Here’s How to Write a Lab Report
Many of your science units will require the writing of a formal lab report. This is a project in which you outline what you did in an experiment, the lessons learned, and the significance of the findings. Laboratory reports are documents produced to describe a research process undertaken for professional or academic purposes.
While this type of scientific writing is critical, most students do not understand how to go about this project. Don’t panic —this article outlines useful information on how you can write a stellar report. The goal is to offer a comprehensive guide for reporting your scientific findings. In addition to describing the standard rules regarding the proper format and content of good lab reports, we also explore the rationale behind these systems, allowing readers to get a more dependable and clearer idea of how to approach this type of task. First, here is a table of content outlining the rest of this article.
Table of Content:
- The different parts of a lab report;
- The proper lab report format;
- Writing a good lab report abstract;
- Starting with the lab report introduction;
- Ending with a concise lab report conclusion;
- Designing the lab report cover page;
- Elements of a lab report title page;
- A well-written lab report example;
Different Parts of a Lab Report
Before you begin the actual writing process, ask yourself this question — what are the parts of a lab report? In truth, this project is your tool for sharing the results of your study, as well as the methodology used to obtain them. Make sure to present your work in a way that allows others, if they so wish, to repeat the experiment. A good laboratory report comprises several parts, including an:
- Abstract — This is where you summarize the entire paper, including why and how the research was done and the main findings;
- A catchy introduction — Here you indicate the rationale for the experiment, some relevant background information, and the questions of hypothesis guiding the study;
- Materials and methods — Indicates the process followed with sufficient detail to permit replication of the experiment;
- Results — Here, you present the outcome of the study, both in text and in graphics formats;
- Discussion —This is where you explore the findings and their implications for your subject area;
- Conclusion — Here, you restate the study objective, the main findings, and your final thought.
- List of cited sources — Here you organize full citations of all the material referred to in your text.
The Proper Lab Report Format
The format of your lab report will vary according to the assignment prompt as well as the guidelines set out by your department. Nonetheless, it is important to present a document that is simple enough to be understood by the non-technical reader, but not so simple that it bores someone familiar with the subject.
Remember the particular formatting style used will depend, to a large extent, on the instructions provided by your instructor. In the APA format lab report, for instance, there should be a title page, abstract, references, and appendices, all of which should start on separate pages. You will also need to use double spacing throughout the text and legible size 12 fonts. Make sure to include page numbers.
The MLA format lab report has a lot of similarities with the APA style, including the use of legible 12 point Times New Roman fonts. However, the main difference comes in terms of the citation of sources, both within the text and the list at the end of the document. Unlike the APA format that users an author-date system, MLA prefers the use of the author-page style. Both approaches are parenthetical. In terms of listing the bibliographic information, the Modern Language Association style includes a Works Cited page instead of the References page as preferred by in APA. Other options include the IEEE lab report format and the ACS format lab report. If unsure of the right style to use, check with your instructor.
Writing a Good Lab Report Abstract
The first point to remember is that, while the abstract often comes at the beginning of your document, it is to be written last. Its function is to synthesize the rationale of the paper, indicating the method used and the main results.
So, what is an abstract in a lab report? An abstract implies a concise and powerful statement, where the writer synthesizes a larger work. While the elements of this section of your lab report will vary according to your discipline and the formatting style used, there are some core elements. For instance, make sure to include the scope, purpose, and findings of the study. Remember, this is not an evaluation of the report. Instead, it is an original work that allows readers to make a quick decision on whether the paper is worth their attention.
Here are some tips on how to write an abstract for a lab report:
- Use concise language;
- It is to be written last;
- Focus on the rationale, the problem, the methodology, the main findings, and the general conclusions;
- Make it brief (less than 250 words).
Remember, the decision on whether to have an abstract in a lab report will be determined by the requirements of your department and the style chosen. If unsure, confirm with your instructor. Check out the lab report abstract example here:
Example: The researchers conducted two experiments to determine the spring constant of a steel spring. The constant was determined statically, by measuring its elongation when the material was subjected to loading, and vertically through calculating the period of mass hung from one end and set into vertical oscillation. From the experiment, two values were deduced, which were 2.98 ± 0.02 N/m and 2.94 ± 0.01 N/m. The behavior of the springs followed Hooke’s law for both experiments.
Starting with the Lab Report Introduction
Even before you sit down to draft any part of the text, it helps to prepare and come up with a clear outline. Start by reading through the instructions and gathering the information that you will use to support your arguments.
Remember, while the introduction of a lab report often comes before the main body, it is a good idea to write it last, after the methodology and the discussion sections. The first part orients your readers with the experiment, preparing them for what is to come. Research shows that most readers make up their mind on whether to go through the rest of the test after reading the first paragraph.
