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The Simple Lab Report
The simple report is generally only two to five pages long, and usually consists of the following:
Aims (or objectives)
The purpose of the experiment.
There may be one aim or several. For instrumentation-based practicals it is customary to mention the apparatus to be used. For example, the aim for a biochemistry practical which uses a spectrophotometer to determine serum protein levels might be written as "to determine protein levels in normal serum samples by spectrophotometry".
Method (or materials and methods)
How you carried out the experiment (and what reagents you used).
Normally, the method is given out as part of the practical notes and very rarely would you be required to rewrite it, although you may have to note any alterations. Some lecturers will be happy with a reference to the method, e.g. "see practical notes page xx - alterations noted" and others may require a photocopy of the method attached to the report (with any alterations noted).
What you found
This is the raw data and is best presented in the form of tables and graphs. Record your data in tables and use the tabulated data to do the graphs.
Record any data you have determined from the graph in a separate table. For example, if you are trying to determine protein levels by spectrophotometry, you would record all the spectrophotometry readings for your standards and samples in the first table, and use the standard readings to construct a graph of protein concentration versus absorbance readings (a standard curve). The concentration of the samples can then be worked out from the graph, and recorded in a separate table. If the amount of raw data is excessive, consider presenting it as an appendix.
An interpretation or summary (not a discussion) of your results
This is normally a brief statement (e.g. "the concentration of protein in serum sample xyz was found to be xx g/L, which is within the normal reference range"), or it may even be a tabulated summary of results. It should always reflect the question(s) posed in the Aim(s).
Sometimes the conclusion is not separate from the discussion, i.e. you may be asked to give a combined "conclusion/discussion".
Sometimes the conclusion may be required to go after the discussion, in which case it will not be a summary of the results but will be what you conclude based on your discussion. This type of conclusion will probably be about a paragraph in length.
What the results mean , whether they were as expected (and if not, why not), any problems with the practical etc. For example, a result outside the normal reference range could indicate one or more disease states, which should be mentioned.
It is usual to run a positive and negative control with any analysis as a way of making sure that the method worked. This would be in the form of a normal and an abnormal control of known value for a practical like the serum protein analysis. If these controls give results within their expected ranges you can generally assume that your sample result is valid. If not, this is a good indication that something went wrong, somewhere!
Sometimes the controls are past their expiry date, which means you have no way of knowing if your results are valid. If your results are not what you expected (as frequently happens in biochemistry practicals), don't panic — you can often score excellent marks by being able to explain what went wrong.
This is usually just a list of the sources you consulted for your discussion.
See next: The extended report
Engineering & science.
- Report writing
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- Simple lab report
- Extended lab report
- Honours thesis writing
- Case study report in (engineering)
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How To Write A Lab Report | Step-by-Step Guide & Examples
Published on May 20, 2021 by Pritha Bhandari . Revised on July 23, 2023.
A lab report conveys the aim, methods, results, and conclusions of a scientific experiment. The main purpose of a lab report is to demonstrate your understanding of the scientific method by performing and evaluating a hands-on lab experiment. This type of assignment is usually shorter than a research paper .
Lab reports are commonly used in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This article focuses on how to structure and write a lab report.
Table of contents
Structuring a lab report, introduction, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about lab reports.
The sections of a lab report can vary between scientific fields and course requirements, but they usually contain the purpose, methods, and findings of a lab experiment .
Each section of a lab report has its own purpose.
- Title: expresses the topic of your study
- Abstract : summarizes your research aims, methods, results, and conclusions
- Introduction: establishes the context needed to understand the topic
- Method: describes the materials and procedures used in the experiment
- Results: reports all descriptive and inferential statistical analyses
- Discussion: interprets and evaluates results and identifies limitations
- Conclusion: sums up the main findings of your experiment
- References: list of all sources cited using a specific style (e.g. APA )
- Appendices : contains lengthy materials, procedures, tables or figures
Although most lab reports contain these sections, some sections can be omitted or combined with others. For example, some lab reports contain a brief section on research aims instead of an introduction, and a separate conclusion is not always required.
