How to Write a Lab Report

How to do a lab report – the first things you should know

Lab report is a document that describes how an experiment was done, what the person experimenting learned from it and most importantly, what the results meant. It should be concise and straight to the point. It is also important to note that, since a report explains what is already done, it should be written in past tense.

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Lab report format  – simple explanation

The first thing that you should pay attention to when you learn how to write a lab report is that all these reports are written in a specific format college students should adhere to. It essentially includes some components including title page, introduction, aims or objectives of the experiment, materials, procedure, results, discussion and references. Its components are discussed below:

Parts of a report you should never leave out!

  1. Cover page

In this lab report section, you should include: the title of the experiment, your name or the names of the group members (if the experiment was done in a group), your instructor’s name and the date the report was submitted. You may also include the date the experiment was performed, the name of the institution and your student identification number or registration number if necessary. This should be written on a separate page.

  1. Abstract

This section gives a summary of the whole experiment with a major emphasis on the purpose of experimenting, the major findings or results and a clear and concise conclusion of the experiment. You may also include a brief explanation of the methodology used in conducting the experiment and also the references.

  1. Introduction

This mainly focuses on explaining what the laboratory experiment aims at finding out. It is prudent that you explain what you understand about the problem rather than copying what is written I the manual. This part should also be clear and not more than a paragraph.

  1. Aims or objectives

Entails what you hope to achieve from the experiment. The objectives should be by the introduction and abstract and be written down in point form. When writing down the objectives, remember to use the past tense since the experiment has already been done.

Example:  Correct – The objective of this experiment was to identify the bacterial strains that utilize lactose. (Written in past tense)

Incorrect – The objective of this experiment is to identify is to identify the bacterial strains that utilize lactose. (Written in present tense)

  1. Materials

Here, you list down all the materials used to experiment. It is important to note that only the used materials are listed down hence do not include unnecessary items on the list.

  1. Methodology or procedure

This lab report section describes the step by step procedure followed when experimenting. The procedure is written down in point form starting from the first to the last in a systematic order of how the events were accomplished in the laboratory. In this section, you should be careful not to skip any action or to mix up the events such that the person reading through the methodology is not able to comprehend the flow of events followed when performing the experiment.

It is also paramount for you to use the past tense and avoid the use of articles such as I (where the experiment was done individually) and we (where it was done as a group).  You should also be careful not to include unnecessary details that lead to the report being bulky and in turn, may cause the instructor or reader to lose interest in going through the report.

Example: Correct – Added 5ml of potassium hydroxide to the solution then stirred gently for five minutes.

Incorrect – Add 5ml of potassium hydroxide to the solution and stir gently for five minutes or I/ we added 5ml of potassium hydroxide to the solution and stirred gently for five minutes.

  1. Results or observations

Results obtained differ according to the type of experiment done hence may be recorded as prose text (especially when describing qualitative results such as color, texture, smell and others that can easily be identified using the five senses), a graph, a table or just in figures. Such data has to be captured exactly how it was obtained from the experiment. Moreover, it is important to consider the rules of putting down the results such guidelines on how to plot a graph. The results have to be clear, simple and easy to interpret.

  1. Discussion

This is the part of the lab report that should be bulky and lengthy. In this section, you should express your idea and what you learned from the laboratory experiment and link up all the parts of the practical especially the introduction, objectives, and results. The discussion should be detailed enough that anyone who reads the report will get a vivid idea of exactly what the experiment was all about.

You may also include the challenges or limitations and errors in the experiment which help to prove may be why you did not achieve the objectives of the experiment. A good discussion portrays a clear understanding of the practical hence may earn you more points.

  1. Conclusion

In this part, you state what you know about the experiment or what you have learned from the lab practical. It should be just a summary of one or two sentences and should be understandable.

  1. References

This is the last part of the lab report which contains the details of the laboratory manual and other sources you have read from or gotten information from regarding the lab practical. The sources may be books, journals, manuals or manuscripts. There are many ways of putting down the reference depending on the writing style you are using hence it is important to follow the guidelines when writing the reference.

However, regardless of the style used, make sure to include: the title of the source, names of the authors, date or year of publication, the source’s edition (especially where it is a book) and the page you have cited or read. The references should be listed and numbered.

Lab report templates and their use

It is good to go through report templates as it gives you ideas on how to arrange the different parts of the document contents. The template acts as a guide on your writing this kind of report. Before beginning your writing, it is good to go through a template.

Examples of a clear and concise formal report template can be found here:

You may also search the Internet and go through report templates of your particular subject. Remember that not only making a proper experiment, but also following correct structure and format is important for getting a good grade.

Lab report examples and how they can benefit you

By going through samples you get to enhance your ability and skills in writing. You will be able to understand where you usually make errors and get to correct the errors when it comes to your work.

You can find some samples here:

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