Engineering 45
Formal Engineering Report
Writing Guidelines1
In this class, you will write a single formal lab report. The report will be graded on both
technical content and writing quality. Be sure to follow the instructions below and include each
section in your lab report. Also, the chapter of the Lab Notes for the lab that requires a formal
lab report has a detailed grading criteria that lists what you should include in terms of technical
format. Please be sure to look over this grading criteria before and after writing your report. It
is what your grade will be based on, so you definitely want to include everything for which it
For helpful resources on writing formal lab reports including a detailed description of each
section, sample lab reports, and a checklist to help you proofread your writing, see:
The report should be between 5 and 10 pages long, double-spaced and word-processed. In
all parts of the report, do not copy any material, not even a single sentence, from the
laboratory notes or from any textbook. Any figures that you utilize from an outside source must
be properly referenced.
Use a spell-checker and a dictionary to insure your spelling is correct. Your English grammar,
spelling and syntax will be graded. It may help to have a native English speaking friend
proofread your report. Lab reports should be written in the third person (do not use I/we).
The purpose of a lab report is to inform the reader about work which was done and why the
results are significant. You are partly teaching the reader. Imagine that the person reading the
report is your supervisor or a customer/client. They want to know what you did, why you did it,
and what you found out. They want to know enough about the procedure that they believe you
did a careful job; but they don’t want so much detail that they fall asleep reading the report.
Courtesy of Prof. E. Allen • SJSU CoE MATE-153
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The following sections should be included in the report. An explanation of each section is
included below.
1. Abstract or Executive Summary
2. Introduction/ Theoretical Background
3. Experimental Procedure
4. Results and Discussion
5. Summary/ Conclusions
Abstract/ Executive Summary
The Abstract/ExecutiveSummary is a brief (half page) summary. Readers use the abstract to
determine if the paper is relevant to them. You need to include all pertinent information and
results in the abstract to encourage the reader to read your paper. You should summarize the
purpose of the experiment (what you were trying to discover with the experiment, why that
information is important to the scientific or engineering community). Briefly summarize the
procedures (one to three sentences). Summarize the results of your experiments including
giving the actual numerical results you found (such as: what was the actual bandgap of your
material, what was the percent error…).
You should not include any graphics, tables, or
equations in your abstract.
Introduction/ Theoretical Background
You should first clearly state the overall goal (purpose) of your experiment. Pretend you are
someone in industry or a research lab.
From that standpoint, state why you wanted to
discover these results, why the experiment was needed.
Do not write it from a student
standpoint (don’t say you were assigned it or to learn more about that particular topic). Then
you should explain to the reader the physics behind the experiment, in your own words.
Cover the topics that were covered in the LabNotes and the mini-lecture your lab instructor
Make sure you provide enough information to understand the key points of the
experiment. If the reader wants more information, they can go read a book. Here you are
demonstrating your own understanding of the physics relevant to the experiment.
Experimental Procedure
In your own words, explain how you did the experiment. Include your own sketches of the
apparatus, but do not include too much detail.
What did you measure, what range of
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conditions did you use, what was the sample made of, etc. Absolutely do not copythe
procedure from the LabNotes.
Results and Discussion
This is the most important part of the report.
Data should be presented in a tabular or
graphical form (usually not both). In a plot of data, all axes should be labeled and include
proper units. All figures should have captions. The text should refer to the figures by number
and explain the main points the figures display. Assume that the reader needs some help in
interpreting the graphs. In the text, describe what the results were that you derived from the
measured data.
Note: data is what you measured; results are what you derive from the data. An example of a
data set is a plot or table of resistance values as a function of temperature. An example of a
result is the value of the bandgap calculated from the data. The results are the important part
of the experiment. Be very clear in reporting your result. You may want to compare your
results to values found in your textbook or other reference books. Is your result different from
published values by a few percent? Try to explain why. If it is off by orders of magnitude, then
chances are you are not doing your calculations correctly.
Summary/ Conclusions
Briefly summarize the purpose of the experiment, the procedures, and the results. Indicate
whether the experiment was successful, what conclusion could be drawn and what was
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Submitting Your Formal Lab Report
For all formal lab reports, a hard copy must be submitted to on the date listed in the ENGR45
course Schedule. Late reports are subject to the standard late-penalty.The Report Writer from
each Group MUST eMail to the instructor an electronic copy of your lab report. This is
MANDATORY. Students who do not eMail a copy of their lab report will receive a 0 on the
Note about plagiarism: The sad truth is that plagiarism is rampant at American college
campuses. So while no offense is intended to the large majority of honest and self-motivated
students, the Chabot Engineering instructormay submit the reports to a plagiarism-monitoring
Advice on paraphrasing/ plagiarism:
Some students plagiarize un-intentionally because they do not use proper paraphrasing. You
cannot copy ANYTHINGdirectly from another source, even as small as a subset of a
sentence. Also, changing a word or two in a sentence is not proper paraphrasing. You need
to take a concept and completely re-write it in your own words and style and then reference the
location as the source of the concept. To improve your paraphrasing, when you read a paper
or website, take detailed notes (don’t highlight or underline). Write everything down in your
own words. Use a style different from the paper (like perhaps writing a bulleted list rather than
complete sentences). Then when you write your paper, use only your notes (not the original
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