If you’re not sure, it’s best to check your lab report requirements with your instructor.
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Your title provides the first impression of your lab report – effective titles communicate the topic and/or the findings of your study in specific terms.
Create a title that directly conveys the main focus or purpose of your study. It doesn’t need to be creative or thought-provoking, but it should be informative.
- The effects of varying nitrogen levels on tomato plant height.
- Testing the universality of the McGurk effect.
- Comparing the viscosity of common liquids found in kitchens.
An abstract condenses a lab report into a brief overview of about 150–300 words. It should provide readers with a compact version of the research aims, the methods and materials used, the main results, and the final conclusion.
Think of it as a way of giving readers a preview of your full lab report. Write the abstract last, in the past tense, after you’ve drafted all the other sections of your report, so you’ll be able to succinctly summarize each section.
To write a lab report abstract, use these guiding questions:
- What is the wider context of your study?
- What research question were you trying to answer?
- How did you perform the experiment?
- What did your results show?
- How did you interpret your results?
- What is the importance of your findings?
Nitrogen is a necessary nutrient for high quality plants. Tomatoes, one of the most consumed fruits worldwide, rely on nitrogen for healthy leaves and stems to grow fruit. This experiment tested whether nitrogen levels affected tomato plant height in a controlled setting. It was expected that higher levels of nitrogen fertilizer would yield taller tomato plants.
Levels of nitrogen fertilizer were varied between three groups of tomato plants. The control group did not receive any nitrogen fertilizer, while one experimental group received low levels of nitrogen fertilizer, and a second experimental group received high levels of nitrogen fertilizer. All plants were grown from seeds, and heights were measured 50 days into the experiment.
The effects of nitrogen levels on plant height were tested between groups using an ANOVA. The plants with the highest level of nitrogen fertilizer were the tallest, while the plants with low levels of nitrogen exceeded the control group plants in height. In line with expectations and previous findings, the effects of nitrogen levels on plant height were statistically significant. This study strengthens the importance of nitrogen for tomato plants.
Your lab report introduction should set the scene for your experiment. One way to write your introduction is with a funnel (an inverted triangle) structure:
- Start with the broad, general research topic
- Narrow your topic down your specific study focus
- End with a clear research question
Begin by providing background information on your research topic and explaining why it’s important in a broad real-world or theoretical context. Describe relevant previous research on your topic and note how your study may confirm it or expand it, or fill a gap in the research field.
This lab experiment builds on previous research from Haque, Paul, and Sarker (2011), who demonstrated that tomato plant yield increased at higher levels of nitrogen. However, the present research focuses on plant height as a growth indicator and uses a lab-controlled setting instead.
Next, go into detail on the theoretical basis for your study and describe any directly relevant laws or equations that you’ll be using. State your main research aims and expectations by outlining your hypotheses .
Based on the importance of nitrogen for tomato plants, the primary hypothesis was that the plants with the high levels of nitrogen would grow the tallest. The secondary hypothesis was that plants with low levels of nitrogen would grow taller than plants with no nitrogen.
Your introduction doesn’t need to be long, but you may need to organize it into a few paragraphs or with subheadings such as “Research Context” or “Research Aims.”
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A lab report Method section details the steps you took to gather and analyze data. Give enough detail so that others can follow or evaluate your procedures. Write this section in the past tense. If you need to include any long lists of procedural steps or materials, place them in the Appendices section but refer to them in the text here.
You should describe your experimental design, your subjects, materials, and specific procedures used for data collection and analysis.
Briefly note whether your experiment is a within-subjects or between-subjects design, and describe how your sample units were assigned to conditions if relevant.
A between-subjects design with three groups of tomato plants was used. The control group did not receive any nitrogen fertilizer. The first experimental group received a low level of nitrogen fertilizer, while the second experimental group received a high level of nitrogen fertilizer.
Describe human subjects in terms of demographic characteristics, and animal or plant subjects in terms of genetic background. Note the total number of subjects as well as the number of subjects per condition or per group. You should also state how you recruited subjects for your study.
