If you are a student, a researcher or an employee working in a lab environment, knowledge of writing a great lab report is important. Therefore, you need to know the structure and details that should be included.
This article explains the exact steps of doing so.
WHAT IS A LAB REPORT?
A lab report is an explanation of an experiment, the process used in doing it, the results, inferences and conclusions.
GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR WRITING LAB REPORTS
The best way to write a lab report is by following the basics such as:
Lab report structure
Instructions from the supervisor
Normal grammar and sentence structure
Lab Report Essentials
A lab report typically has the following sections: title page, introduction, materials, methods, results, discussion, conclusion and references.
The Title Page/ Cover page
A lab report should have a cover page.
The title page should contain your name and the names of any lab partners, the title of the lab report and other details such as the date, name of supervisor or professor and the name of university depending on the citation style used. The citation styles may be APA, MLA, Harvard, Turabian, Chicago, Oxford, Vancouver, etc.
It is always good to stick to one citation style as instructed by the supervisor from the beginning to the end.
The title of the lab report is important because it summarizes what you did in a few words.
The title should be brief, normally less than twenty words.
It should describe the experiment or investigation.
For instance, a lab report title would be written as “Effects of Infrared on the Opening and Closing of Stomata or Determining the Oxidizing Properties of Potassium Permanganate”. Note that the title starts with the keyword. There is no use of the article “a “or “the”.
Introduction and Purpose
The introduction section of a lab report contains a brief background of the study, objectives, hypotheses and purpose of the lab.
The background provides an overview of the topic under which the experiment falls.
Lab report objectives are the goals that you aim to achieve. The word is used interchangeably with the purpose.
The hypotheses are statements indicating the expectations of the experiment. They are normally written before the experiment starts and may be accepted or rejected after the actual experiment in the discussion section.
The materials section provides a list of all things used in carrying out the experiment.
You should describe all steps taken from the start to the end of the experiment.
The procedure should be detailed enough so that anybody can duplicate your experiment.
The write-up should be in simple language such that an elementary student or anybody who knows nothing about your experiment can understand.
Data and Results
Data entails everything observed, heard or recorded during the experiment.
Numerical data that is obtained from the experiment is normally stored in spreadsheets, tables or fed directly to computers or other digital devices.
It is wrong to present a long list of tables as part of the results without describing anything.
You should briefly describe what the data is all about and provide references to the tables or graphs.
Discussion or Analysis
While the results section contains numbers and tables without deeper explanations, the discussion section contains the calculations and interpretations made from the results.
You should discuss whether the experiment supported your hypothesis and what that means.
Be sure to support the research findings by comparing with previous research findings as cited in the background information.
Any assumptions, errors and alterations made to the experiment should also be articulated in this section.
A sentence or two on ways of improving the experiment and areas of further research can spice up your discussion.
The conclusion is normally a single paragraph which summarizes the experiment, hypothesis and the implication of the findings. It does not introduce anything new.
This is where you wrap up your lab report by presenting a summary of the experiment’s findings.
Figures and Graphs
All figures and tables used in the report should be labelled.
All graphs and figures should have a descriptive caption.
You must label the vertical and horizontal axes of graphs appropriately.
The dependent and the independent variables should be plotted on the Y-axis and the X-axis respectively.
Depending on the instructions, you may have a separate page for all figures and reference them in-text.
You should cite all external resources used including the lab manual, textbooks, journals, etc. that were used.
All references should be provided in the citation style used throughout the report.
Editing and proofreading
After writing the lab report, it is always good practice to leave it for some time and come back for editing and proofreading.
This will help you remove errors and grammatical errors before submitting it.
Happy lab report writing!