Anybody who claims to understand everything is a liar. This is a scientific fact. The purpose of science is to produce something… like a report… based on imperfect knowledge of an imperfect world. The purpose of a science report is to explain what went wrong. Therefore, there is a lot to say about bad results, which makes writing the lab report easier.
Not harder. If you are expecting a perfect result from a perfect laboratory experiment from a perfect human, you should probably do science on some other planet. Not even once. There are 23 steps to writing a lab report. So be it. You can still do all the other steps. The most important aspect of a science report is that it looks like a science report. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect science report.
Focus on what you can do. More than anything, science report writing is a style of writing. There are many styles of writing, and they all have their particularities. Style is about being consistent and being organized, not about following rules. Style, by its very definition, is something that you gain with practice. You will learn how to save time and effort by organizing things into paragraphs, sections, lists, bullets, tables, etc as you feel appropriate. You cannot possibly develop a science report style without writing that report.
Just do it! Once you follow the 23 steps to make your first good report, however, you can use it as a lab report template in the future. So you will never, ever have to truly start from scratch again after this. Writing your first science report is a once-per-lifetime experience that will benefit you for your entire lifetime. Dr Scott has professionally evaluated the opinions of over 7, students writing lab reports. Dr Scott was for some time stuck in his teaching due to these ununderstandable, bad, and strangley formatted opinions.
You might say that Dr Scott was overwhelmed by sarcasm, cynicism, anxiety, fear, disgust, sadness, annoyance, anger, rage, and temper tantrums regarding teaching about lab reports. Yet, he started with a blank piece of paper and produced the following 23 step guide found below. Use pen blue or black ink and blank computer paper or graph paper. If it needs to be typed up, do it by hand first then type it as a second draft.
Trust me on this. Name , Date , Purpose and Procedur e. Make a simple header including your Name , a Date , and a Title. Just pick a Date — it could be the date the experiment started, when the experiment ended sometimes it takes more than a day , or when the report was written. Pick a Title. The experiment might already have a name, because, for example, you read about it in a lab manual or saw a video on the internet. If not, make something up that relates to the Purpose comes after title.
Decide a formatting style— do you capitalize, underline, center, etc? Just pick a style for the Title and keep going. Create a section called Purpose or Goal. Decide the formatting style, like a colon : , underlined, centered vs left justified, etc. Just pick something, and remember to format all the below sections with the same style. Write the purpose or goal in probably 1 sentence. Keep it short. Create a section called Procedure.
Use the same formatting style. The writing comes later… List, bullet, or number the basic steps. You may include an equipment list, or the equipment can be explained in the steps. In addition to what you did, the Procedure should say what you measured. You could include a diagram or not. If you have some sort of teacher that gave you some sort of prelab assignment , do the prelab now.
The prelab generally would go after the Procedure , unless your teacher told you to put it somewhere else, such as at the end. The Super Important Data Table. The Data Table is the heart of the report. Make it at least twice as big as necessary. It should probably take up a whole, entire piece of paper. Make it big. Bigger… Yes a whole page big. I am not kidding.
Count exactly how many data measurements or observations you have. Decide how they can fit into a grid, and draw the grid with a ruler. Make it nice and straight, and, again, it should be really, really big. Even bigger!! Stop for a moment to reflect. Your Procedure talks about collecting data. Is there exactly one grid square for each measurement?
Do all the measurements fit in the Data Table grid? If not, you have a problem. Fix it before moving on. Determine Precision and Bias of Measurement Instruments. Be sure to always use a Metric instrument. Note how many decimal places it reads to. Be sure to always write the correct number of decimal places everywhere in the report, no matter what. As you perform the experiment, record your data in the Data Table.
Make sure to use the correct number of decimal places, and always put a unit like cm for centimeters after every single number. Always have a unit and the correct number of decimal places. Honestly, this is the main thing most teachers look for when grading lab reports. Again, take a moment to reflect.
