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How to write a lab report

Last updated on April 23rd, 2018 at 05:16 am

Importance of lab reports

Taking up a science subject for your graduate degree may have been your dream. Learning and carrying out all those experiments in the laboratory is exciting and undemanding. But when it comes to writing good lab reports, most students are stumped. The procedures, the calculations, the expected accuracy of the work would make you sweat. But it is really not so difficult if you know the method. Here are a few tips on writing a lab report.

Submission of lab reports is a necessary part for all courses related to science and technology—engineering courses may require a considerable number of lab reports as part of their academic assignment submissions. What are some of the things you need to keep in mind when writing a lab report? Read on to find out more about these things and if you need any help with your Lab Report, you can order it right here.

What does writing a laboratory report entail?

A lab report or a scientific paper represents work done on a topic, which involves the use of experimental methods. This paper is very important as many discoveries are based on the evidence provided by such reports. The purpose of a lab report is simple: to document the results of an experiment and to communicate the findings in a way which is scientifically acceptable as well as understandable.

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Just like other assignments related to science, it has to be organized, objective and methodical; factual and evidence-based. Lab reports are a written presentation of the outcome of an experiment or a set of experiments carried out. It has to follow the standard format in this direction, which allows other scientists read through and get information at a glance. The lab report is a measure of the understanding, comprehension, and knowledge of the writer.

The objectives of writing a lab report

Basically, a lab report serves to fulfill the following objectives:

  • Summarises data collected in an experiment and presents it in a readable way
  • Present the interpretations of the data in a way which can persuade readers to take a stand on the findings: to accept it or reject it.
  • It is a contribution to the accumulation of knowledge and would be accepted until this work becomes superseded by a more advanced work
  • It is an effort to make a collection of all the work done so far in this area so that it can serve as a reference for future.

The parts of a lab report

The lab reports follow the organization of a scientific report. It shows the following parts: title page, abstract, introduction, methods, and materials, experimental procedures, results, discussions, and conclusions. Each part has a specific role to perform in the final document. So, when you are writing your lab report, ensure that each part of the report addresses the relevant information.

The title page is used to address the specific issue being addressed in the report. The title page usually includes references to the students’ name, course, and date. It should include a statement that mentions, in brief, the results of your experiments.

The Abstract is an important part of the report, as it gives a short summary of the work done in the report. This summary includes the purpose of the report, method, results, and conclusions as well as future directions. The Introduction will expand on the matter touching upon the context of the work and the rationale for conducting the experiment; the aim of the work and how the work is described in the report.

The next section is the Materials and Methods. This is a very important part of the paper. For your paper to be considered to be reliable, its methods and results should be repeatable. Hence, it is very important that the methodology should be accurately described in this section. The results should be simply an accounting of the results- the data obtained, trends seen, numbers etc. The results should also contain neatly organized tables of data as well as figures, graphs and other items of evidence such as photographs. All the data included in the results should be neatly labeled.

Many students think that it is okay to include the discussion in the results section—not so. The discussion part of the report is where students have to deliberate on the results they obtained. They will discuss the implications of the findings in the context of existing information. They will present the strengths and weaknesses of the study. They will shed light on what this study can lead to in the future. There has to be a connection established with the existing knowledge. Thus, the discussion part is about establishing relationships between the different concepts.

One common mistake which students do is to get confused about the tense in which to write the lab reports. Lab reports are written after the completion of an experiment and hence, have to be always written in the Past Tense.

Referencing for lab reports

Citations and references are necessary for all academic work including lab reports. The use of proper references and citations are necessary because it would demonstrate to the lecturer that you have carried out your research work very diligently. People will have more reliability on the work that you do. Other students can repeat your experiments and verify your results. Your work would be considered as a work of authority and credibility and can be used as a standard for future work.

All sources you use for your lab report need to be referenced and cited properly. These include textbooks, lab manuals, methodologies used, brochures of instruments used in your experiments, articles published in scientific journals, diagrams etc. Different formats for citation and referencing exists. Different academic fields usually have a preferred academic citation/reference format.

Chemistry reports, for instance, may be required to follow the citation/referencing protocol created by the American Chemical Society. Biology reports can follow that prescribed by journals such as Nature and many life science journals. But as there are many possible ways, it would be best to ask the lecturer as to what kind of referencing format is to be used, if it has not been recommended to you.

In case you are not recommended any style, you may have to use the referencing style followed by most practitioners in the field. Most of the referencing systems use either one of the following as the primary way of referencing: name and year system (Name, year); Alphabet-number system (numbering in terms of alphabetical order of references and placing the number in parenthesis next to the text)

If the report is related to a medical/scientific research work, then it would be advisable to follow the recommendations of the book “The Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for authors, editors and publishers” and National Library of Medicine recommended format for scientific publications, which is published by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Points to note when citing online sources

There is one important thing which students may need to take note of citations in the printed world and that in the online world may differ considerably. So, you have to use the citation style appropriate to the source you are retrieving your information. This is not a big issue as most of the known referencing protocols include styles for crediting online sources of information too.

Include as much information pertinent to each source you use. If it is a website, do not just add the URL as many times URLs are unreliable; they may disappear in a while. Try to find the original source of the article and cite that. The date of publication of the website page is also important as this shows how recent and relevant the information would be. Also, check who is the original source or author of the article and cite that person’s name. Many students may mistake the webmaster with the author of a website post. If there are no “individual names” given, please cite the name of the organization as the source.

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