List the equipment or materials you used to gather data and state the model names for any specialized equipment.
List of materials
35 Tomato seeds
15 plant pots (15 cm tall)
Light lamps (50,000 lux)
Describe your experimental settings and conditions in detail. You can provide labelled diagrams or images of the exact set-up necessary for experimental equipment. State how extraneous variables were controlled through restriction or by fixing them at a certain level (e.g., keeping the lab at room temperature).
Light levels were fixed throughout the experiment, and the plants were exposed to 12 hours of light a day. Temperature was restricted to between 23 and 25℃. The pH and carbon levels of the soil were also held constant throughout the experiment as these variables could influence plant height. The plants were grown in rooms free of insects or other pests, and they were spaced out adequately.
Your experimental procedure should describe the exact steps you took to gather data in chronological order. You’ll need to provide enough information so that someone else can replicate your procedure, but you should also be concise. Place detailed information in the appendices where appropriate.
In a lab experiment, you’ll often closely follow a lab manual to gather data. Some instructors will allow you to simply reference the manual and state whether you changed any steps based on practical considerations. Other instructors may want you to rewrite the lab manual procedures as complete sentences in coherent paragraphs, while noting any changes to the steps that you applied in practice.
If you’re performing extensive data analysis, be sure to state your planned analysis methods as well. This includes the types of tests you’ll perform and any programs or software you’ll use for calculations (if relevant).
First, tomato seeds were sown in wooden flats containing soil about 2 cm below the surface. Each seed was kept 3-5 cm apart. The flats were covered to keep the soil moist until germination. The seedlings were removed and transplanted to pots 8 days later, with a maximum of 2 plants to a pot. Each pot was watered once a day to keep the soil moist.
The nitrogen fertilizer treatment was applied to the plant pots 12 days after transplantation. The control group received no treatment, while the first experimental group received a low concentration, and the second experimental group received a high concentration. There were 5 pots in each group, and each plant pot was labelled to indicate the group the plants belonged to.
50 days after the start of the experiment, plant height was measured for all plants. A measuring tape was used to record the length of the plant from ground level to the top of the tallest leaf.
In your results section, you should report the results of any statistical analysis procedures that you undertook. You should clearly state how the results of statistical tests support or refute your initial hypotheses.
The main results to report include:
- any descriptive statistics
- statistical test results
- the significance of the test results
- estimates of standard error or confidence intervals
The mean heights of the plants in the control group, low nitrogen group, and high nitrogen groups were 20.3, 25.1, and 29.6 cm respectively. A one-way ANOVA was applied to calculate the effect of nitrogen fertilizer level on plant height. The results demonstrated statistically significant ( p = .03) height differences between groups.
Next, post-hoc tests were performed to assess the primary and secondary hypotheses. In support of the primary hypothesis, the high nitrogen group plants were significantly taller than the low nitrogen group and the control group plants. Similarly, the results supported the secondary hypothesis: the low nitrogen plants were taller than the control group plants.
These results can be reported in the text or in tables and figures. Use text for highlighting a few key results, but present large sets of numbers in tables, or show relationships between variables with graphs.
You should also include sample calculations in the Results section for complex experiments. For each sample calculation, provide a brief description of what it does and use clear symbols. Present your raw data in the Appendices section and refer to it to highlight any outliers or trends.
The Discussion section will help demonstrate your understanding of the experimental process and your critical thinking skills.
In this section, you can:
- Interpret your results
- Compare your findings with your expectations
- Identify any sources of experimental error
- Explain any unexpected results
- Suggest possible improvements for further studies
Interpreting your results involves clarifying how your results help you answer your main research question. Report whether your results support your hypotheses.
- Did you measure what you sought out to measure?
- Were your analysis procedures appropriate for this type of data?
Compare your findings with other research and explain any key differences in findings.
- Are your results in line with those from previous studies or your classmates’ results? Why or why not?
An effective Discussion section will also highlight the strengths and limitations of a study.
