Writing a Lab Report: Simple Outline and Guidance
How to Write a Structured Lab Report
A laboratory report is what a young future scientist should be able to do, except for the research itself. This paper is required by the professor to delve into your written research to understand its strengths and what new you have brought to science. Thus, a laboratory report is your experiment records, a structured and understandable description of the result.
It happens that professors have their specific requests for writing a laboratory report. But regardless of structure, the main purpose of this document is to answer the questions:
• What did you do in your experiment?
• How did you do this?
• What are your results?
• What are your conclusions?
A quality laboratory report is not just a chronological description of an experiment. Here you demonstrate an understanding of your area of work, your actions in the research. This paper allows the professor to see that you understand the cause-effect relationship, you can analyze the main principles and processes of your work.
Despite the important role of the laboratory report in the learning process, students do not devote enough time and importance to its writing and design. A laboratory report has its specific structure and requirements for this document format. And although even the most correct and perfect design does not replace your knowledge and skills, we suggest that you consider key issues for writing it. Remember that you can adapt it according to your needs.
Laboratory Report Structure
According to the most common formatting style approved by the American Psychological Association (APA), a laboratory report consists of the following elements:
1. Title page
This is the face of your lab report. According to it, the professor sees the main information:
– The title of the experiment.
– Your name and the names of your partners
– Name of your instructor.
– The date when the laboratory was completed, or the time the report was submitted.
Please note that the title of the work should be simple, understandable, and contain no more than 8-10 words. Also, it should not sound like a question.
This is a brief description of your work in a “resume” format, not more than 200 words. This text gives the reader a general understanding of your experiment and makes it clear whether the rest of the work should be read. In this part of the work, you need to specify:
– Experiment goal
– Achieved results
– The significance of discoveries and experiment in general
– Main conclusions
Start by summarizing the overall concept. One or two sentences will be enough for you. Be sure to indicate the members of your team who helped you in the experiment, how you distributed roles and areas of responsibility. Tell about your research methods and materials used. Also, write about the conclusions you reached.
Note that although the abstract is located at the beginning of the laboratory report, it is usually written at the end. An abstract is a summary of your entire report, so it will be easier for you to write it when the rest of the paper is ready.
The introduction is more specialized than an abstract. In this part of the paper, you lead the reader to your hypothesis. Begin with a broad and gradually specify. Explain the theoretical background. It is important to demonstrate an understanding of the problem, not just to state facts and formulas. What makes your hypothesis special? What problems can your research solve? In the introduction, you can demonstrate the background of your theory. Who researched your topic? How long has this problem been studied? What results have your colleagues achieved? Follow the logical sequence.
It’s simple: you describe all the necessary equipment that you used during the experiment.
Describe your steps during the experiment. Do it as detailed as possible. This item should be a guide to action or instruction for prospective students. The methods should be described in such detail and clarity so that they can be repeated. If the specificity of your experiment allows, make illustrations. In this paragraph, you do not need to explain why you used this or that method, just describe your actions.
The results of your work need to be written as clearly as possible. Often, graphs or tables are used for this item. Show the result of your work comparable to other figures, for example, in the form of statistics. At this stage, you are not talking about conclusions and do not give a personal assessment of the data, there are separate points for this. Follow APA Style.
For many, this is the most interesting and creative part of the laboratory report. In discussions, you can analyze your experiment and show how much you understand the topic of your research.
– Relate the results of your work to the original question – did your hypothesis confirm or refute the experiment?
– Compare your results with research in this area. – Recognize the weaknesses of your work, if any. Suggest ways to improve the results of your experiment. – Write about the possible consequences of your discoveries, and how you can use the results of your work in the future.
– How relevant is your work outside the laboratory? If your research could potentially be applied in other areas, write about it.
– Have your expectations of the experiment been confirmed. You can show a comparison of expectations and results, for example, in a table. Be specific. If the result is not the one you expected, indicate what factors contributed to this: equipment features, working methods, or inaccurate initial calculations.
– Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your experiment. Mark the field for further work and tests.
The conclusion usually consists of one paragraph. You summarize your work and its results. Your task is to convey the main message – whether your hypothesis has been confirmed, and whether you have reached the goal of your experiment.
List of references
At the end of the work, you indicate all the sources that you used during the work. Even if you mentioned some names or dates once, you need to specify the source of information. This is not a list of references in the classical sense, but a list of sources where you took the information. However, you must follow the alphabetical order and indicate surnames, if any. Usually, teachers require APA style design.
At the end of your work, you can attach all the documents that are not included in the report. It can be drawings, photographs, tables, graphs, or infographics. Each element must be located on a separate sheet and must be signed. Do not forget that the application is relevant only if you mentioned it in your work.