How to Write a Lab Report Correctly: Guidelines and Structure

How to Write a Lab Report

What is a Lab Report? 

In simple terms, a lab report is a mixture of the scientific objectives and the outcomes of your practical work in an assignment. Learning how to write a lab report may sound like a challenging task, especially when you have to connect the theoretical part of your course studies with the practical part of your work. The most important thing is to learn how to structure your lab report and follow the rules specified in your grading rubric. The structure will always include scientific aims and the hypothesis that turn into the results of your work with a brief discussion. The purpose here is to explain why you have conducted the practical work and what methods have been used to achieve specific results. Lab reports play an essential role in science because they explain what has been done in a laboratory, what has been done, and how the results can be replicated. By writing a lab report, you also provide readers with recommendations for future studies and discuss limitations and the challenges that have been encountered by the past or similar experiments.

The lab reports can be encountered in most academic disciplines since they aim to provide sufficient information and communicate scientific research approaches and methodologies to fellow scientists. It can involve Sociology, Engineering disciplines, Nursing, Forensic Studies, Journalism, Architecture, Data Analysis, and many other disciplines encountered during college studies.

How long should a lab report be?

The length of a lab report will always depend on your scientific objectives and the specifics of the experiment conducted. In most cases, lab report writing must be between 5 and 10 pages with all the figures and additional tables included. The volume required may be specified in your grading rubric as there are no strict limits for this type of work.

How to Structure a Lab Report

Following the correct structure as you compose your scientific lab report is essential because it helps to understand how an experiment has been conducted. It will make sense of what has been done and will outline your findings and guidelines to others. Since there is no strict structure that would fit every discipline or objective, the template below contains what is usually required for a lab report:

1. Title Page for Lab Report. It should include your name, student's number or code, the date of the experiment, and the title of the experiment with the name of your academic supervisor (for students). The title for most laboratory reports should be less than ten words and contain information instead of "Lab #7" only.

2. Abstract. It should represent the summary of the report by focusing on the purpose of the experiment, key findings, significance, and critical conclusions. The lab report format here should be only one paragraph and contain no more than 100-200 words.

Lab Report Example Abstract

This experiment examined the positive effect of the transwave syntheses to help determine the use of the hearing aids among professional musicians during lengthy performances or studio sessions. It has also focused on the use of the synthesizers produced by the Korg Inc USA during the period of 1992-2012. Various tests have been performed to determine the changes in the sound quality and the healthcare concerns regarding hearing safety standards. Twenty-five different musicians have been tested by the audiology specialists with the same set of measures and methods to set an unbiased approach to the scientific results presented below.

As you can see, it lists the most essential information that explains the purpose and the objectives of a lab report. Writing a lab report, remember that this lab report abstract example is only for reference purposes but you can use it as a helpful template. You may also include relevant keywords for scientific databases.

3. Introduction. The lab report introduction should provide the purpose of the lab experiment and talk about the importance of the scientific background and the theories approached. You may also justify the rationale for the experiment.

4. Methods and Materials. Also known as the "Equipment" section, it is a list that must be complete and accurate as you mention the lab manual or the procedures that have been performed.

5. Experimental Procedure. This is where you must provide a detailed description of the steps that have been taken in chronological order.

6. Results. These are mostly represented by tables, graphs, and figures. If you don’t know how to write a lab report, collecting your materials in advance will be helpful. At the same time, you must keep things verbal by using analysis and simple explanations, too.

7. Discussion. It is the essential section of your lab report because you must explain what your experiment has been like and provide some interpretation. It is the subjective part that lists the things that are not easy to observe unless you are in the lab. You should also provide the significance of your work.

8. Conclusion. This part is mostly kept short since you only have to mention the results of your lab experiment, already know how to do a lab report, and can explain what became known by stating the significance. You can also suggest further research.

9. References. You should include your manual for the laboratory experiment, any course reading that may be related, and any external resources that you have used. 

10. Figures and Graphs. Here is where you must include all the raw data, lengthy calculations, software reports, graphs, multimedia elements, or any tables that have not been included before. Each item type should be listed separately. It is important to mention the appendix at least once in your report. For example:

"Micrographs printed from the MRT Brain Scan are represented in Appendix C."

As a rule, you may include any scanned information or additional data that may be relevant. Just remember to discuss this aspect with your laboratory supervisor and explain why this data is relevant. 

The Lab Report Format Rules & APA Lab Report Style

According to the APA style format, your scientific lab report should include at least seven sections. The headings should be centered on each page. When you have certain major parts, use subsections by placing them at the left margin and use underlining. You should provide the title with the complete information, an abstract, introduction with no heading (as with lab reports outline writing), methodology, results, a discussion section, and the final references (if you have used any). The lab report should be double-spaced. You may also use keywords for your abstract (optional).

If you want to cite a report for your References page in APA style, you must include the author's name, the year when the experiment has been conducted, the title of the actual lab report, the number or code to identify it, and the publisher. Speaking of the in-text citations, they would have to be the author's last name with the year or the university/organization that has organized the lab report. 

The Difference Between a Lab Report and a Research Paper

It all comes down to the experiment's performance and the purpose you would like to achieve. Here are the major peculiarities as you learn how to compose a lab report:

  • A lab report is usually shorter than most research papers. 
  • Research writing requires an independent argument. 
  • Lab report is based on experiments. 
  • Both types of writing implement methodology and research samples. 
  • Research writing requires good, much deeper analysis. 
  • The target audience of the lab report is limited to a specific problem. 

Most importantly, the lab report will always remain limited compared to any research where you have to provide information regarding related publications and analyze things in greater depth. 

Lab Report Writing Tips

When starting with a scientific lab report, it is important to follow these simple writing tips. It will help you to save time, avoid plagiarism, and learn how to write a good lab report:

  • Start with the careful examination of your lab report manual. 
  • Take notes and write down the list of objectives that must be achieved. 
  • List the limitations of your lab research (if anything is encountered). 
  • Study the materials and the equipment that you have to use. 
  • Look online for similar lab reports to find out more about the subject. 
  • Organize your graphs and tables first but do not overdo it unless it is absolutely necessary. It will help you to allocate available resources correctly. 
  • Provide reference citations for any external information that has been used in your lab report. 
  • Edit and proofread your writing upon completion and check the title page twice to ensure that you have listed the course name and the other personal data.

Why Do Lab Reports Matter for Your Success?

Lab reporting is essential for academic research purposes and for those cases when you have to determine the importance of a specific method. Learning how to write a lab report, implemented methodology is the key element. For example, if you are majoring in Mechanical Engineering or plan to become a future Registered Nurse, you will face a plethora of laboratory experiments that will help you to connect theoretical knowledge to practical experiments. Regardless of whether it involves Psychology, Chemistry, or the Biology basics, the lab reports will help you to achieve better grades as you learn how to conduct research and collect your findings in an accurate way. The lab reports may be a bit challenging at first, yet always start with the structure template, collect the information in advance, and talk to your lab supervisor in case something remains unclear!

How can I write a scientific lab report?

In simple terms, you should make an outline for eight critical sections that include the title page, an abstract, an introduction, methods of your work and materials used, results of the lab experiment, discussion of the findings, conclusion, and the references. As you start, keep your writing in a descriptive tone by focusing on the experiment and add some analysis as you talk about the results.

What must be included in the introduction of a lab report?

The typical lab report introduction should include a brief definition of your subject or an experiment, basic background information with a reference to relevant studies, and an outline of scientific objectives that have been set. You should also mention why the topic is important to you and to the scientific community.

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