- Did you have high internal validity or reliability?
- How did you establish these aspects of your study?
When describing limitations, use specific examples. For example, if random error contributed substantially to the measurements in your study, state the particular sources of error (e.g., imprecise apparatus) and explain ways to improve them.
The results support the hypothesis that nitrogen levels affect plant height, with increasing levels producing taller plants. These statistically significant results are taken together with previous research to support the importance of nitrogen as a nutrient for tomato plant growth.
However, unlike previous studies, this study focused on plant height as an indicator of plant growth in the present experiment. Importantly, plant height may not always reflect plant health or fruit yield, so measuring other indicators would have strengthened the study findings.
Another limitation of the study is the plant height measurement technique, as the measuring tape was not suitable for plants with extreme curvature. Future studies may focus on measuring plant height in different ways.
The main strengths of this study were the controls for extraneous variables, such as pH and carbon levels of the soil. All other factors that could affect plant height were tightly controlled to isolate the effects of nitrogen levels, resulting in high internal validity for this study.
Your conclusion should be the final section of your lab report. Here, you’ll summarize the findings of your experiment, with a brief overview of the strengths and limitations, and implications of your study for further research.
Some lab reports may omit a Conclusion section because it overlaps with the Discussion section, but you should check with your instructor before doing so.
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A lab report conveys the aim, methods, results, and conclusions of a scientific experiment . Lab reports are commonly assigned in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
The purpose of a lab report is to demonstrate your understanding of the scientific method with a hands-on lab experiment. Course instructors will often provide you with an experimental design and procedure. Your task is to write up how you actually performed the experiment and evaluate the outcome.
In contrast, a research paper requires you to independently develop an original argument. It involves more in-depth research and interpretation of sources and data.
A lab report is usually shorter than a research paper.
The sections of a lab report can vary between scientific fields and course requirements, but it usually contains the following:
- Abstract: summarizes your research aims, methods, results, and conclusions
- References: list of all sources cited using a specific style (e.g. APA)
- Appendices: contains lengthy materials, procedures, tables or figures
The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.
In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.
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How to Write a Lab Report
How to do a lab report – the first things you should know.
Lab report is a document that describes how an experiment was done, what the person experimenting learned from it and most importantly, what the results meant. It should be concise and straight to the point. It is also important to note that, since a report explains what is already done, it should be written in past tense.
Lab report format – simple explanation
The first thing that you should pay attention to when you learn how to write a lab report is that all these reports are written in a specific format college students should adhere to. It essentially includes some components including title page, introduction, aims or objectives of the experiment, materials, procedure, results, discussion and references. Its components are discussed below:
Parts of a report you should never leave out!
In this lab report section, you should include: the title of the experiment, your name or the names of the group members (if the experiment was done in a group), your instructor’s name and the date the report was submitted. You may also include the date the experiment was performed, the name of the institution and your student identification number or registration number if necessary. This should be written on a separate page.
This section gives a summary of the whole experiment with a major emphasis on the purpose of experimenting, the major findings or results and a clear and concise conclusion of the experiment. You may also include a brief explanation of the methodology used in conducting the experiment and also the references.
This mainly focuses on explaining what the laboratory experiment aims at finding out. It is prudent that you explain what you understand about the problem rather than copying what is written I the manual. This part should also be clear and not more than a paragraph.
- Aims or objectives
Entails what you hope to achieve from the experiment. The objectives should be by the introduction and abstract and be written down in point form. When writing down the objectives, remember to use the past tense since the experiment has already been done.
Example: Correct – The objective of this experiment was to identify the bacterial strains that utilize lactose. (Written in past tense)
Incorrect – The objective of this experiment is to identify is to identify the bacterial strains that utilize lactose. (Written in present tense)
Here, you list down all the materials used to experiment. It is important to note that only the used materials are listed down hence do not include unnecessary items on the list.
- Methodology or procedure
This lab report section describes the step by step procedure followed when experimenting. The procedure is written down in point form starting from the first to the last in a systematic order of how the events were accomplished in the laboratory. In this section, you should be careful not to skip any action or to mix up the events such that the person reading through the methodology is not able to comprehend the flow of events followed when performing the experiment.
