Lab reports are written primarily by students with their instructors as their audience. These reports are written after students have completed experiments that are frequently repeated.
Organization of the Lab Report:
- Title page: This should include the author’s name, the title of the experiment, the date it was performed, the date of submission, the name of the instructor, the course number, and a brief title (less than 10-12 words).
- Abstract: This is a comprehensive, yet brief summary of the report. It includes what was being studied and what results were found. This section should not contain any citations, as it pertains to your results. In addition, it does not include your interpretation. This is usually the last section written by the student.
- Introduction: This section focuses on the problem being studied, the reason for studying it, and the strategy of research used. The student may reference relevant scholarly research (and include quotations from sources) in order to provide context for the report. The introduction should also include a one-sentence hypothesis or purpose statement; however, the author should not anticipate the results.
- Materials and Methods: This section describes the materials and equipment used and how the experiment was physically set up. This section should include a step-by-step description so that the experiment is easy to understand and replicate in the future. For example, details might include the duration and temperature of a water bath. The experimental design should also be described, with treatments, controls, and statistical tests and analyses.
- Results: Here, the author should state the findings of the experiment. This includes verbal descriptions, data, graphics, and statistical analysis. The units are critical to mention for each of the values described. Graphs are always to be placed in chronological order of labeling, such as figure 4 after figure 3, and they should include clear captions and titles.
- Discussion: In this section, the author analyzes and interprets the results from the experiment and comments on their significance. The author should begin by discussing the most important result and whether the hypothesis was true or false. Then, the author should mention how the findings fit into the larger scientific conversation. The writer should end on a strong note, emphasizing the importance of the results.
- Conclusion: Here, the writer should briefly state his or her conclusions. This section can also be added to the end of the discussion.
- References: Every non-original statement should include a citation in order to avoid plagiarism. Citations should be formatted in the style requested by the professor, as each discipline has its own conventions.
- Attachments/Appendices: Calculations, raw data, and additional images are to be added in this section.
- Be specific: Use precise scientific terms, include details of calculations, and describe irregularities that could affect your results. Define unusual terms the first time they are mentioned in your work.
- Write to your audience:Your work should be able to be repeated based on the instructions you provide in order to achieve the same results.
“A Comparison of the Scientific Article and the Lab Report” LabWrite Project (2000), NC State University, 2 July 2018, https://labwrite.ncsu.edu/instructors/comparison.pdf.
Northey, M., & McKibbin, J. Making Sense: A Student’s guide to Research and Writing,2nd ed., Oxford UP, 2015.
Roldan, L., & Pardu, M. Writing in Biology: A Brief Guide, Oxford UP, 2016.
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