How to Write a Lab Report

Need advice on how to write a successful lab report? Lab reports are an important part of laboratory courses for all students who study science and they account for the significant part of their grade. These students are often required to prepare formal reports after they have done some experiments or investigations. Scientific writing is not easy and is rather time-consuming. You may need to spend a lot of time to present the results of your experiments in a concise and conclusive format. But a lab report gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that you really understand what happens during the experiment and that’s the most important part of doing it. That’s why you should learn to write good lab reports. It’s a good practice for your skills to present complex scientific information in a manner that most people can understand
If you face difficulties with writing formal lab reports, read this article where we discuss all the essential parts of lab report format and give you some tips on how to write different parts of lab reports. If you need advice on how to cope with other types of academic papers, check out other full guides to all writing assignments out there at our website.

What Type of Assignment is Lab Report?

Lab reports are written to deliver scientific information to other researchers. Actually, there are two reasons for writing lab reports: to document the findings of a specific experiment and to communicate the significance of these findings.

Lab reports are critical and objective and, in this way, they are similar to research papers. But still, they have specific characteristics that set these documents from other types of academic and scientific writing. They mainly differ in structure and in the writing style and we’ll discuss these differences further in this article.

The main purpose of a lab report is to communicate findings from the work done in the lab and to help readers fully understand them. You need to provide a record of the procedure you’ve used to achieve certain results so that anyone can reproduce and validate them.

You should try to be as objective as possible to ensure that anyone can read your lab report and understand the process. That’s why all the information should be presented in logical sections. You must clearly communicate the goals, methods, results, and conclusions of an experiment you have conducted. The structure of the report’s sections and their style may differ in different subjects but there are typical sections that are included in all reports.

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Typical Components of Lab Reports

There are different kinds of lab reports. They vary in length and format depending on what you need to document. But all of them have the common basic structure that includes the following parts:

  • Title should reflect the specific purpose of the experiment and be direct and descriptive;
  • Abstract provides a concise summary of lab report;
  • Introduction provides the background information and states your hypothesis;
  • Material and Methods section describes the precise procedure of how you tested your hypothesis;
  • Results section presents the findings in the form of raw data you collected;
  • Discussion evaluates and explains the results to understand whether they support your hypothesis;
  • Conclusion gives a brief summary of findings and interpretations.

In this article, we’ll discuss the standard basic lab report. If you have never written a lab report before, you see that its structure differs greatly from the structure of an ordinary essay. You can use this basic lab report format if you are not sure what to write about. It is actually based on the scientific method that involves developing and testing a hypothesis, and concluding whether your findings support your hypothesis. We will discuss the structure and the style of a standard lab report below and talk about different sections in detail to help you get a good idea of why you should write them and how you should do it.

Abstract

In simple words, it’s the miniature version of your lab report. In fact, you will write this section last, after you finish the entire lab report. Here you need to provide a brief summary of the purpose of your experiment, procedures used, key findings, observation, and major conclusions. This section is really short (about 150-200 words) but it is very important because it is written for readers who are interested in what you did. They will read the abstract to decide whether it is worth reading the entire paper.
You should be very serious about writing this part because it can be really challenging. You should practice writing abstracts regularly and you are sure to improve your techniques. Here are some general rules you should follow when creating an abstract for your lab reports.

  • You should follow your lab report structure and use only very important headlines;
  • An abstract should contain graphs, tables, equations or pictures;
  • Make sure that everyone can understand your lab report without referring to other documents;
  • An abstract is written last but appears after the title of the lab report;
  • Don’t include acronyms, abbreviations or jargon;
  • It should contain keywords that can help search for it easily.

Introduction

This part of lab report must provide background information on the topic. It should also include information about the purpose of your investigation, your hypothesis, and the main reason that you think your hypothesis is viable. Sometimes, it may include description of specialized equipment. You should never copy information for your introduction from lab notes. Instead, you should always write this section in your own words.

You should start this section with providing the background information and giving a review of the existing research on the topic. You should summarize what is already known on your topic and provide proper references. Besides, you should provide you aims and objectives and explain your reasons for doing this work. You need to tell who you think will benefit from the results. You may need to explain some technical terms that you use in the lab report to ensure that even readers who are familiar with specifics can understand what you have written.

