The laboratory allows us to gain hands-on experience in experimenting with scientific methods and concepts that we have already studied in the book and discussed in lectures. The lab report is an essential element of laboratory work. In science, we use lab reports to document our experiments and experiences in the laboratory. In fact, this type of scientific paper is just as important as the experiment itself and must be written so that we can communicate our procedures and outcomes for each experiment to other scientists. Therefore, every time that we write a lab report we are practicing our ability to communicate with others in the scientific field.
This paper will help you learn how to write your lab reports according to standard scientific protocol. A scientific paper (such as a lab report) has to be written in a way that is conventional in scientific journals, and in our class, we will practice writing as if we were writing for one of these journals.
Five main sections
Our lap reports will have five main sections: laboratory, objective, materials, procedure/data, and conclusions.
This section of your lab report gives a brief and concise description of the experiment. Usually, this will be the title that our Laboratory Manual already provides for the experiment.
The objective is a statement of intent or purpose of the experiment. It answers one of two main questions: What do you want to demonstrate in this experiment? What do you hope to learn from this experiment?
This section describes the actual materials that you used for your experiment. It need not be very long, but you should try to be as inclusive as possible.
The purpose of this section is to present the data you obtained in your experiment and to answer the lab questions. Often, to make the data more clear you will cast it in the form of a table or figures. This section may also include diagrams, charts, flowcharts or pictures.
This is the most important section of your report and will require the most thought and creativity. You will explain your results by making a verbal comparison between your actual results and those that you expected (according to previously published results or your textbook). If something goes wrong with the experiment you should mention it here and explain in detail why it went wrong.