/genbio/maderinquiry/writing.html
  • ↑ http://www.columbia.edu/cu/biology/faculty/mowshowitz/howto_guide/lab_report.html
  • ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-do-i-present-findings-from-my-experiment-in-a-report-.html
  • ↑ http://www.chem.ucla.edu/~gchemlab/labnotebook_web.htm
  • ↑ https://guides.lib.purdue.edu/c.php?g=352816&p=2377942

About This Article

Meredith Juncker, PhD

To write a lab report, start by coming up with a title that points to what you’ve done and an abstract that summarizes your work in 2 paragraphs. Follow this up with an introduction, which should introduce the problem you’re trying to solve, and explain why it’s important. Next, write a section on your materials and methods that informs the reader how you did your work. Additionally, present your results in a separate section, and highlight key points so they’re not overlooked. Finally, conclude with a section discussing the significance of your results and any problems with the study. For tips on how to write a top-down outline for your report and make the most of peer reviews, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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IMAGES

  1. Example Of Methodology In Lab Report / How To Write A Psychology Report

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  2. 40 Lab Report Templates & Format Examples ᐅ TemplateLab

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  3. Chemistry: How to write a proper lab report

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  4. Smart How To Write A Lab Report Discussion Student Progress Example

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  5. FREE 9+ Sample Lab Report Templates in PDF

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  6. Writing A Lab Report Sample

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VIDEO

  1. How to Start Labflow? How to Use It? How to Write a Lab Report of CHEM1152 Lab?

  2. Report writing

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  4. Writing Good Reports

  5. the PERFECT Lab Report Guide

  6. Lab Work : How To Write A Good Materials & Metallurgical Engineering Lab Report

COMMENTS

  1. How To Write A Lab Report

    How to write a lab report How To Write A Lab Report | Step-by-Step Guide & Examples Published on May 20, 2021 by Pritha Bhandari . Revised on July 23, 2023. A lab report conveys the aim, methods, results, and conclusions of a scientific experiment.

  2. How to Write a Lab Report

    It should be brief (aim for ten words or less) and describe the main point of the experiment or investigation. An example of a title would be: "Effects of Ultraviolet Light on Borax Crystal Growth Rate". If you can, begin your title using a keyword rather than an article like "The" or "A". Introduction or Purpose

  3. Library Research Guides: STEM: How To Write A Lab Report

    Abstract Abstracts are a summary of the experiment as a whole and should familiarize the reader with the purpose of the research. Abstracts will always be written last, even though they are the first paragraph of a lab report. Not all lab reports will require an abstract.

  4. How to Write a Lab Report: Step-by-Step Guide & Examples

    A typical lab report would include the following sections: title, abstract, introduction, method, results, and discussion. The title page, abstract, references, and appendices are started on separate pages (subsections from the main body of the report are not). Use double-line spacing of text, font size 12, and include page numbers.

  5. Writing a Lab Report: Introduction and Discussion Section Guide

    State the topic of your report clearly and concisely (in one or two sentences). Provide background theory, previous research, or formulas the reader should know. Usually, an instructor does not want you to repeat whatever the lab manual says, but to show your understanding of the problem. Questions an Effective Lab Report Introduction Should Answer

  6. Writing Your Lab Report/Worksheet

    Using the correct verb tense - Lab reports and research papers should be mainly written in the present tense. You should limit the use of the past tense to (1) describe specific experimental methods and observations, and (2) citing results published in the past.

  7. Scientific Reports

    This handout provides a general guide to writing reports about scientific research you've performed. In addition to describing the conventional rules about the format and content of a lab report, we'll also attempt to convey why these rules exist, so you'll get a clearer, more dependable idea of how to approach this writing situation ...

  8. PDF A Basic Guide to Writing a Successful Laboratory Report

    The ability to convey information in a clear and concise manner is equally important. This document provides a guideline to writing meaningful reports that communicate data obtained in an experimental setting. Specifically, it presents several ideas for maintaining coherence, formatting suggestions, and good laboratory practices.

  9. The Lab Report

    1. The Title Page needs to contain the name of the experiment, the names of lab partners, and the date. Titles should be straightforward, informative, and less than ten words (i.e. Not "Lab #4" but "Lab #4: Sample Analysis using the Debye-Sherrer Method"). 2.

  10. Lab Report Format

    A typical lab report format includes a title, introduction, procedure, results, discussion, and conclusions. A science laboratory experiment isn't truly complete until you've written the lab report. You may have taken excellent notes in your laboratory notebook, but it isn't the same as a lab report.