It is also paramount for you to use the past tense and avoid the use of articles such as I (where the experiment was done individually) and we (where it was done as a group). You should also be careful not to include unnecessary details that lead to the report being bulky and in turn, may cause the instructor or reader to lose interest in going through the report.
Example: Correct – Added 5ml of potassium hydroxide to the solution then stirred gently for five minutes.
Incorrect – Add 5ml of potassium hydroxide to the solution and stir gently for five minutes or I/ we added 5ml of potassium hydroxide to the solution and stirred gently for five minutes.
- Results or observations
Results obtained differ according to the type of experiment done hence may be recorded as prose text (especially when describing qualitative results such as color, texture, smell and others that can easily be identified using the five senses), a graph, a table or just in figures. Such data has to be captured exactly how it was obtained from the experiment. Moreover, it is important to consider the rules of putting down the results such guidelines on how to plot a graph. The results have to be clear, simple and easy to interpret.
This is the part of the lab report that should be bulky and lengthy. In this section, you should express your idea and what you learned from the laboratory experiment and link up all the parts of the practical especially the introduction, objectives, and results. The discussion should be detailed enough that anyone who reads the report will get a vivid idea of exactly what the experiment was all about.
You may also include the challenges or limitations and errors in the experiment which help to prove may be why you did not achieve the objectives of the experiment. A good discussion portrays a clear understanding of the practical hence may earn you more points.
In this part, you state what you know about the experiment or what you have learned from the lab practical. It should be just a summary of one or two sentences and should be understandable.
This is the last part of the lab report which contains the details of the laboratory manual and other sources you have read from or gotten information from regarding the lab practical. The sources may be books, journals, manuals or manuscripts. There are many ways of putting down the reference depending on the writing style you are using hence it is important to follow the guidelines when writing the reference.
However, regardless of the style used, make sure to include: the title of the source, names of the authors, date or year of publication, the source’s edition (especially where it is a book) and the page you have cited or read. The references should be listed and numbered.
Lab report templates and their use
It is good to go through report templates as it gives you ideas on how to arrange the different parts of the document contents. The template acts as a guide on your writing this kind of report. Before beginning your writing, it is good to go through a template.
Examples of a clear and concise formal report template can be found here:
You may also search the Internet and go through report templates of your particular subject. Remember that not only making a proper experiment, but also following correct structure and format is important for getting a good grade.
Lab report examples and how they can benefit you
By going through samples you get to enhance your ability and skills in writing. You will be able to understand where you usually make errors and get to correct the errors when it comes to your work.
You can find some samples here:
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Writing a Lab Report
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The laboratory allows us to gain hands-on experience in experimenting with scientific methods and concepts that we have already studied in the book and discussed in lectures. The lab report is an essential element of laboratory work. In science, we use lab reports to document our experiments and experiences in the laboratory. In fact, this type of scientific paper is just as important as the experiment itself and must be written so that we can communicate our procedures and outcomes for each experiment to other scientists. Therefore, every time that we write a lab report we are practicing our ability to communicate with others in the scientific field.
This paper will help you learn how to write your lab reports according to standard scientific protocol. A scientific paper (such as a lab report) has to be written in a way that is conventional in scientific journals, and in our class, we will practice writing as if we were writing for one of these journals.
Five Main Sections
Our lap reports will have five main sections: laboratory, objective, materials, procedure/data, and conclusions.
This section of your lab report gives a brief and concise description of the experiment. Usually, this will be the title that our Laboratory Manual already provides for the experiment.
The objective is a statement of intent or purpose of the experiment. It answers one of two main questions: What do you want to demonstrate in this experiment? What do you hope to learn from this experiment?
This section describes the actual materials that you used for your experiment. It need not be very long, but you should try to be as inclusive as possible.
The purpose of this section is to present the data you obtained in your experiment and to answer the lab questions. Often, to make the data more clear you will cast it in the form of a table or figures. This section may also include diagrams, charts, flowcharts or pictures.
