Labs and their accompanying reports are often a mandatory component to science courses in post secondary education. The lab report
serves many purposes; providing the step by step details of a particular experiment, conducting relevant literature reviews, interpreting research findings, and properly communicating what was learned from working through a particular experiment or lab. This last purpose is often the main one showcased in the conclusionary part of a report. Along with other key factors the conclusion should specifically detail the main benefits of the report, what was learned, and precisely connect it to the main purpose the experiment.
Writing the conclusion
The conclusion, along with the introduction, is often the most difficult piece to write, whether it be a lab report, research paper
or other document. This, in most cases, has to do with the uncertainty that comes with conclusion content. Questions may begin to surface; What should I say? Didn't I already cover what needs to be relayed? Why do I have to write a conclusion?
Though some aspects of the conclusion may seem repetitive, it's necessary to repeat many important points and concerns mentioned throughout the paper. Not only may your reader forget a lot of relevant issues by the time they reach the end of the paper, but also some readers may never even get through the entire paper (they may just skim the paper). Likewise a conclusion that goes back to the main objective or hypothesis provides some much needed closure to the assignment.
In scientific reports
the conclusion generally stands alone at the end of a report but may also be coupled with the discussion section as well. The discussion section differs from the analysis and evaluation sections in that it adds more than technical contributions to the report but also places the experiment in a real world context (by exploring what the specific findings mean and why they are important). This connects directly to the conclusion which generally touches on similar points. Therefore a fusion of the two is sometimes appropriate.
In addition to this, the general size and length of the conclusion will vary depending on the length and complexity of the report. An experiment with many variables that stretches over a considerable amount of time may require more attention in all sections than a smaller lab experiment that maybe took 2-3 hrs for example. Also a conclusion should match a paper in most respects; 'skimpy' or underdeveloped conclusions are discouraged. Often times this just shows laziness on part of the writer and cannot really be justified. For instance, if a lab report equals to three pages of text, its acceptable to offer a conclusion of about a page in length.
The contents of the conclusion
As stated previously many questions may arise at conclusion time. Its sometimes difficult for the writer to obtain a good balance between providing a provocative and engaging conclusion, but at the same time delivering relevant and important information without sounding cliche or overly dramatic. For scientific reports as well as other academic papers
a few general things should be included in any conclusion, they are as follows;
. A basic summary/synthesize of the information presented in the report
As your introduction works to summarize what you intended to show with your lab report, your conclusion should work to summarize what was accomplished as well as synthesize the information. Synthesizing is done by bringing all of the key issues together, to unify and make sense of them in one place. The main issues that need to be revisited in your paper are;
- research question, hypothesis, main goals and objectives
- methods used
This can be done briefly in about one paragraph (again depending on the length of your paper; for instance a lab report that is only 1 page of body can only withstand a couple sentences for this section).
Interpretation of results and findings
This section is particularly relevant for students as it involves explicitly stating what was gained from the experiment and and the concrete benefits derived from the results. Lab instructors, in most cases, are interested in finding out what you really learned throughout the entire experiment process, and the answer to questions such as; So what? And what does all this mean? Two very important questions that if answered properly will hopefully demonstrate your understanding and comprehension of the lab experiment. Likewise, you should also answer the question How does everything fit together? This is somewhat connected to the process of synthesizing mentioned earlier, but can also fit into interpretations as well (as the question may naturally come up when sharing what was learned).
Interesting points and discoveries
In many cases, in the process of research, students often stumble upon interesting side points or surprising outcomes while studying certain phenomena. These things may not be particularly connected to the objective and findings but are definitely significant enough to share in your report. Other researchers as well as instructors may find this information beneficial.
Problems, errors & adjustments for next time
Sometimes when conducting an experiment things may go wrong or interferences may occur that disrupt the process and therefore alter the results. These points are very important to note in your report. Especially if it is known that your information may be replicated by others. Knowing the errors and potential problems beforehand can better prepare the prospective researchers and ensure that he or she makes the appropriate adjustments. Similarly experimenters should also provide the reader with a few solutions to solve possible problems. In this way they are not only demonstrating critical thinking on the issue but also benefitting their fellow students and researchers.
Significance in the real world
This last section is often a good way to end a report. It brings a lot of closure to the topic and may leave the reader feeling satisfied with the material. Putting abstract concepts into real-life scenarios is an important part of truly understanding and comprehending concepts and ideas. In many cases if we can't relate what we learnt in a lab to the 'real world' (or at least acknowledge the usefulness of it in the real world) often times we really don't understand the process that took place and the findings that were uncovered. This above all other issues, is one of the most vital portions of the lab report conclusion.