Ultimate Guide for Writing a Lab Report
Any course in which you are doing laboratory work will require you to write up your experiments or work in the lab in the format of a lab report. Although the format may differ slightly, the template we provide here is generic enough to be useful for any lab reporting.
The following are the traditional elements and structure of a lab report. We have indicated the must-have elements and the optional elements for each aspect. Don’t forget to label each section clearly, in bold.
Title page (optional)
Not all lab reports have title pages. This will depend on the length of your lab report, how much is required of the report in terms of presentation, and if your lecturer requires you to have one. If you do opt for a title page, this should include:
- The title of your experiment or work. This should be in the largest font size of the page.
- Your full names and student number and those of your lab partners if this was a joint project.
- Your lecturer’s name, title and the name of the department.
- The date or dates you performed your lab work.
- The date of submission of your report.
The title (must have)
The title should be brief (ten words or less) and it must describe the main point of your experiment or lab work. Anyone reading it should be able to understand instantly your field of investigation. It should not contain conclusions or questions.
The abstract (must have)
The purpose of an abstract is to give the reader a high-level view of the entire lab report. It is essentially a summary of the entire report. It is rightly called an abstract because you create it by abstracting the main points of your report. That is why, although the abstract comes at the beginning of the report, we recommend you write it last. These main points to include in an abstract are:
- the purpose of the experiment
- methodology (optional)
- main results
- significance of the results
- overall conclusion.
Keep it short, limited to one paragraph of up to 200 words.
The introduction or purpose (must have)
This section introduces the purpose of or reason for your experiment. Sometimes, this will include ahypothesis.
In the introduction, it is also a good idea to incorporateimportant background information that can help orientate the reader to the purpose. Sometimes, the justification for the experiment is included to bolster the significance of the work, and you may optionally include a summary of previous relevant research.
Materials (must have)
Usually, this is just done as a list, but you should also include any explanations of materials, for example, if they were specialist.
Methods and procedure (must have)
Here, you write up the process step by step, in chronological order. You could number each step to help the reader.
You need to give enough detail explanation of what you actually did so that the reader can follow the process exactly.Where appropriate, you could add in a flow chart or other graphic to show the process.
Data (must have)
In this section, you present the data (or a sample of it, if it was very long) that emanated from your experiment. Do not comment on the data; this section is just a presentation. You should consider howbest to present the data, whether as a table, graph, figure etc. Label your graphics correctly and is such a way that any reader would be able to understand them.
Results and discussion (must have)
You can do two separate sections for results and discussion or combine them into one. This section is where you make any calculations using the data, and explain in words what the data means, and provide a commentary or analysis of it.You then interpret your results, and discuss the significance.
Your commentary would include a discussion of whether your initial hypothesis was confirmed or rejected, and why.
You may also use this section to point out any shortcomings in your work and what you would do differently next time to improve it.
Conclusions (must have)
This last section is simply a summary of the experiment, confirming or rejecting your hypothesis, and the significance.
These are any documents you used or read in preparation for your experiment. Make sure you list them following the referencing system used in your institution.
These include all your raw data, calculations etcthat are too long to include in the report, but which form part of your experiment.
A lab report is intended to explain what you did in your experiment, what you learned, and what the results meant. Following a template when writing a lab report helps you to organize your thoughts and helps the reader to follow your purpose, procedure and conclusions.