Guide to Lab Reports
Guide to Lab Reports From time to time you will be required to write a full lab report on an experiment or laboratory exercise that you have done. This is a major assignment and requires your best efforts. Use care in preparation. This report should have a look of high quality. It is required that you prepare your work on the computer. It does not have to be long, usually around 2 pages. The following is the general format that you should follow in preparing your lab reports. TITLE: At the top of the page, write the title of the lab. Your lab guide gives you a title. (The title can not be Lab report 1 or 2, etc.) YOUR NAME: On the right, upper corner of the page, write your name, followed by your lab partner’s name in parenthesis: Me (My partner). Title each of the sections clearly (Objective, Introduction, etc.) OBJECTIVE (PURPOSE/HYPOTHESIS) This is a statement of what you are trying to find out in the experiment. Be objective and go to the ultimate goal of the exercise. For instance, “To measure various items” is not a valid objective. INTRODUCTION A short paragraph which restates the objective. More important, it gives the reader some background information about the topic of the experiment, and provides a short explanation on the approach used during the experiment. This does not have to be long, usually 4-5 lines should be enough. PROCEDURE Use the procedure in your textbook or Lab Guide as a guide, but remember that you may have differences from the written procedure that was given to you. You don’t have to copy everything from the lab guide, just the key points, and specially anything that was done differently from what the lab guide says. Usually 5-10 lines. DATA Note that "data" is a plural word. These are your measurements and the observations that you made during the performance of your experiment. This is your raw data, and there is no replacement for these. If you transcribe them later, the transcribed ones are not raw data. You will submit your data in 2 different forms: 1- Raw data: You will attach the “raw data”, which is the very paper you used during the lab. In Earth Science, they will be the yellow copies from the lab notebook. In Biology, it is the very paper you used in the lab. You will attach this Raw data at the end of the lab, as the last page(s). 2- You will also make a neat table (with your computer) and present the data. Be careful when you copy the data. Because this a copy and not the actual raw data, use the actual raw data as a basis for your calculations. RESULTS All calculations (even simple additions and subtractions of data), graphs, manipulations, and interpretations of data are results. You may combine this section with DATA if it makes sense to combine them in a single table. In that case you should title the section DATA AND RESULTS. You may need to use a spreadsheet or graphing program in the preparation of this section. ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS Most labs will have a set of questions that are to be answered in the report. You will include these within results and discussion. The answers to the questions must be given in complete sentences that indicate the substance of the question. Specifically, the reader should be able to fully discern the original question by reading the first part of your answer. Your answers should be given in the context of the lab that you participated in during class, and not beyond. Any additional comments if warranted should be given in a separate statement following your answer as these are not direct “results” of your experiment, but you may use such statements in your discussion of the results. DISCUSSION OF RESULTS This is a detailed explanation of the experimental results in comparison with theory. Did the results agree with theory or prediction? Is some unknown factor operating? Try to look very carefully at the experiment and analyze it in detail. Do not simply recap the RESULTS section. This is often the section that students have the most difficulty with. You should be connecting the results of the lab with the concepts that we are studying in class. Try to think deeply about just what is happening. It is helpful to think about “What are the implications of a specific result on the larger topic being examined? How a specific result leads to accepting or rejecting a hypothesis ?” In this section you should also look for errors in the experiment. No lab report is complete without an error analysis. It is very tempting to blame one's lab partner or even oneself for what seem to be experimental errors. Resist the temptation. There are other possibilities that are just as likely. Some experiments are not well designed. They permit other factors to influence the results. Some equipment or materials may be inadequate or defective. These are known as systematic errors. They are the ones that you search for. If you are observant, most often you can figure out why your results are inconsistent or unexpected. Even in the event that the experiment did not proceed according to expectation due to a mistake made by you, your partner, or both, you must make every effort to gain as much information and experience from the lab, and your report should still follow the guidelines provided, and discuss the results as these were obtained. CONCLUSION This is a one to two sentences statement of what you found out in the experiment. It should be directly connected to the OBJECTIVE. There should never be doubt as to the basis (results, discussion) of a conclusion you have provided.