Revised Laboratory Reports

A good lab report presents data and demonstrates the writer's comprehension of the
concepts behind the data. It should also identify how and why differences occurred,
explain how they affected the experiment, and show the writer's understanding of the
principles the experiment was designed to examine. Within the format ideas need to
be carefully organized, and coherently expressed.
Formal lab reports will be evaluated according to the Thinking/Investigation category of
the course. The formal report should include all of the following:
Title/Title Page: Needs to include the name of the experiment, the names of the lab
partners, and the date.
Abstract: A short paragraph summarizing the lab including the purpose, the method
used, key findings, significance and major conclusions. The information should clearly
enable readers to decide whether they need to read your whole report. It should be
one paragraph of 100 – 200 words.
Introduction: States the purpose of the experiment and provides the reader with
background to the experiment. The introduction should include the hypothesis, stating
the anticipated experimental outcome, and the scientific reasoning for this. (i.e.
if...then...because...), including both an independent and a dependent variable.
*Note on verb tense
The experiment is already finished. Use the past tense when talking about the experiment.
"The objective of the experiment was..."
The report, the theory and permanent equipment still exist; therefore, these get the present tense:
"The purpose of this report is..."
"Bragg's Law for diffraction is ..."
"The scanning electron microscope produces micrographs ...
Methods & Materials: A step by step description of the procedure followed during the
experiment, describing the equipment and materials used-in their specific quantities.
The procedure should be written using a clear paragraph structure, and all steps should
be described in the order they actually happened. All safety procedures should be
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Results: A summary of the observations from the lab. Graphs and charts with
accompanying descriptions are appropriate. All significant results need to be
summarized in words. Graphs and charts need to be clear, easy to read and well
Discussion: An analysis of your results, including error analysis. The discussion is the most
important part of your report because you show your understanding of the experiment,
beyond just completing it. Explain. Analyze. Interpret. Use both analysis (what your
results indicate, what you have found, explain what you know with certainty based on
your results and draw conclusions) and interpretation (what is the significance of the
results, what questions might we raise, find logical explanations for problems in the
data). Some further strategies to help you:
□ Compare expected results with those obtained (compare to your prediction).
How can you account for differences (NOT human error – you are not
incompetent). Be specific.
□ Analyze experimental error. Was it avoidable? What is a result of equipment? If
there are flaws from the experimental design, how can the design be improved?
□ Explain your results in terms of theoretical issues.
□ Relate results to your purpose.
□ Compare your results to similar investigations. Compare to classmates and
discuss anomalies.
Conclusion: Provide a summary of the results of the experiment, keeping in mind the
purpose and hypothesis.
References: Cite any reference articles and books you have used to assist you in
completing your lab in APA format. Include in-text citations (Author, Date) where
appropriate throughout the lab report.
Some adaptations from:
Other Considerations
□ Make sure your report is neat, typed and looks professional
Do not assume your reader has extensive knowledge in the subject– write as if to
a stranger
Be concise. Less is more. Extra ‘fluff’ is not appropriate in scientific writing. The
worst reports are often the longest because the writer has no idea what they are
talking about and rambles.
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