Students and professionals alike are required to perform laboratory reports for various reasons. Usually, the results are used to highlight changes or establish a pattern with one’s management or lecturers. Lab reports are also written for archival purposes so that the work doesn’t have to be done again in the future. In the section below we will review a basic structure used to organize lab reports:
It is important to note that this particular structure is designed to give you a general idea since one organizational format does not work for all types of experiments. Therefore, while performing any laboratory reports, it is essential to keep in mind the requirements given out by the instructor or supervisor if that is the case.
Lab Report Abstract
Without a shred of doubt the abstract aims to summarize four essential elements present in any laboratory report. First off it is vital to identify its purpose in order to establish relevance to our initial hypothesis or assumptions. Secondly, examine any key findings to use as a point of comparison which aims at either proving or disproving the initial premise. The next step now revolves around establishing its significance to us and the general public. That is important because without understanding why we conduct a specific experiment then it could all be for nothing. Lastly, it should sum up all of the facts and reach a conclusion. While doing so, it is crucial to have a realistic approach towards the initial hypothesis, results obtained, experiment expectations and methods used to get their results.
Quite often the individuals piecing together laboratory reports include a clear indication of the methodologies or theoretical work that has been put into practice. Keep in mind that no abstract, regardless of topic, should ever exceed 200 words. The sample provided here adds up to a total of 191 word.
As previously mentioned when learning how to write a lab report introduction one should remember to highlight the following key points:
- Clearly establish what kind of experiment will be discussed or will be taking place. Give a brief understanding of its background.
- The initial hypothesis behind undertaking the experiment, such as what we aim to achieve through it.
- The importance or value the experiment to us as those performing it as well as what meaning it bears within the real world.
- Establish what methodologies will be used to extract, record and analyze the data. This should be done in comparison to the initial expectations or hypothesis.
These elements combined give our laboratory report introduction a clear sense of purpose as well as establishing the means through which we will come to a conclusion. Thus, making use of these elements in an appropriate manner will allow the readers to follow along without any confusion occurring.
The methods used to collect, store and analyze data are often referred to as “Procedures”. By documenting each of these steps in a clear and concise manner, it allows one to follow along while also being able to repeat the experiment if necessary. Keep in mind that historically laboratory reports and their procedures have been recorded as first-person narrative accounts, despite the fact that most instruction manuals prefer to make use of a second-person approach.
Thus, due to the audience’s expectations of receiving a first-person narrative, it becomes somewhat tricky at times to produce an in-depth laboratory report. Since the “Procedures” represent the bulk of the work and should be easy to replicate one must also include any unexpected events that could have impacted the final outcome.
Results & Discussions
In this section, one should present their data and discuss its meaning. Keep in mind that for some laboratory reports this section will be split into two distinct pieces, namely Results and Discussion. Nonetheless, the reason this example lists them together is due to the strong case put forth by P.B. Medawar in 1979. His reasoning indicates that when trying to present vast amounts of information, it is best to combine the two in order to avoid dumping too much data at the same time on the audience without much context. Hence, the best option usually is adhering to the instructor's requirements as well as applying your own judgment where appropriate. For example, in some scenarios, it might be best to combine them since this will make the meaning of the data clear to the audience. But in some cases, it is best to keep them separate and only enter the Discussion phase after a conclusion has been reached on the results of the laboratory report.
If the two sections must be split, keep in mind that the Discussion section should then not only review the results but explore the implications of they carry to us as scientists and the general public. Feel free to make use of any visual representations to help take the point across. Don’t forget to mention any events that could have altered the final results, if relevant.
Most laboratory reports will choose to make use of a conclusion to help wrap things up. In contrast to the Results and Discussion section the conclusion in this case aims to sum up the results as a whole instead of just examining them individually. This applies to their implication as well meaning that now it has to be compared to the assumptions presented in the introduction of the laboratory report. Highlight how the results obtained compare to the initial hypothesis and explain why they match these expectations or why they failed to meet them. Remember that in most laboratory reports where the Discussion and Results sections are displayed separately one does not often encounter a conclusion.
It is not a must to make use of appendices. However, most detailed laboratory reports will have a few included as part of their content. Their purpose is to summarize information that is far too detailed to be included in the report itself. An example of such a scenario can be a table giving voltage-current measurements to an RLC circuit. Thus, one would summarize the information in a visually pleasing manner by using a graph and place the long table at the end as an appendix. Other examples usually revolve around annexing unrelated information that may not concern the laboratory reports goals directly.
There are two types of appendices, namely formal and informal.
A formal appendix should contain a definite beginning, middle and end segment for the data being displayed. Even when presenting tabular information it is crucial to add all the necessary explanations so that it becomes easy to understand one's train of thought without confusing the audience. Due to various time constraints, supervisors or tutors may ask for an informal appendix. They may include multiple calculations or any additional information that is needed to understand the task at hand. In contrast to the formal version they do not need an explicit structure but should still be titled, captioned and include comments where relevant.
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