Writing a Science Lab Report
Before we move on to the specifics of writing a strong paper, let’s answer the most important question: what is a lab report? Therefore, it is format requires a student to describe the process and results of a laboratory experiment in a great detail. You need to describe what you did throughout the experiment, which results you achieved through the experiment, and what is the scientific significance of your findings.
In many cases, you will be given the guidelines on writing by your instructor. In that case, you need to closely study every aspect of the example and format your own report the same way. If you haven’t been given any specific instructions and currently feel at a loss, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered!
Here you will find a fantastic college lab report example, some essential tips on how to write the best paper of your academic career, and can even learn how to write an abstract for a dissertation if your upcoming study plans include this assignment.
A Good Lab Report Format
Your school or your instructor may have individual requirements, and in that case you need to follow them very closely if you don’t want a mistake in the format of the paper to tarnish your overall grade. However, if you are given free rein in formatting your work, it’s best to stick to the most popular format for it. A typical work includes the following six chapters:
- Methods and materials
Even if it’s your first time writing a laboratory report, you may have already dealt with these chapters individually in other written assignments. For example, you may already know how to write a powerful title or what the reference page should look like.
Still, it’s worth noting that a lab report is a highly specific type of written assignments, which means it’s best not to rely on your memory, but study the guidelines for each chapter instead. Here is how to write six great chapters for your paper without even looking at a sample.
The title is the first impression the reader gets of your work, so make sure every word in the title counts. The title should not be too long: ideally, it should fit under 10 words. The title needs to describe the focus of the experiment in a clear and concise way that will be clearly understandable even for people with no technical background in the specific field.
Sometimes you will be instructed to create a separate title page. In that case, the title page, besides the title, needs to contain information on the participants of the project, the instructor’s name, the class title and the date of the experiment. If you are not sure how to format your title page, better consult the instructor for the details, because different schools require different formats. For example, an MLA lab report title page will be different from an APA paper title page.
After reading the title, most people will jump straight to the abstract to see whether they will find what they are looking for in your paper. The abstract is not a mandatory part, but it does give the paper a more academic feel.
In some ways, the abstract resembles the conclusion. For example, both are written after the rest of the paper is finished, even though the abstract is placed in the beginning of the paper. You can find more information on writing an abstract below.
The introduction is intended to present the purpose to the audience, as well as offer some background on the problem and introduce the specifics. It’s important to describe the background of the problem to explain why this experiment is so significant and the problem is worth researching. However, you shouldn’t be too detailed when describing the background — it is not the main focus of the introduction.
In order to give your introduction a clear focus, you need to clearly state the hypothesis of the experiment. In other words, explain your beliefs on the matter and how the experiment is going to help you prove that hypothesis.
Finally, your introduction needs to include information on how you are going to achieve the objective of the experiment. It is important not to go into too many details, since there will be a part dedicated to describing the process.
Experienced academic writers and instructors recommend doing the introduction at the end of your writing process, so that you could have a better idea on what the experiment includes and how the results can be achieved.
Methods and Materials
This section of your work will be dedicated to the description of the materials used in the experiment and methods that helped you reach the experiment objective. Unlike the previous chapters, this section needs to be very detailed for one reason: ideally, it will be used by people willing to recreate your experiment. Giving them as much information about the process as necessary minimizes the chances of an experimental error and helps achieve steady experimental results time after time.
The description of materials shouldn’t look like a simple list of tools. You also need to provide information on how exactly and at which stage of the experiment they were used. It’s best to write this chapter immediately after conducting the experiment. Alternatively, you can make notes as you conduct the experiment and then refer to those notes when you are listing the materials and methods.
This chapter is arguably the most important one in the scientific concept. Clearly demonstrating that your experiment wasn’t in vain and that it produced some sizable results adds value to your paper and makes people more likely to recreate the experiment in the future after discovering your paper.
The way you showcase the results largely depends on the subject and the nature of the experiment. The one thing that should always be present in this section is a written summary of the results. If you have discovered any patterns or trends when conducting the experiment, be sure to also include them in your summary.