This is the most important section of your report and will require the most thought and creativity. You will explain your results by making a verbal comparison between your actual results and those that you expected (according to previously published results or your textbook). If something goes wrong with the experiment you should mention it here and explain in detail why it went wrong.
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Science: Lab report
What is a science lab report.
A science lab report is a structured way of communicating the outcomes of your practical work.
The structure of a typical lab report includes the following sections:
- Aim and Hypothesis - Why you conducted the practical work.
- Method - How you conducted the practical work and how any data processed.
- Results - What was the data, process or product obtained from the practical work.
- Discussion - How your results addressed your aim and hypothesis.
- Conclusion - What was the overall outcome of your practical work and how do your finding relate to the larger body of scientific knowledge.
You can apply the common report writing techniques outlined below, after always checking the specific details of your assignment.
Top tips for science lab reports View
Lab report structure.
The title describes the purpose of the practical work in precise terms.
The majority of your practical work will involve measurements, observations or the creation of some object of interest. For example: The Period of a Simple Pendulum
It is clear from the above lab report title that it describes the measurement of a property called a ‘period’, and the object of interest is a ‘simple pendulum’.
Check your understanding View
The abstract provides a brief overview of the practical work, including key results and conclusions.
Keep your abstract short, i.e. about one paragraph or 250 to 500 words. It must be clear enough that the reader can understand a summary of the report without needing to read the rest of it.
In general, the abstract should answer six questions. Addressing each question only requires one to two sentences:
- Why was the experiment conducted? (big-picture/real-world view).
- What specific problem/research question was being addressed?
- What methods were used to solve the problem/answer the question?
- What results were obtained?
- What do these results mean?
- How do the results answer the overall question or improve our understanding of the problem?
Shorter lab reports may not require an abstract, so check your guidelines first.
The introduction is where you introduce the reader to the broader context of your practical work and then narrow down to the hypothesis, aims or research question you intend to address.
You should also succinctly explain relevant theory and discuss any relevant laws, equations or theorems.
The method section is where you describe what you actually did during the practical work. You need to describe the actions you took in a way that someone from your field has enough information to replicate the process and achieve a similar result.
You must also include any unplanned changes to the original process which occurred during the execution of the experiment. A great way to keep track of this is to use a lab notebook during the practical work to note any change you make.
Turn lab instructions into a lab report method
A common mistake students make is copying the instructions their teachers provide directly into their method section. You will generally be provided with a set of instructions to complete your practical work. These instructions are NOT written in the style of a laboratory report. A typical set of instructions usually includes:
- How the apparatus and equipment were set up (e.g. experimental set-up), usually including a diagram.
- A list of materials used.
- Steps used to collect the data.
- Any experimental difficulties encountered and how they were resolved or worked around.
Below is an example of the instructions provided to a student to carry out a first year chemistry experiment.
Phrases are used here to specifically instruct the student who may be performing the technique for the first time. This is different from a lab report where you are reporting on what you did. For example, the instructions say:
- 'use a clear pipette…'
- 'rinse the burette…'
- 'remember to take the reading from the centre of the meniscus…'
These are not appropriate phrases to include in the lab report.
Also note that the language of the instructions is in the present tense in bullet points. The method section of your report should instead be written in the past tense as a cohesive paragraph.
However, there are ways you can change the language of the instructions to write your method section.
Below is an example of how these lab instructions were summarised into a method in a laboratory report:
Lab report: method
25ml of HCl(aq) was pipetted into a 100ml conical flask. A burette was then filled with standardised NaOH(aq). A sheet of white paper was placed under the burette. The conical flask was placed onto the white paper and five drops of universal indicator was added to the flask. The standardised NaOH(aq) was titrated into the flask with constant swirling until there was an observable colour change.
How to change lab instructions into a lab method
How to use a passive voice in lab reports.
