LAB REPORT WRITING GUIDE
July 26, 2017>
College or university students that are majoring in any science-related fields commonly practice lab reports. These exercises are also common for those students who take a course for a required science credit. Chemistry, Biology, Astronomy and many other courses are among the common ones that require lab reports.
What is a Lab Report?
Lab reports are documents, which describe the process of research in detail. The above-mentioned research can be conducted in a classroom, or in a professional research environment. In simple terms, a lab report is providing the reader with a comprehensive description of the project completion. This particular paper aims to explain how you researched a topic.
The instructions on how exactly the report is expected to be completed may vary from one professor to another, as well as, from one academic discipline to another one. However, this brief manual can serve as a general set of rules applicable to the most works of this type. The guide describes how to write a lab report explaining the meaning, the purpose, and main requirements for each section of the paper.
The paper should include short sections, such as an abstract, an introduction, and a conclusion, along with more detailed sections such as methods and materials, experimental procedure, results, and discussion. The other parts of the paper fulfill a secondary function. To these parts of a lab report belong the title page and the references. A more detailed review of how these sections should be organized will also be introduced in the guide further.
As set out above, the structure of the document will be described in the article, and its application will be demonstrated in the form of steps to writing a lab report on chemistry. The steps are closely connected to each element of the structure and reveal the overall strategy in planning, organizing, and writing chemistry article. The brief instruction introduced at the end of the is article an explicit step by step manual, which reflects the universal rules for this type of writing, at the same time pointing out the peculiarities related to the Chemistry, which are necessary to be aware of in the course of work.
Lab report structure
Every academic paper should be written in a coherent, consistent, and clear manner. It is important that all the interrelated elements that are included in the work are arranged and organized in a certain order to enable the reader to grasp the idea of each section separately, in relation to each other, and in connection to the entire piece of writing.
If you wonder how to write a good lab report, one of the first actions you should undertake is to scrutinize the overall structure of the entire paper. The elements included in the report are often up to the discretion of the instructor. However, there is still a standardized approach in the completion of this type of work.
- Title page
A lab report title page appears at the very beginning of the paper. As a rule, it contains several items including the title of the report itself, the name of the author, the title of the course, the teacher’s name, and the date of the experiment. The most common formatting styles for the paper are APA, MLA, Harvard, and Chicago; the style applies to the whole paper including the cover page. As a rule, the formatting style of the lab report cover page should follow the professor’s discretion.
An abstract is a short summary of the entire paper, which appears just after the title page and consists of not more than 200 words. This section reproduces the structure of the whole paper in a miniature. Each section, including the introduction and the conclusion, can be represented by only a sentence or even a phrase. The main purpose of an abstract is to briefly introduce the essence of the paper, summarizing the purpose of the experiment, its significance, the core results, and major conclusion. This part of the paper can also refer to the theory or/and methodology.
The given information should enable the readers to determine whether the article is relevant to their research and whether they need to read the whole report from cover to cover. An abstract is one of the hardest parts of the paper, and it is usually the first thing the reader looks at. Therefore, you may want to complete it last.
A lab report introduction appears on the page following the abstract. The intro is devoted to the background of the experiment and its objectives. The background can be represented by theory, previous research, or any other information like, for example, formulas the reader may need to know. This section should be introduced with the objective of the experiment, which explains the scientific contribution to the field of study.
The contribution, in its turn, can be understood only within the context of already existing scientific knowledge. For this purpose, the relevant background information, including the overview of some relative theories and previous research works, can be provided. In addition, it is important to provide the reader with the explanation of the significance of the work, and a hypothesis of the project. Mind that the introduction should be written in a future tense, third person, passive form, and avoiding bullets.
- Methods and Materials
Writing a lab report implies indicating the overall strategy used during the experiment to obtain the necessary data. The main purpose of this section is identifying the methods and equipment used to collect the data. The course of the experiment should also be described, including all the underlying procedures, so that the experienced reader could reproduce your experiment. The description is also designated to enable the knowledgeable reader to analyze the potential flaws of the experiment.
To sum up, this part of the paper is intended to provide the reader with the summary of the experimental strategy, and identification of the significant underlying aspects of the procedures and equipment.
- Experimental Procedure
This part should be explained as explicitly as possible, as it should enable another researcher to reproduce every step of the experiment as the author of the investigation conducted it. You are supposed to describe the whole process in chronological order, incorporating each step of the process into a separate paragraph. Ensure that the reader is provided with the information regarding the materials and methods used during the experiment so that they could repeat the experiment and obtain the comparable findings.
This section is devoted to the presentation of the findings in the form of tables, graphs, diagrams, and other relevant tools that can display the main results of the experiment, avoiding reams of raw numeric data. You are also required to describe the obtained results, analyzing the reason of their occurrence, pointing out the main tendencies, and comparing them with the expected results. Define whether the calculations and measurement make sense and in case they do not, indicate the possible problems that might have affected the results.