Does it seem like all your collected data will fit cleanly into the Data Table? If not, stop and make a better Data Table. Got data? Probably you need to calculate something. Do it on scratch paper, not on the report. Get the math all worked out on the scratch paper. Got a result? Or skip this step. Selecting Sample Calculations for the Report.
For example, if you calculated the volume and surface area of 4 objects 8 calculations total , just write 2 calculations 1 surface area, 1 volume in your report. Decide which calculations to write… just pick and keep moving. Create a section called Sample Calculations. Write down one example of each type of calculation.
This is also where you would discuss any mistakes you might have made while conducting the investigation. You may wish to describe ways the study might have been improved. Most of the time the conclusion is a single paragraph that sums up what happened in the experiment, whether your hypothesis was accepted or rejected, and what this means. Graphs and figures must both be labeled with a descriptive title.
Label the axes on a graph, being sure to include units of measurement. The independent variable is on the X-axis, the dependent variable the one you are measuring is on the Y-axis. Be sure to refer to figures and graphs in the text of your report: the first figure is Figure 1, the second figure is Figure 2, etc.
If your research was based on someone else's work or if you cited facts that require documentation, then you should list these references. Share Flipboard Email. Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph. Chemistry Expert. Helmenstine holds a Ph. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter.
Updated February 03, Cite this Article Format. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph. How to Write a Lab Report. How to Write an Abstract for a Scientific Paper. Independent Variable Definition and Examples. Understanding Simple vs Controlled Experiments. Make a Science Fair Poster or Display. What Is an Experiment? Definition and Design. What Are the Elements of a Good Hypothesis?
The most important thing to remember when writing the abstract is to be brief and state only what is relevant. No extraneous information should be included. It also must be clear enough so someone who is unfamiliar with your experiment could understand why you did what you did, and the conclusions you reached, without needing to read the rest of the report. An abstract should be written last even though it appears as the first section in your report , as it summarises information from all the other sections of the report.
The method section is where you describe what you actually did. It includes the procedure that was followed. This should be a report of what you actually did, not just what was planned. A typical procedure usually includes:.
If any aspects of the experimental procedure were likely to contribute systematic error to the data and results, point this out in sufficient detail in this section. Your description of the experimental set-up should be sufficient to allow someone else to replicate the experiment themselves. When you carry out an experiment, you usually follow a set of instructions such as these, which may include extra information to guide you through the steps.
A burette was clamped to a retort stand and filled with standardised NaOH aq and the initial measurement was recorded. The conical flask was placed below the burette, on top of a piece of white paper. Five drops of universal indicator solution were added to the flask When writing up the procedure, you must report what was actually done and what actually happened, and omit any extra information such as helpful hints included in the instructions. Your goal for this section should be to include enough detail for someone else to replicate what you did and achieve a similar outcome.
You should also explain any modifications to the original process introduced during the experiment. While most science units require that you report in the passive voice , some require the active voice. In the example below, the first person is used e.
This is accepted in some disciplines, but not others. Check your unit information or talk to your unit coordinator. Read samples of student reports below and identify which examples are written in passive voice, and which use active voice. In this section, you present the main data collected during your experiment.
Each key measurement needs to be reported appropriately. Data are often presented in graphs, figures or tables. This section often also includes analysis of the raw data, such as calculations. In some disciplines the analysis is presented under its own heading, in others it is included in the results section. An analysis of the errors or uncertainties in the experiment is also usually included in this section. Most numerical data are presented using tables or graphs.
These need to be labelled appropriately to clearly indicate what is shown. Note that in Fig. For most experiments an error analysis is important, and errors should be included in tables and on graphs. Also, it is always best to draw figures yourself if you can. If you do use figures from another source, indicate in the citation whether you have modified it in any way. When showing calculations, it is usual to show the general equation, and one worked example.
Where a calculation is repeated many times, the additional detail is usually included in an appendix. Check the requirements given in your unit information or lab manual, or ask your tutor if you are unsure where to place calculations. In some schools, like Biology, calculations that are too detailed to go into the main body of the report can be added in an appendix. The purpose of such appendices is to present the data gathered and demonstrate the level of accuracy obtained.
