How to Write a Lab Report:
An important component of science involves being able to communicate your methods, results, and ideas to others in a concise manner. Writing should also provide you and your readers with a more organized flow of information. Scientific writing should furthermore be direct and to the the point.
Components of a Lab Report:
The title should be descriptive and indicate what the lab report is about. It should include key words and indicate the nature of the investigation.
The introduction should be one or two paragraphs explaining the nature of the scientific investigation by filling in the reader to relevant information. Furthermore, the introduction should define why this investigation is being conducted, explain previous research/results pertaining to the topic, and in a single sentence state the hypothesis/predictions of the investigation. Do not start off a hypothesis statement by saying “I think that...”. Consider using, “It is predicted that....” or “It is hypothesized that...” to make your hypothesis statement.
Methods and Materials:
This section is a detailed narrative that describes your steps and materials used for the experiment. A person should be able to read this section and duplicate the experiment down to the materials that you used. It is usually helpful to write this section as you do the experiment step by step. If you are using a software program or someone elseʼs protocols you must correctly use in-text citations. This section should be meticulously detailed. Use past tense for your methods. Include sample calculations in this section.
Results should clearly state what occurred in the experiment. Don’t speculate why an event occurred instead report that in the discussion. Add tables and figures to illustrate data.
- Tables-Tables should be named in chronological order with a descriptive captions at the top of the page (eg. “Table 1”). The header rows of your tables must include units! The captions should be descriptive enough to describe your table without any other source.
- Figures-All figures should be named in chronological order with a caption below
the figure. If you have multiple parts of a figure you should refer to each part alphabetically (eg. “Figure 1a”). Your captions should also reflect this. The captions should be descriptive enough to describe your figure(s) without any other source. If you are presenting a scatter plot you should define each data point type/class in the description with words.
In this section, you should discuss and interpret the meaning of your results while linking back to your predictions/hypotheses. You should describe if your hypothesis is supported or not supported. Discuss potential sources of error in full. Do not simply state that there was “human error”. Describe if there are any strange or anomalous results. Additionally, you should compare your results to other published studies. Finally, discuss the findings and generate new questions for future studies.
Things To Avoid:
- Do not use “I” or refer to yourself by name.
- Do not state your opinion or make opinionated statements.
- Do not present raw data.
- Do not state your interpretation of the data in the results section.
- Do not scale your figures so that it distorts the information being presented.
- Do not limit your potential sources of error to one or several sentences.
It is important to cite your references properly. For this class you may use the MLA citation style or biological sciences CBE citation style. Please see https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/02/ for more info on the MLA style. http://www.citationmachine.net/ is also a good resource that automates MLA citations.
Sample Lab Reports: