How to Write a Lab Report
Whether you’re planning to pursue a career in the sciences or you need to simply take one of two science classes to fulfill your science requirement for your undergraduate degree, you’ll likely have to write lab reports during the course of your college career. Wondering how to write a lab report in college? They can be a bit different than how to write a lab report for a high school science class. So what’s the difference in how to write a lab report for a college professor? We’ve got some good recommendations on how to write a lab report to earn an A.
Here are the basics. First, this assignment may also be referred to as a scientific report. These reports convey the process and the results of a conducted experiment. The purpose of a lab report is to outline what tools were used, what process the scientist used to conduct an experiment, as well as all results found throughout this process. It should be extremely detailed; every detail should be accounted for to allow another scientist to conduct the same experiment and compare any results. A well-written report will not only have details but also have quantities of any measurable items. The final aspect of this report discusses the relevance of the data collected. Scientists interpret the data and add it to the larger base of scientific knowledge. While undergraduate students will likely not be conducting ground-breaking research, the practice of writing this kind of report is useful to all students. It strengthens the skills of logical organization, attention to detail, and critical thinking.
Lab Report Outline
Wondering how to write a lab report? Start with an outline. Most assignments of this nature follow a basic outline. Every report outline should follow a general format which includes the following:
- An introduction
- Methods and materials
Lab Report Format
Once you’ve conducted the experiment and have the results, it’s time to complete the lab report format. Not sure how to write a lab report? Here’s the most common sections broken down into more manageable aspects:
IntroductionThis section should be one or two concise paragraphs introducing the experiment as well as discussing its relevance. It is also appropriate to discuss previous research and its outcomes as it relates to your experiment.
HypothesisA hypothesis is a testable idea and the basis for the experiment. It should clearly state what the experiment is designed to figure out.
Methods and MaterialsThis section should discuss how the researcher tested the hypothesis. It should provide a list of every single tool used in the experiment as well as quantities of liquids if applicable. Beyond the materials, it should additionally discuss the method, or approach, used to conduct the experiment and why this particular method was the best approach.
ResultsThe results section is short and to the point. It should provide only raw data ascertain during the experiment. This section is often completed in a visual format should as a table or a graph.
DiscussionWhile the results section provides raw data, the discussion section exists to interpret this data in context. It should explore whether or not the data collected supports or refutes the stated hypothesis, as well as the relevancy of the data. This is also the appropriate section to discuss any limitations of the conducted experiment as well as how this information can be used in the scientific and great community.
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How to Write an Abstract for a Lab Report
The final aspect of this report is the abstract. This part should be the last thing written before handing in the lab report. An abstract should summarize the key points of the experiment and highlight all the important aspects for the reader. It can be one paragraph or two pages (or more) depending upon the nature of the experiment being discussed.
Sample Lab Report
The internet is a great resource for finding a sample lab report to review before you begin to write your own. Sometimes all you need is a great example to help you figure out how to get started and create a great lab report on your own. These three sample lab reports show how to write both a standard and a descriptive lab reports. These samples focus exclusively on biology related lab reports. It’s likely that the course professor will have examples of well written lab reports from previous students; try asking to see a good example! Additionally, your campus writing center likely has some on file as well. Need report writing help? There’s lots of resources out there to help you create an amazing lab report!
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Remember: as with any writing assignment, it’s important to remember that writing is a process and should be completed in a series of steps. Start early and don’t wait until the last minute to begin writing a lab report. Want to know how to write a lab report? Writing everything at once can be overwhelming; it’s a much better idea to write a lab report in sections as you complete them. Begin by completing the description, hypothesis, and materials/method sections prior to the experiment. Then directly after the experiment compose the results sections. Finally, take a few days to think about the data and reflect upon what the results mean. Then you can complete the results section. If your professor requires an abstract, complete that as the final part of your lab report. Once everything is completed, it’s time to review the lab report for organization, consistency, and grammatical errors. Finally, check your assignment against any provided rubrics and double check to make sure you’ve met the professors formatting preferences for margins, font, and spacing. That’s the final stage of the writing process—print and hand in your A-level lab report!