While most science units require that you report in the passive voice , some require the active voice . In the example below, the first person plural is used in the active voice, i.e. "we initiated". Usage of the active voice is accepted in some disciplines, but not others. Check your unit information or talk to your teacher.
While in science the passive voice is generally preferred, some disciplines may allow or prefer the active voice. Read samples of student reports below and identify which examples are written in passive voice, and which use active voice.
The results section is where you present a summary of the data collected during your experiments. This section is not just a copy of the raw data from your lab notebook. Rather, it may involve calculation, analysis and the drawing up of tables and figures to present your data.
When you take your raw data and perform some sort of mathematical operation to change it, it is good practice to show the equations you used in your analysis, as well as one worked example using each equation. Calculations that are very long or repeated multiple times are usually included in an appendix (see below).
In some disciplines, if formulae are used, it is common to number them as equations:
Error analysis is a type of calculation that indicates the accuracy of your results, usually done by determining the level of uncertainty. The sources of error that you need to consider will vary between experiments and disciplines, but you will usually need to factor in both random and systematic errors.
Any analysis and calculations of the errors or uncertainties in the experiment are included in the results section unless otherwise specified. In some disciplines the analysis and uncertainty calculations are presented under their own heading. Check the requirements given in your unit information or lab manual, or ask your tutor if you are unsure where to place calculations
Tables and figures
Most numerical data are presented using tables or figures. These need to be clearly labelled following the standard conventions for captions, and titles must tell the reader precisely what data is being presented.
If a measurement is stated in the title, in a column of a table or on the axis of a graph and it has units associated with it, these must be included (usually in brackets).
The table below presents a series of measurements collected during an experiment. Notice the units in every column with the brackets. Some measurements such as pH or C p do not have units.
The figure below is a graphical representation of aerodynamic measurements. Notice the axes are labelled with appropriate units and the caption at the bottom of the figure clearly describes what the figure is about.
Figures can also be a wide variety of images. The figure below is an image taken from a type of molecular microscope. Notice the caption at the bottom of the figure clearly describing the figure and the specification of the magnification of the microscope.
If you must use figures from another source, indicate in the citation whether you have modified it in any way to avoid collusion or plagiarism .
The discussion section is where you interpret and evaluate your results. To do this you need to summarise your key results, summarise unexpected results, and explain how your results relate to your aims, hypotheses or literature as stated at the start of the report. Here are some tips on writing discussion sections:
Identify and describe any trends or patterns you have observed. If these are numerical trends, state the values. Avoid using unspecific words such as ‘higher, lower, increased, decreased’, which can make the information vague.
Compare the experimental results with any predictions you made.
Interpret what the results mean in relation to the aims, research question(s) or hypothesis.
Describe any results which were unexpected or didn’t match your predictions.
Suggest explanations for unexpected results based on the theory and procedures of the experiment.
Evaluate how any sources of error might impact on the interpretation of your results in relation to the aims, research question(s) or hypothesis.
- State the limitations of the study and link to literature
Clarify how the limitations of the study might affect the accuracy and precision of the answers to your aim, research question or hypothesis.
Suggest how the experiment or analysis could have been improved. A longer report may require support from the academic literature.
Explain how your results do or do not address your aim, research question or hypothesis, and indicate future directions for the research.
The discussion example below is from a first-year Biology unit. The aim of this experiment was to identify decomposition rates of leaf breakdown to establish rates of energy transfer.
Drag each description of each component of the Discussion section to its example. Notice the order in which the components make up a coherent Discussion section.
Students often make the mistake of thinking a conclusion section is identical to a discussion section.
The conclusion section is where you summarise your report. A conclusion is usually one paragraph or 200 to 300 words. In this way a conclusion is very similar to an abstract, but with more emphasis on the results and discussion.
A conclusion never introduces any new ideas or results. Rather, it provides a concise summary of those which have already been presented in the report. When writing a conclusion you should:
- briefly restate the purpose of the experiment (i.e. the question it was seeking to answer)
- identify the main findings (i.e. the answer to the research question)
- note the main limitations that are relevant to the interpretation of the results
- summarise what the experiment has contributed to the broader understanding of the problem.
