Lab reports, which are commonly used in STEM fields, form an integral part of your degree coursework. The importance of lab reports cannot be overemphasized as it forms a significant part of your grades. In this article, we will guide you on how to structure and write a good lab report.
Having carried out your lab experiment, writing a lab report is how you explain what you did in the course of the experiment, what you learnt, and what your results mean. Your lab report combines both theoretical and practical knowledge. Depending on the subject or experiment carried out, lab reports can differ in length or content. Nevertheless, the basic format of writing a good lab report remains the same. A lab report consists of different parts or sections. Therefore, before commencing writing your lab report, it is vital you plan the timelines for these different sections.
The Sections of a Lab Report
The sections of a lab report can vary based on scientific fields and course requirements. However, for every section of a lab report, there is a purpose. Below are the major sections of a lab report;
When a reader picks up your report, the title page is usually the first thing he sees. On this page, you will find the title of your lab report which conveys what the study is all about. The title you choose for your lab report must be clear, precise and informative.
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The abstract, which comes after the title page, provides an overview or preview of your entire research report: usually between 150 – 300 words. The abstract, however, is optional in the sense that it is not necessary for short experiments.
In this section of your lab report, you are expected, in your writing, to state the hypothesis, aim and objectives of the experiment. Furthermore, you can write concerning the theories, relevant formulas, or even describe previous research work on the study/experiment you are carrying out.
This is an essential part of writing your lab report. In this section, you are expected to provide details of each step you took to gather and analyze your data. By doing so, your readers can follow your step-by-step guide to carry out your experiment and have the same results. Furthermore, you are expected to include the materials and equipment you used to carry out this experiment. Are there specific precautions you took while carrying out your experiment? Endeavor to include them in this section.
It is in this section that you present all your findings from the experiment carried out. Often times, the results are shown in a tabular form and on graph. Both tables and graph must be properly labelled. Were calculations used to arrive at the results? Endeavor to add them in this section.
Discussion & Analysis
In this section, you are expected to show a precise understanding of the experimental process. Much more, this is a section where you state clearly the Strength and setbacks encountered in your study. Did you notice any trends in your data? Were there unusual sources of experimental error? Do you have suggestions for further studies? All these can be well explained in the “Discussion & Analysis section”.
What is the summary of the lab report you have written? What does your reader stand to learn from your experiment? Are there limitations faced in the course of the experiment? Answers to these questions, and more, make up the conclusion section of your report writing. Also, note that, in this section, you are not expected to include new findings.
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In the course of writing your lab report: from the introduction to the conclusion, you will definitely cite previous research works and theories by other researchers. This is known as in-text citations. However, it is vital to create a whole new page to make full citations which are in line with the in-text citations. This section is the reference section. The referencing style to adopt will be given in the lab manual. Thus, you must ensure you follow it through.
There are certain information which should not be found in your main lab report. Information such as detailed calculations, tables, graph etc. These information can be accommodated in the section called “appendices”. These appendices must have a proper title. Furthermore, a number or letter must be assigned to the appendices to refer it to the relevant portion on the lab report.
Lab reports, which are commonly used in STEM fields, form an integral part of your degree coursework. Writing a lab report is how you explain what you did in the course of the experiment, what you learnt, and what your results mean. A lab report differs significantly from a research paper. The purpose of writing a lab report is to show a precise understanding of the scientific method used to perform an experiment. On the other hand, in writing a research paper, you are expected to form an original argument. Much more, a research paper will require an in-depth research and interpretation of data and its sources. Every section of your lab report has a purpose, and varies based on scientific fields and course requirements. The sections are the title page, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion & analysis, conclusion, references and appendices.
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