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How to Write Good Lab Report

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Biology lab report:
If you are taking a biology course, at some point you will have to do lab experiments. This means that you will also have to complete biology lab reports.

The purpose of writing a lab report is to determine how well you performed your experiment, how much you understood what happened during the experimentation process, and how well you can convey that information in an organized fashion.

Biology Lab Reports: Formats

A good lab report has a format that includes five main sections. They are the introduction, methods and materials, results, discussion and conclusion, and citation.

Keep in mind that individual instructors may have a specific format that they require you to follow. Please be sure to consult your teacher about the specifics of what to include in your lab report.

Introduction:

The introduction of a lab report states the purpose of your experiment. Your hypothesis should be included in the introduction, as well as a brief statement about how you intend to test your hypothesis.

To be sure that you have a good understanding of your experiment, some educators suggest writing the introduction after you have completed the methods and materials, results, and conclusion sections of your lab report.

Methods and Materials:

This section of your lab report involves producing a written description of the materials used and the methods involved in performing your experiment. You should not just record a list of materials, but indicate when and how they were used during the process of completing your experiment.

The information you include should not be overly detailed, but should include enough detail so that someone else could perform the experiment by following your instructions.

Results:

The results section should include all tabulated data from observations during your experiment. This includes charts, tables, graphs, and any other illustrations of data you have collected. You should also include a written summary of the information in your charts, tables, and/or other illustrations. Any patterns or trends observed in your experiment or indicated in your illustrations should be noted as well.

Discussion and Conclusion:

This section is where you summarize what happened in your experiment. You will want to fully discuss and interpret the information. What did you learn? What were your results? Was your hypothesis correct, why or why not? Were there any errors? If there is anything about your experiment that you think could be improved upon, provide suggestions for doing so.

Citation:

All references used should be included at the end of your lab report. That includes any books, articles, lab manuals, etc. that you used when writing your report.

Example APA citation formats for referencing materials from different sources are listed below.

Book
Name of author or authors (last name, first initial, middle initial)
Year of publication
Title of book
Edition (if more than one)
Place where published (city, state) followed by a colon
Publisher name

For example: Smith, J. B. (2005). Science of Life. 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Thompson Brooks.

Journal
Name of author or authors (last name, first initial, middle initial)
Year of publication
Article title
Journal title
Volume followed by issue number (issue number is in parenthesis)
Page numbers

For example: Jones, R. B. & Collins, K. (2002). Creatures of the desert. National Geographic. 101(3), 235-248.

Your instructor may require that you follow a specific citation format. Be sure to consult your teacher concerning the citation format that you should follow.

What is an Abstract?

Some instructors also require that you include an abstract in your lab report. An abstract is a concise summary of your experiment. It should include information about the purpose of the experiment, the problem being addressed, the methods used for solving the problem, overall results from the experiment, and the conclusion drawn from your experiment.

The abstract typically comes at the beginning of the lab report, but should not be composed until your written report is completed.

Do Your Own Work

Remember that lab reports are individual assignments. You may have a lab partner, but the work that you do and report on should be your own.

Always give credit where credit is due in your report. You don't want to plagiarize the work of others. That means you should properly acknowledge the statements or ideas of others in your report.

Chemistry lab report:
Lab reports are an essential part of all laboratory courses and usually a significant part of your grade. If your instructor gives you an outline for how to write a lab report, use that. Here's a format for a lab report you can use if you aren't sure what to write or need an explanation of what to include in the different parts of the report. A lab report is how you explain what you did in experiment, what you learned, and what the results meant. Here is a standard format. If you prefer, you can print and fill in the science lab report template or download the pdf version of the template. 1. Title Page Not all lab reports have title pages, but if your instructor wants one, it would be a single page that states: o The title of the experiment. o Your name and the names of any lab partners. o Your instructor's name. o The date the lab was performed or the date the report was submitted. 1. Title The title says what you did. It should be brief (aim for ten words or less) and describe the main point of the experiment or investigation. An example of a title would be: "Effects of Ultraviolet Light on Borax Crystal Growth Rate". If you can, begin your title using a keyword rather than an article like 'The' or 'A'. 2. Introduction / Purpose Usually the Introduction is one paragraph that explains the objectives or purpose of the lab. In one sentence, state the hypothesis. Sometimes an introduction may contain background information, briefly summarize how the experiment was performed, state the findings of the experiment, and list the conclusions of the investigation. Even if you don't write a whole introduction, you need to state the purpose of the experiment, or why you did it. This would be where you state your hypothesis. 3. Materials List everything needed to complete your experiment. 4. Methods Describe the steps you completed during your investigation. This is your procedure. Be sufficiently detailed that anyone could read this section and duplicate your experiment. Write it as if you were giving direction for someone else to do the lab. It may be helpful to provide a Figure to diagram your experimental setup. 5. Data Numerical data obtained from your procedure usually is presented as a table. Data encompasses what you recorded when you conducted the experiment. It's just the facts, not any interpretation of what they mean. 6. Results Describe in words what the data means. Sometimes the Results section is combined with the Discussion (Results & Discussion). 7. Discussion or Analysis The Data section contains numbers. The Analysis section contains any calculations you made based on those numbers. This is where you interpret the data and determine whether or not a hypothesis was accepted. This is also where you would discuss any mistakes you might have made while conducting the investigation. You may wish to describe ways the study might have been improved. 8. Conclusions Most of the time the conclusion is a single paragraph that sums up what happened in the experiment, whether your hypothesis was accepted or rejected, and what this means. 9. Figures & Graphs Graphs and figures must both be labeled with a descriptive title. Label the axes on a graph, being sure to include units of measurement. The independent variable is on the X-axis. The dependent variable (the one you are measuring) is on the Y-axis. Be sure to refer to figures and graphs in the text of your report. The first figure is Figure 1, the second figure is Figure 2, etc.
10. References If your research was based on someone else's work or if you cited facts that require documentation, then you should list these references.

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