How to Write a Lab Report
A lab report can be broken down into 5 sections; however this can vary depending on the class you are taking and the preference of your teacher. So you should double check with your teacher on what he or she wants to see in your lab report before beginning to write one. It is also really important to read over the rubric for the lab report because it gives you a great idea of what information you will be graded on for each section.
There are 5 sections to a lab report: abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results and conclusion. One should NEVER write in first or second person for a lab report, this is a formal report and therefore your writing should reflect that.
The abstract is essentially a summary of your entire lab report that is no more than 300 words long. In this section, a reader will find a short explanation of the background of the experiment, the purpose of the experiment, the hypothesis, how the experiment was conducted, summary of the results, and the implications (or conclusion) of these results. Remeber this section should be short and to the point; if a reader wants more details he or she can read the report.
There is a brief background discussion of the experiment in the section. You are essentially answering the questions why do we care/why is this experiment important to us and how does this experiment relate to the “bigger picture” of the subject at hand. You also introduce any theories that may be necessary to understand your experiment in this section. The purpose and hypothesis is found at the end of in this section.
Materials and Methods
The goal of this section is that the reader is able to read this section and be able to reproduce the experiment discussed. Therefore the information found in this section gives the reader all the information necessary to conduct the experiment that you did. This can either be done in paragraph form or through bullet points (this sections can vary greatly depending on what your teacher expects from you).
All qualitative and quantitative data is found in this section. Any relevant tables, charts, and graphs are put in this section. It is important that all tables are properly labelled with a title or a figure caption. No raw data is ever put in a lab report! (unless your teacher specifies otherwise). This section should also include a written description of any charts, graphs and tables. You should also include important observations you made during your experiment.
Discussion (also known as Conclusion)
In the discussion you discuss the meaning of your results. You also reflect on whether or not the experiment conducted supports or doesn’t support your hypothesis. Furthermore you discuss any experimental errors that may have influenced your results. A discussion is usually ended by relating the findings of the experiment to a “bigger picture” idea, and posing new questions that can now be investigated because of the conclusions reached by the experiment that was conducted.
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