Here is how to write an introduction for a lab report.
The idea is to start strongly, making your purpose clear from the beginning. Provide a rationale for your experiment, presenting some background information in the process. Most likely, your introductory paragraph will contain several citations, which should accurately follow the format chosen. Use an inverted pyramid structure, beginning with general descriptions before proceeding to a specific question. Since the experiment has already ended, use the past tense to write this section.
Notice how, in this lab report introduction example, the writer begins by stating the objective:
Example: The goal of this experiment was to identify the particular element in a metal powder sample through the determination of its atomic radius and crystal structure. To determine these, the researcher used the powder camera method through X-ray diffraction.
Ending with a Concise Lab Report Conclusion
It is often a good idea to wrap up your paper nicely using a concise conclusion. Unlike the relatively lengthy and detailed discussion and results sections, the conclusion of a lab report is concise, about two or three sentences. It is your chance, to sum up, the important details in the context of available knowledge in the field.
On how to write a lab report conclusion, we recommend highlighting how the findings compare to your initial hypothesis and why they match expectations (or not). Don’t introduce any new material here.
Here is a lab report conclusion example:
Example: Besides evaluating the spring constant using two different methodologies, the experiment verified Hooke’s law. There was no connection between the amplitude of oscillations and the period.
Designing the Lab Report Cover Page
The contents and design of this page will depend, to a large extent on your preferred formatting style. In APA for instance, the cover page for lab report contains five essential elements, including a running head, the title of the paper, the name of the author or student, the college or university, and a note from the author (as instructed by your professor). The MLA style, on the other hand, does not require the creation of a cover page. If the instructor specifically states that this is a requirement, then follow this lab report cover page format — include the name of your institution, the title of your report, your name, your class, the name of your professor, and the date when the paper is due. In terms of formatting, follow the style used for the rest of the paper.
Here is how to make a cover page for a lab report:
- Make sure that page is double spaced and centered;
- Type your research paper title;
- Type the name of your institution;
- Include your details and the paper due date.
Remember, the information in your lab report cover sheet will depend on the instructions on the prompt. Make sure to read and understand what is required.
Elements of a Lab Report Title Page
The title page for lab report is where you include the topic of your paper. On how to title a lab report, remember that, in all forms of scientific writing, it is important to ensure that the title is specific and informative and that it relates to the experiment. From it, the reader should be able to decide whether the paper is relevant to his or her purposes. Check out the lab report title example on our website for a good idea on what yours should look like. If you collaborated in the experiment, make sure to include the details of the other students.
Most importantly, never be afraid to seek professional help when stuck.
A Well-Written Lab Report Example
Here is a sample laboratory report:
Perception of Different Sugars by Blowflies
By Jane Doe
October 24, 2018
For flies to feed on healthy materials, they use taste receptors on their tarsi to locate sugars for ingestion. In our study, we examined the ability of blowflies to taste disaccharide and monosaccharide sugars, as well as saccharin. To achieve this purpose, flies were attached to ends of sticks, and their feet lowered into solutions with different sugar concentrations. A positive response was counted every time the flies lowered their proboscis to feed. There was a response to glucose and sucrose, but not to saccharin. There was a response to lower concentrations of sucrose compared to glucose. We concluded that the flies tasted larger molecules more easily compared to smaller ones. Saccharin was rejected because it was a salt solution.
The black blowfly, Phormia regina Meigen, can monitor internal cues relating to its state of water balance and adjust its behavior accordingly. A sufficiently thirsty blowfly will extend its proboscis and imbibe water following application of water either to its tarsal or its labellar chemosensory hairs (Campbell, 2008). The hairs around the tarsi and proboscis contain receptor neurons that can distinguish between salts, water, and sugars. These flies are also able to differentiate between the different types of sugars (Campbell, 2008). These traits are important for them to find the proper nutrition. In the experiment, we tested the ability of blowfly to taste different sugar concentrations and saccharin, which is a sugar substitute.
The flies were tied to the ends of sticks using sticky wax. Dilution was ten made on glucose, maltose, sucrose. We then verified the sensory perceptions of the flies by lowering each fly into a solution. Every positive response was noted each time a fly lowered its proboscis into the solution.
The blowflies responded to high concentrations of sugar by lowering their proboscis and feeding. No flies responded to the saccharin solution.
The findings show that sucrose is the most detectable sugar by blowflies. The flies show selectivity in responding to sugar according to structure and molecular size. In this experiment, the threshold value for glucose, a monosaccharide was the highest. Flies, however, do not respond to saccharin because it is the sodium salt of saccharic acid (Campbell, 2008).
Flies taste food using special cells on their tarsal hairs. Through these, they can discern sugars, based on molecular structure and size.
Campbell, N. A., & Reece, J. B. (2008). Biology, AP edition.
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