In most lab reports you will also find some graphs, charts, and tables. Sometimes they are simply a more convenient way to display the results but in some cases they are simply indispensable. To make your writing results more visible, you can add at least one graph or table even if you have successfully listed the results in written form.
In this chapter, you will lay the grounds for further scientific discussion and its results. Start by evaluating the experiment itself. How successful was the organization of the experiment? Is there anything you would have done differently if you received a second chance to launch the experiment? Were there any materials and tools missing from the experiment?
Once you answer those questions in sufficient detail, you can move on to the discussion of the results. How successful were you in meeting the objectives of the experiment? Has your hypothesis proven to be correct or does it need further investigation? Did any errors prevent you from obtaining the expected results?
Finally, to end this chapter on a discussion note, make a few suggestions for the people who think of recreating your experiment. Tell them what they can change in the process or which additional tools they can use to improve the results. If there is any relevant scientific information they can study to make the experiment more effective and the procedure clearer, make sure to recommend those sources.
Here you can also make suggestions for future experiments in the field. Whether it’s based on the same principles or an experiment from the same field but with different grounds, explain how the subject can be further researched and the knowledge of the subject can be further improved.
The conclusion may be the final text chapter but it doesn’t make it any less significant. In fact, the conclusion is often as important as the abstract in terms of the amount of information about the experiment it contains.
The general rule for writing a successful work conclusion is to never include new information, whether it’s new discoveries, ideas, or suggestions. All of that has been previously discussed in the other chapters, but the purpose of the conclusion is to sum everything up in a clear and concise manner.
Begin your conclusion by once again explaining the subject of the experiment and why it was important for you and other research participants to investigate this problem. Then offer a brief description and what helped you conduct it. Then mention the results and how they contribute to the scientific discussion of the problem.
Another important aspect you should always mention in conclusion is the answer to the imaginary “So what?” question. The objective conclusion is to demonstrate the value. Make sure you make it very clear that your experiment and its results have forever changed the position of the problem in the scientific field.
A lab report cannot exist in an academic vacuum — throughout the paper, you have likely referenced a number of scientific sources to describe the problem, conduct the experiment, or set the ground for the scientific discussion. That is why your final task in writing is to include a list of references.
Your list of references needs to include every scientific source you’ve used in your lab report. It can be anything from textbooks and magazine publications to other people’s experiment descriptions and online sources.
The reference page requires a specific format that will depend on the way you format the rest of your paper. If your assignment didn’t include any reference page formatting guidelines, it’s best to consult your instructor and ask him to specify the formatting style you need to use for your reference list.
Properly listed references not only demonstrate your serious academic approach to organizing the experiment and writing, but it can also be used by people who want to recreate it. By referring them to the scientific sources you have used in the preparation, you help them also come prepared to staging the experiment.
Writing an Abstract
An abstract may not be a mandatory part of a typical lab report, but many instructors prefer their students to include an abstract into their papers to give them a more academic look. An abstract is a brief summary of your experiment and the subsequent results, but it’s not the same thing as a conclusion.
The abstract does not require you to make any new conclusions. Instead, to write a good abstract, you can simply reinstate the information about the purpose, which problem you tried to solve with the experiment, what was your approach to organizing it, how the experiment took place, how successful it was, and which findings you discovered.
Even though an abstract is located at the beginning, just after the title, it is actually the last chapter you need to write. The abstract will mainly be used by people who are not familiar with your lab report to determine whether it’s relevant to their needs, so write the abstract for the audience who is seeing your paper for the first time.
Lab Report Examples
Writing a lab report, especially when you’re doing it for the first time, can be rather stressful. There are so many little details to keep in mind that students can’t help but feel frustrated over this task. Luckily, there is an easy way to reduce the stress from writing, which is seeing an example.
Our writers have prepared more than one sample lab report: biology, chemistry, physics, you name it! Take a look at the examples of laboratory reports created by our writers to find inspiration for your own work, or get custom formatted lab report from one of our top authors if you don’t have the time to prepare a flawless paper on your own.