A chromatogram was produced for the unknown compound U, and each of the known compounds, A-E. Rf values for each substance are listed in Table 1. As well as presenting the main findings of your experiment, it is important that you indicate how accurate your results are. This is usually done through determining the level of uncertainty. The sources of error that you need to consider will vary between experiments, but you will usually need to factor in both random and systematic errors.
Your error analysis should identify the main causes of uncertainty in your measurements, note any assumptions, and show how you have calculated any error bars. Check with your demonstrator, tutor or lecturer if you are unsure about how to determine uncertainties or whether error bars are required for your experiment. Your discussion section should demonstrate how well you understand what happened in the experiment. You should:. 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. It was expected that the leaves would show a far higher rate of decomposition in the shore zone, where there are more chances for sediments to rub against them. However the two zones show no significant difference in leaf breakdown, although these results are non-conclusive due to the limitations of this experiment.
The two zones of leaf decomposition were physically too close, and over the incubation period reeds were observed growing close to the limnetic zone. This may have negatively affected the accuracy of the results by reducing the differences in habitat at these sites, as seen in other experiments Jones et al.
The results also had large standard deviations, possibly due to these physical constraints or human error in weighing leaves. Further studies with more diverse zones and precise procedures should be undertaken in order to explore leaf decomposition and rates of energy transfer more effectively. 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. The conclusion section should provide a take-home message summing up what has been learned from the experiment:. In brief lab reports, the conclusion is presented at the end of the discussion, and does not have its own heading. Note that a conclusion should never introduce any new ideas or findings, only give a concise summary of those which have already been presented in the report.
Click again to hide the comment. It is quite possible that you may have in-text citations in your lab reports. Typically these will be included in the introduction to establish evidence of background for current theories or topics. Your discussion section will often include in-text citations, to show how your findings relate to those in the published literature, or to provide evidence-based suggestions or explanations for what you observed. When in-text citations are incorporated into your lab report, you must always have the full citations 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. Environmental Ecology Journal 75 , Energy Efficiency Reports. Report no. Many of your Science units will require you to write formal laboratory reports.
Review the components of the Science laboratory report. Select the report section that relates to the statement. Skip to content Skip to navigation. Approaches to assignments in your faculty Art, Design and Architecture Architecture assignment 1 Architecture assignment 2 Art History and Theory essay Art History essay Industrial design assignment Visual analysis Arts Reflective writing in Arts Literary Studies essays Principles for writing a Literary Studies Essay Steps for writing a Literary Studies essay Sample Literary Studies essay History essay Writing philosophy essays Writing an annotated bibliography Writing an essay Stand-alone literature review Oral presentation Poster presentation Business and Economics Sample Business and Economics reflective essay Questions Evaluate a reflective essay Sample Business and Economics essay The reference list Writing an annotated bibliography Stand-alone literature review Note taking and summary notes flow-chart.
What is academic integrity? How can I study with integrity? If the same calculation is repeated with different sets of data, you may show the steps of the calculation with the first set of data only. Explain what the slope of the line means if the graph is linear and tell how the variables are related to each other, i. If your graph is created in Graphical Analysis , copy and paste your graph into this section of the lab report.
If no graph is required, skip this section. Conclusion: Answer the purpose in this section. If the purpose of a lab is to find the density of aluminum, then tell what the experimental value for the density of aluminum is in this section. If the purpose is to observe physical and chemical changes, give examples of physical and chemical changes seen in the lab. This gives no new information. If you made a hypothesis, tell whether the data supported or refuted it.
Experimental Sources of Error: What procedure or equipment used in the lab could lead to error? Do not discuss human error because this is always present…after all, we are all human! How can the lab be improved so there will be less error? Questions: If questions are part of the lab, answer them here.
The answers do not have to be in complete sentences as long as you have included the question in this section. Primary Menu Support Got a Question? Search Search for:. Title: Always write the title of the lab as a heading at the top of the paper.