Introduction to Writing a Lab Report
Many science, biology, and psychology classes have lab experiments. The object of the lab report is to report what happened in the lab. Most instructors want their students to learn how to present the results of the work they do in lab. These lab reports must be concise and structured to explain what the object and purpose of the lab experiment.
Different subjects will use different type of data and ways to list this data. Often the types of experiments will be defined from the subject material. For instance, many psychology experiments are done through surveys. Science has specific terms that are different from biology.
The first step in the lab report is making notes during lab to express what is being studied and why. Describe what the procedure was and why it was being used. Any new procedures and what changes were made during lab time. All raw data should be tabulated so these can be described later in the lab report. The materials used should be listed in the lab report as well as step-by-step what happened in the lab. What was the objective of the lab work? What was you experimenting and why? Describe any procedure that happened in the lab. List any original data that was obtained from the measuring instrument.
When listing data reduction or other calculations always indicate what equations you are using and describe these. Never assume the audience will know what you are talking about. Use descriptive phrases that will explain different steps. Try to be as specific as possible. Use key terms to define the measurements and how they varied from one experiment to another.
Many instructors want graphs completed on the lab experiments or surveys completed. It is important to label your axes on the graphs including any curves or lines on the graphs. Different types of statistics may be used and the formulas for these statistics should be explained in the lab report. Students often hate doing graphs but these are a great way to track data.
Discuss the various parts of the experiment. Define what was done and why it was done. What are any systematic errors that affected the experiment? What errors happened and why? What could be done next time to minimize errors?
Most lab reports are between three and five pages long. These use the five-paragraph form in beginning with the introduction, the body of the lab work, and the conclusion. The introduction should list any background information that might not be known to the reader. Define any new terms. Give the purpose of the lab work in a thesis statement.
The next parts of the lab work will show what happened in the lab and what the results were. What did you think about the results? What might you have done differently? What were your goals and did you meet the goals? Did you accomplish what you wanted?
Once the lab report is written it is important to check for grammar and spelling errors. Read the lab report out loud listening to any errors made. Have you used clear statements throughout the report? Revise and edit the content. Do you need to make the text more cohesive? Are there any fragments? Is each sentence a whole sentence? Ask a friend to read the lab report checking for errors.
Revise the lab report one more time. Slowly go over it again to see if there are any errors. Have you stated the project or lab work purpose? Have you described the nature of the lab work and how it was conducted? Have you listed any outcome of the report and how the results were obtained? Do you have a thesis statement? Are you satisfied the lab report is accurate?
Check over the graphs to see if there are any errors on them? Is all data listed and explained so the reader will know specifically what the results were? Now you can turn in a completed lab report with pride.