A lab report discussion is the most important part of the paper, as it demonstrates your in-depth understanding of the experiment. This section combines two main aspects: analysis and interpretation. With the help of these “tools” the main question “What is the significance of the findings?” of this part of the paper can be answered.
Besides, the discussion is subjected to the following strategies:
- Comparison of what was expected from the outcome
- Analysis of the experimental error, if any.
- Provide the reader with the explanation of the results in the context of the existing theory
- Link the findings to the initial purpose of the experiment
- Compare the findings with the outcomes of the similar research
- Discuss the strengths and limitations of your research design strategy
As for the experimental error, identify where it originates. Was it a result of the equipment failure? Was it inevitable or could it have been avoided easily? Give recommendation on the experiment strategy improvement if the flaws result from it.
A lab report conclusion should be introduced by the discussion of the purpose of the work and the results obtained in the course of the experiment. The findings should be summarized as evidence in relation to the initial hypothesis. The conclusion has much in common with an abstract but is more detailed.
The conclusion, as well as the abstract, contain quantitative results; at the same time, the description of the deductions made based on the data analysis are more detailed. This section also compares the predictions, which were made initially in the theory section, and the measurements or their implications. To cut the story short, this is the section where you should state what is known and justify the main statement.
The references section should be placed at the end of the entire paper, and include the comprehensive list of the sources used in the report. The formatting style of this part of work is usually determined by the instructor. The main recommendation is to follow the required format and to ensure that all the listed sources are properly cited, and the references coincide with the citations.
Steps to write a lab report on chemistry
Chemistry is a scientific field that studies the structure, properties, composition, and change of matter. It is very important in the context of other sciences, including geology, biology, and physics. The origin of chemistry roots back to the alchemy and this science still fascinates millions of people with its tricks, such as freezing water instantly, creating a cloud in a bottle, making lava, creating waterproof sand, or even creating a rainbow. When you conduct your own research, including experiments, it is important to record the outcomes and the whole process properly, so that it could be clearly reproduced, and the results could be easily checked and implemented if necessary.
Chemistry lab report should include:
The Abstract serves as a mini reproduction of the entire paper. It should start with the statement of purpose, then describe the experimental approach and the core experimental elements, proceed with indication and interpretation of the major results, and culminate with a conclusion. Support your conclusion with the main findings. Be specific and concise. Do not forget that the abstract goes right after the lab report cover page, and is followed by an introduction.
The main purpose of this section is to introduce the problem and explain why it is important to go about the chemistry project. The intro also describes the experimental approach implemented during the research.
This section includes a number of subsections, uses past tense and does not provide the results. To the subsections that were mentioned above belong:
Focus on the already existing theories that can be used to explain your results. This material will support the following subsection, namely data analysis. The theory should highlight only the relevant information, using only crucial elements.
Indicate the chemicals, reagents, and solutions used during the experiment. Define the materials and state where they come from, mentioning the supplier’s name and location.
If any piece of instrumentation was used during the research, name it, identify its type, key features, and manufacturer.
As it is important to create the lab report outline beforehand, it is recommended to outline your experiment(s) as well. The procedures part is dedicated to the description of what you did in a clear and concise manner, starting from giving an overview of the experiment(s), and developing the separate paragraphs devoted to each experiment or subsection afterward. More often, the procedures are described in a passive voice. As an alternative, you can choose active voice too. It is noteworthy that the procedures should be written in the past tense. However, it is not less important to be consistent and not mix different voices or tenses.
- Data Analysis
All calculations should be placed in this section. Here you can introduce all the key equations used for calculations. First, determine the equation, define the variables in it, and afterward, set the units of measure for all variables.
The data analysis section includes statistics as well. Here you are required to identify the tests you applied to the data to explain how you proved that the result was significant. Consequently, these tests may include unpaired or paired t-tests, linear regression analysis, one-tail or two-tail, analysis of variance, etc.
Normally, the experimental section comprises 2-4 pages (sometimes more if the background theory is required) and is followed by the introduction of the results of the experiment.
The results in a formal lab report on chemistry should be summarized on the basis of the data represented in the tables and figures. The key recommendation for this section would be to develop an organized layout that arranges the results consistently from simple to complex. If there is any data originating from someone else’s work, leave it in the discussion section. It is necessary to build your story in a logical fashion, describing what you did first and why next, and how it is reflected in the figure or the table. The results section may only consist of 1-2 pages of description.
This is the part where you reflect on the results of the work. First, you should restate the main problem and state the purpose of the research. Then, state what is important about the results, discuss their strengths and weaknesses and discuss the findings in terms of the already existing information in the literature. If the work is considerably new, you can focus on the possible contribution to the already existing knowledge. The discussion section can be concluded with the summary of the overall work, focusing on the main findings of it.
- Literature Cited (References)
Here all sources that were used throughout the paper should be listed in the appropriate formatting style. Make sure the references are properly cited.
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Category: Report writing