  11. PDF How To Write A Lab Report

    Results Structure. Start with an introduction - describe your results in general, before giving a more detailed description. In the main body, use paragraphs to detail your results with illustrations to support. Help the reader by using 'locating statements', such as: ‒ ...as can be seen in graph 1...

  12. PDF A GUIDE TO LABORATORY REPORT WRITING

    Introduction This Guide is designed to be used in preparing laboratory reports for all general science and engineering courses at IIT. It describes the structure of a good laboratory report, outlines the different sections of the report, and explains the need for each of them.

  13. How to Write a Lab Report

    1. What is a Lab Report? 2. Lab Report Format 3. How to Write a Lab Report? 4. Lab Report Examples 5. Lab Report Writing Tips What is a Lab Report? A lab report is a structured document that provides a detailed account of a scientific experiment or investigation.

  14. PDF The Complete Guide to Writing a Report for a Scientific ...

    reports, grants, and research proposals to authoring books, scientists encounter several instances where they need to execute profound and convincing writing skills. All forms of technical writing are equally significant, but this article categorically emphasizes the skills and techniques required for writing a comprehensive experimental lab ...

  15. Writing a lab report

    From: How to write and Illustrate a Scientific Paper (2nd ed.) Bjorn Gustavii. No one knows how to write a scientific paper without practice and help. Many science students practice this skill when they are asked to write lab reports. This guide will describe some best practices for scientific writing and give you some additional sources to ...

  16. Scientific Lab Reports

    Writing a Lab Report. Writing a scientific lab report is significantly different from writing for other classes like philosophy, English, and history. The most prominent form of writing in biology, chemistry, and environmental science is the lab report, which is a formally written description of results and discoveries found in an experiment.

  17. How to Write a Lab Report—Basic Parts and Steps

    How to Write a Research Paper: A Step by Step Writing Guide What is Plagiarism? 8 Most Common Types of Plagiarism with Examples 14 Best Writing Tips to Improve Your Writing Skills 10 Common Grammar Mistakes & How to Avoid Them Blog Categories Reasoning Sentence and word structure

  18. How To Write a Lab Report in 5 Steps (Plus Helpful Tips)

    Here are five steps for how to write a lab report: 1. Read the instructions carefully. Before starting your lab report, read the assignment instructions carefully. In some cases, an instructor may provide the same set of instructions for every lab report assignment in the class. Consider using a highlighter and pencil to note key requirements ...

  19. 27.5: Guide for writing a lab report

    Summary. Summarize your overall evaluation of the report in 2-3 sentences. Focus on the experiment's method and its result. For example, "The authors dropped balls from different heights to determine the value of g". You don't need to go into the specific details, just give a high level summary of the report.

  20. How to Write a Lab Report: Examples from Academic Editors

    Clean the samples thoroughly using ethanol to remove any impurities or oils. Weigh each sample accurately using a digital scale and record the initial weight. Prepare a 3% NaCl solution by dissolving 30 g of NaCl in 1000 mL of deionized water. Pour 250 mL of the 3% NaCl solution into each beaker.

  21. How to Write a Science Lab Report (with Pictures)

    To write a lab report, start by coming up with a title that points to what you've done and an abstract that summarizes your work in 2 paragraphs. Follow this up with an introduction, which should introduce the problem you're trying to solve, and explain why it's important. Next, write a section on your materials and methods that informs ...

  22. How to Write a Lab Report

    For any lab report, use a professional font and size. For example, 12-point Times New Roman. Double-space the report. Include a page number, usually either in the top or bottom right corner of each page. Clearly separate specific sections of the report with headings and subheadings.

  23. How to Write a Lab Report

    Sherri Seligson walks you through the steps of writing a lab report for your science courses.https://apologia.com/download/How_to_Write_a_Lab_Report_WEB.pdf

  24. How to Write a Lab Report for Non-Experts: Tips and Tricks

    3 Write clearly and concisely. One of the most important aspects of writing a lab report that is easy for non-experts to understand is to use clear and concise language. You should avoid long and ...

  25. ChatGPT

    Lab Report. By Ryan Stewart. Tool to help write professional lab reports. Sign up to chat.

  26. Resume Introduction Examples: How to Write Resume Intros

    Include Your Job Title and Years of Experience. Clearly state your current job title and the number of years of experience you bring to the table (if you have any). This provides context for the reader and helps them understand your level of expertise. Highlight 1-3 of your most impressive achievements.