Conclusion example with feedback
When in-text citations are incorporated into your lab report (typically in the introduction or discussion) you must always have the full references included in a separate reference list. The reference list is a separate section that comes after your conclusion (and before any appendices). Check your lab manual or unit information to determine which referencing style is preferred. Carefully follow that referencing style for your in-text references and reference list. You can find examples and information about common referencing styles in the Citing and referencing Library guide . The following is an example of a reference list based on the in-text citations used in the Introduction and Conclusion sections in this tutorial. This example has been formatted in accordance with the CSIRO referencing style .
Jones T, Smith K, Nguyen P, di Alberto P (2017) Effects of habitat overlap on population sampling. Environmental Ecology Journal 75 , 23-29. doi: 10.5432/1111.23
Tian M, Castillo TL (2016) Solar heating uptake in Australia: rates, causes and effects. Energy Efficiency Reports. Report no. 10, The Department of Sustainability and Environment, Canberra.
An appendix (plural = appendices) contains material that is too detailed to include in the main report, such as tables of raw data or detailed calculations.
Each appendix must be:
- given a number (or letter) and title
- referred to by number (or letter) at the relevant point in the text.
The calculated values are shown in Table 3 below. For detailed calculations, see Appendix 1.
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- Phoenix College
Lab Report Writing
- Lab Report Format
- Lab Report Style
Test Yourself (Lab Report Title)
- Materials and Methods
One really nice thing about writing lab reports is that they almost always follow a very specific format, so there's no question about what information goes first, second, third, etc. Lab reports generally have seven main parts:
- Discussion or Conclusion
- References or Works Cited
Title The title is a brief summary of the main ideas in the paper. It should be between 5 and 12 words long. If you studied a particular species in your experiment, make sure you include that in the title. If the study was a field study done in a specific location, that should also be mentioned. The title should have enough details that any person could read it and know just what the study was about. But you don't need too many details, since you'll be talking about them in the paper itself. For example, a study on the numbers of bird species found in Phoenix parks might be called "Species of birds in Phoenix city parks." It's very simple and to the point.
Imagine you did an experiment in which you grew five different groups of rose bushes, and each group received a different amount of fertilizer. Which of the following would be the best title for this lab report?
a. The effect of fertilizer on the growth of rose bushes. b. Rose bushes with large amount of fertilizer grow better than rose bushes with small amount of fertilizer. c. Plants and fertilizer.
A This title is short and to the point, with just the right amount of detail.
Click on the question, to see the answer.
The abstract is a short summary of the main ideas found in the lab report. It should include 1) the purpose of the study or the question being addressed by the study, 2) the procedures used in the study, 3) the major results of the study, and 4) any conclusions drawn by the author(s). The abstract should generally be between 100 and 200 words in length.
Over the past few decades, land-use and climate change have led to substantial range contractions and species extinctions. <Purpose of Study. Even more dramatic changes to global land cover are projected for this century. This study used the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment scenarios to evaluate the exposure of all 8,750 land bird species to projected land-cover changes due to climate and land-use change . <Procedures used in study. For this first baseline assessment, the authors assumed stationary geographic ranges that may overestimate actual losses in geographic range. Even under environmentally benign scenarios, at least 400 species are projected to suffer >50% range reductions by the year 2050 (over 900 by the year 2100). Although expected climate change effects at high latitudes are significant, species most at risk are predominately narrow-ranged and endemic to the tropics, where projected range contractions are driven by anthropogenic land conversions . <Results of Study. Most of these species are currently not recognized as imperiled. The causes, magnitudes, and geographic patterns of potential range loss vary across socioeconomic scenarios, but all scenarios (even the most environmentally benign ones) result in large declines of many species. Whereas climate change will severely affect biodiversity, in near future, land-use change in tropical countries may lead to yet greater species loss. A vastly expanded reserve network in the tropics, coupled with more ambitious goals to reduce climate change, will be needed to minimize global extinctions . <Conclusion that authors have drawn.
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