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Write a Lab Report

How to Write a Lab Report

Oct 04, 2012 - Posted to  Writing in General
Lab reports are a daunting task for many, especially if you are writing it for the first time. There is no two ways about the fact that science reports require special skills on your part, as you need to follow a specific format; needless to mention, you also need to present and interpret data in a specific layout. If you want to come up with a decent lab report, then you must take some time to learn and employ an appropriate scientific style in your lab reports.
Irrespective of how your experiment, it is possible to write a decent laboratory report. To write a good lab report, you must follow the following:

Format

Your instructor is more likely to help you with a style and formatting guide that you need to follow down to a T. As you begin to organize your thoughts and data for the lab report and start writing simple and clear sentences, you will also get a clearer understanding of the scientific experiment.
However, if you have not being any specific format by your instructor, then you can follow the standard format given below:

Title and Author(s)

This page includes the title of the laboratory report as well as the author details.

Abstract

Since most scientific writing is dense, abstract plays a very significant role in writings such as lab reports, especially as it facilitates readers with a crisp and concise summary of the whole report, and thus rousing the interest of readers. For people or students who are looking for relevant material, going through the abstract helps them know if the lab report is relevant to their search or not. In simpler words, an abstract is a terse summary of the entire lab report and is about three to six sentences in length. In most laboratory reports, the abstract follows the page in which the title and the list of authors are printed. However, in some lab reports, you can also find the abstract immediately below the title and the list of authors of the lab report.
When it comes to the structure of the abstract, it simply follows the layout of the lab report, i.e. introduction, experimental design, analysis and conclusion. It is highly recommended that students write the abstract after completion of the main body of the lab report as abstract is more or less a summary of the whole report.

Introduction

More often than not, a reader goes through the introduction of a laboratory report to get more information on the motivation or the method of experiment. It must me mentioned here that the most important function of a lab report's introduction is to help the reader with information on the solution that is sought by the experiment. In addition, it should also help the reader with information on what makes this experiment interesting, and this can be done easily by facilitating readers with a succinct picture of your experiment's purpose as well as a broad survey of your approach. Almost always, a good introduction will also have a brief summary of the experimental method used by you.

Material and Methods (Experimental)

This section can further be divided into two sub-sections:
  • The Theory Section

    The theory section is very crucial to any lab report as it helps the readers with the technical background to the working of the experiment in hand. It also helps readers with the assumptions made as well as the relativity between the experiment and the science that is being studied. In case of very simple experiments where the correlation between the measurements and the theory are obvious, this section of the lab report can be very short or non-existent. On the contrary, if the experiment is quite complex in nature and if the measurements are discursively related to the results, then the theory section of the lab report needs to be written in an elaborate manner to facilitate better understanding. If there are any equations involved in your experiments, they need to be mentioned in this section of your lab report. It is also important that you display each equation in a separate line and that you number the equations appropriately in this section.
  • The Procedure Section

    Before starting with the writing of the procedure section, you must realize that the intention of this section is to convince the readers that you have conducted the experiment with utmost precision and expertise so that your readers take the results of your experiment seriously. First and foremost, the procedure section of your lab report must facilitate the readers with a schematic diagram of the experimental setup. It should also, very clearly, include a sketch and description of all the equipment that are used in the experiment. You should unfailingly mention all the measurements in an orderly manner. If you had to depart from the procedures mentioned in the lab manual at any stage of the experiment, then you should unfailingly mention it in the procedure section of your lab report; needless to mention, you should also mention the necessity to stray away from the stated procedures. The procedure section should also include the descriptions of all the steps that are taken to reduce experimental ambiguity.

Results or the Analysis Section

This section should ideally begin with the data, including linearized as well as Cartesian graphs used, if any. It should discuss the theoretical estimates in detail and should also mention any discrepancies in the theory. If there are linear graphs involved in your experiment, then this section should elaborate on the method that was employed to calculate the slope and the intercept. It should also mention all the calculations or quantities that are derived from the slope or intercept. The results section should discuss all the possible uncertainties, results as well as their implications.

Discussion

In the discussion section of your lab report, you should try to assess the results by taking all the problems and errors into account. It should answer all the crucial questions such as did the predicted hypothesis was supported by the experiment or not. This section should also compare the results of your experiment with the already published literature.

Conclusions and Recommendations

This section of your laboratory report should be a terse summary of all the conclusions that have been made during the course of your experiment and should also specify future recommendations, if any.

References (or Literature Cited)

Like in any other form of academic writing, you must give credit to the ideas of others in lab reports, as otherwise it will be considered as plagiarism. At the end of the report, you should give detailed information on any literature cited by you in the report. You should cite all the references in APA style. Authors should be mentioned in alphabetical order and the second and third lines should be indented.
If you want your lab report to be accurate and interesting, then you must prepare an outline of important points before you actually start the writing process. If done with dedication, your experiment and lab report may outlive you, and hence you should try and do an immaculate job on it.
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