When writing this section, many students struggle with using correct Verb tenses. You should consider the following tips.

  • If the theory or report still exists, you may use present tense: ‘The goal of this report is…’
  • If the experiment was finished, use the past tense: ‘The goal of this experiment was…’

Materials and Methods

This section can include the list of the methods and materials that were used during the experiment. Sometimes, you don’t have to write it and may refer your readers to specific pages in your lab manual. Besides, you have to describe in detail the procedure of how you tested your hypothesis. You should be very specific and provide enough detail so that your readers could understand how you did it and were able to carry it out themselves if they wanted to.
You should describe the experimental procedure in chronological order step-by-step and explain in detail how everything actually happened when you did it and not the way how it was supposed to happen. You should use the thirst person and the past tense.

For example: ‘We arranged the equipment as shown in Fig.1’

If it is necessary, your report should include information about the important condition of the experiment, for example, humidity, atmospheric pressure, operating temperatures etc. When writing details about the equipment, you can specify the manufacturer and the model number. You should also explain experimental design and provide rationale for the chosen methods and procedures. If necessary, you can include photos and diagrams to describe the specific equipment you used.

Results

It may be the shortest and the most important section of your lab report. Here you present all data that you obtained during the experiment in a chronological order and in a clear and concise manner. The best approach is to summarize all the results and provide the full data in the appendix. You may present the data as tables, figures, and graphs and tell about some observations that were made. You need to label each table appropriately so that your readers could understand what each table or graph shows.

Don’t interpret the results in this section although you can give brief descriptions of the certain methods you used. Don’t analyze the data in this section. Besides, you can also offer some calculations, usually a general equation and one example. You should include additional details in the appendix. This section can also highlight some trends that you observed but you shouldn’t provide details of exact results here.

Discussion

This section is very important because here you can demonstrate how you understand the experiment. Besides, this part of your lab report is least formalized. You have to give a detailed account of what happened during the experiment. You need to explain, analyze, and interpret your findings. Actually, you have to tell your readers what they can do with the results of your experiment. It’s important to make this section detailed but at the same time as concise as possible.

You have to tell what your results mean, and whether they answered the question your experiment was to investigate. Try to comment on specific trends and compare real results with predictions. You should also report on uncertainties in the results and errors if there are any and suggest possible explanations of uncertain results.

You should start the discussion section with the statement of whether your findings support or don’t support your hypothesis. Then you should explain why your hypothesis was supported or was not supported by the data you obtained. You can compare your results to the results from other research and suggest the theoretical implications of your findings. In other words, you have to give a big picture and explain how your findings can help better understand the broader topic.

Conclusion

Sometimes, this section can be combined with the discussion. Here you need summarize everything and tell about the lesson you have learned from obtained results. You may restate the purpose of your experiment or the key questions you were trying to answer. Besides, you should summarize the main points of the results and the discussion sections. Don’t include any new information in this section although you may provide some suggestions about potential improvements that can be used by other investigators.

References

If your work was based on someone’s research or you have in-text citations in your lab report, you have to create a separate reference list and include all full citations here to avoid plagiarism. You can include in this list your lab manual, web sites, textbook, and all other sources that you used to prepare your lab report.

This reference list should be included in your lab report after the conclusion and before the appendix. To determine which referencing style you should use to cite your sources, you need to check your lab manual because the format of references is different in different fields of study.

7 Tips on Language and Style for Getting a High Grade

  • Make sure you use correct grammar and spelling and that there are no typos and inconsistencies in your lab report;
  • Avoid using jargon, colloquial terms or slang;
  • Make sure that your style is formal and precise and that the meaning of all sentences is clear. Eliminate ambiguity and wordiness;
  • Use past tense consistently. You may use passive voice;
  • Don’t use direct quotes;
  • Don’t use emotional language and contracted words;
  • Start working on your lab report early to ensure you can have enough time for editing and proofreading

While you are studying science, it’s important to learn to write effectively so that all the details of your experiments can be explained clearly, concisely, and explicitly. It’s rather challenging for the majority of STEM students but we hope that our easy guide on how to write a lab report will help you master your report writing and take your skills to the next level.