What It Takes To Write Lab Reports: A Guide by The Grade Miners
In this guide, we will describe the general format that is used for writing lab reports. Lab reports are documents written after an experiment or investigation that provide the findings in a brief, objective, analytical, and conclusive format.
Lab reports are commonly given to students particularly those taking engineering courses and science courses. Lab reports comprise up to a quarter of your coursework especially if you are enrolled in the courses we have mentioned. Therefore, you need to devote your time and effort in learning how to write good lab reports.
The bulk of your work is in the lab conducting experiments and investigations. Even so, the emphasis is not on how well you understand the lab equipment or how well you can work with them to obtain data and finish the experiment successfully. The focus is on how you present your data and demonstrate that you have a deep understanding of the concepts behind that data. You are required to study the results, identify any variations, state why they occurred, and illustrate how they affected the experiment. Additionally, you need to show your reader that you have a firm grasp of the principles being investigated by the experiment.
Good lab reports are well-structured. Organizing your lab reports is a good way of impressing your reader. In spite of that, remember that regardless of how organized your format is, that does not substitute expressing your ideas coherently. You are still required to give an informative discussion.
The Structure of Lab Reports
The sections of lab reports are identified by headings. Most lab reports have the following components: Title, Introduction, Procedure, Results, Discussion, Conclusion, and References. The Appendix might be added in some cases.
Ordinarily, a title page is not included when writing lab reports. However, when you are required to include it, mention the following: the title of the lab experiment, your name, the name/ names of lab partners, the name of your tutor, the date the lab experiment was performed, and the date of submission of the lab report.
The title of your lab report will bring the reader’s attention to your work. As such, it should capture the content of your work adequately. A good title is informative, concise, and straight to the point. Use a keyword at the beginning of your title instead of articles such as ‘the’ or ‘a’.
In this part, you will state the objective of the experiment and the hypothesis. The aim of writing lab reports is certainly not to add to the existing knowledge in the field but to allow you to learn. It is, therefore, crucial to identify the learning context. Understanding the learning context allows you to place the lab reports within the purpose for which the experiment was designed. Therefore, you are able to learn the principles behind the experiment. A good introduction explains the learning context for the experiment. It does that by expounding on what the experiment is about, the scientific principle behind the experiment, what is expected to be learned after the experiment, the background information relating to the issue under investigation, and the objectives of the experiment.
You can also give information about how the background information can be utilized in the experiment. For example, an equation mentioned in the background information can assist in making calculations when conducting the analysis. Additionally, give a brief summary of how you conducted your experiment, the findings your investigations and the conclusions you arrived at after analysis.
Mention the parameters under investigation. Report the steps you followed when conducting your experiment chronologically. Give a detailed account of each step such that anyone who reads them can reproduce your experiment. The easiest way to go about it is to assume that you were giving instructions to another person on how to conduct the experiment. Consider adding a figure that illustrates your experimental setup.
List the instruments used in the experiment, however, in some cases, you can refer the reader to the lab manual where he/she can find them. Give the relevant details about the instruments that can affect the experiment. Talk about the inadequacies of the instruments.
The results section comprise of data that was recorded during the experiment. Use words to explain what the data implies. Tables, charts, graphs, calculations, and figures are predominantly used in this section, particularly when presenting numerical data. The data recorded in the tables will assist you to create the graphs. Data obtained from the graphs should be recorded and in a separate table. It is important to introduce your graph using a brief statement so as to draw the attention of the reader to the graph. Ensure that the graphics used are properly labeled, clear, and easy to understand.
Use a descriptive title to label graphs and figures. Ensure that you label the axes of all the graphs in your lab reports and that you provide the appropriate units of measurement. The dependent variable is found on the X-axis while the independent variable is found on the Y-axis. When writing your lab reports, refer to the graphs and figures you have used. If you use a lot of raw data, tables, calculations, and graphs it will be better for you add the appendix section and include them there. Outline the uncertainties of the experiment such as the instruments used and random errors
The discussion or analysis section is the most crucial part of your lab report because it demonstrates that you have mastery of the experiment other than being able to complete it. In this part, you will also demonstrate whether the hypothesis was affirmed or not. When writing the discussion ensure that you give detailed explanations, thorough analysis, and accurate interpretations. The reader wants you to demonstrate the significance of your results. Discuss what you discovered or found from your investigations and deduce conclusions. Provide an interpretation of your results by doing the following: discussing the significance of your findings, identifying existing ambiguities, thinking about questions that might arise from your findings and tackling them, and providing logical explanations for gaps in the data you have presented.
The following strategies should be employed in your discussion.
Look for variations between your findings and the expected results
Talk about the findings in detail and examine them objectively. Discuss their implication and mention whether the experiment yielded the expected outcome. If the results were not expected, provide an explanation for the variation witnessed. Discuss the inconsistencies between the findings and the theory behind the experiment and provide well-reasoned inferences that highlight the sources of error that created the disparities.
Propose any improvements that can be made. Avoid vague explanations such as stating that the discrepancy was caused by human error. Pinpoint the specific reason and give it. For example, contaminated or expired samples, instrument inadequacies or failure to consider factors that would possibly affect the calculated values.
Assess the experimental error
Mistakes made when doing the experiment are mentioned. State whether they were avoidable or not. A positive and negative control is important during analysis as it assesses the efficacy of the method used. Normal and abnormal controls that are within the expected values indicate that the sample results you obtained are valid. If this is not the case, an error occurred. In such a scenario, you will explain the sources of error. Mention whether the instruments played a role. Think about the experimental design and determine whether it was the source of error. If so, tell your reader how it can be improved. Recommendations of how the study can be bettered are also provided.
Place your results in the context of theoretical knowledge
Most lab experiments in college, especially for undergraduate students, are designed to illustrate certain laws, principles or theories relating to that particular course. Although you already provided the background information in the introduction, make sure that you explain how the theory or principle has been illustrated by your findings.
Put your results in the context of the objectives of the experiment
Ensure that the results you present tackle each need the experiment was designed to address. For instance, if your work was to identify an unspecified disease by conducting blood tests, use the results of the blood tests to identify the disease. Show how the results of the blood test allude to that disease by demonstrating how its pathogenesis causes changes that yield such results.
Consider other similar experiments
Consider other similar assignments such as those done by your classmates. Remember the aim is not to alter your findings. You just need to compare the findings and look for significant inconsistencies.
Examine your experimental design
Inform your reader about the strengths and limitations of the experimental design you used.
Lab reports’ conclusions are usually brief. State the outcome of the experiment and the implication of the investigations. You can also talk about the limitations of the design used and how it impacted your experiment and areas of future research that can add to your conclusions.
List all the sources you used to write your lab reports including the lab manual. Use the required referencing style as stipulated by your course.
This section is added when graphs, tables, calculations, pictures and other types of raw data have not been included in the lab report. Each individual element should be put in its own distinct appendix. Reference to individual appendices should be made when writing your lab reports.
As always, The Grade Miners is constantly looking for ways to make academic writing assignments easier. We hope that the above guide will help you to write an effective lab report. Feel free to contact us if you have additional questions regarding lab report writing. Our proficient writers are always ready to offer you the best possible assistance. They are very knowledgeable about lab report writing and other academic writing assignments. Our writers are renowned for their outstanding work, thanks to the many years of working on a wide range of subjects and for many different clients. You can always count on The Grade Miners because your success is our priority.