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The Lab Report

Though expectations and requirements may differ between teachers, and formats may differ between fields, this handout can be used as a general reference for the scientific lab report. If your teacher does not provide you with specific requirements or a model for your reports, this basic format may suffice. If your professor has provided you with clear instructions, you may still want to refer to this handout for tips on constructing a good lab report.

Title Page

Your lab report must have a title that describes your experiment accurately, precisely and concisely. You will want to use specific words that illustrate clearly the subject of your experiment. You should also include your name, the names of any lab partners, and any other relevant information like the instructor, the course and the date. Generally, you should center elements on the title page and maintain even margins top and bottom. The title page should not be labeled "title page" though the other sections of the lab report will be labeled this way.

Abstract

The abstract offers a brief summary of the report and usually consists of between 50 and 300 words. Because this is a summary of the report, it should be composed after all other elements have been completed and then provided a separate page.

Introduction

The introduction, in one or two paragraphs, presents the subject and purpose of the experiment. The hypothesis of the experiment should be stated clearly as well as any relevant background information and research significant to the experiment. To cite any references, use in-text citations stating name and year, for example (Marlow 1998).

Materials and Methods

This section will be written in list form, detailing the experiment itself. Explanations of every action in chronological order are required as are exact measurements. Materials should not be listed separately, but included in the description of the experiment.

Write your narrative of the experiment in past tense. Instructors will differ on their preference between using passive voice (The mixture was heated for 40 seconds) and active voice (I heated the mixture for 40 seconds). Passive voice creates an objective, distanced tone while active voice creates a more dynamic tone. If your teacher does not express a preference, choose one voice and remain consistent.

Results

This section provides the place for your data. Here you will include your graphs, tables and diagrams with brief explanations. These are quantitative results, but you should make certain you include clear, accurate labels. You do not interpret your data here, but in the discussion section.

Discussion

This section explains what happened in the experiment to produce such results, providing the opportunity to explain errors or problems you faced during the experiment. Here, you must explain the relationship of your results to your original hypothesis and determine the significance of your experiment. Spend time on this section; it will reveal your ability to analyze and interpret.

Conclusion

Conclusions may be given a separate section, or they may be presented in the discussion section. Your teacher may indicate a preference. In this section, conclusions are drawn from the results and discussion sections, attempting to answer the larger questions of your experiment's importance.

Bibliography

If your report requires a list of references at the end, you should consult a style guide accepted by your field of research. Your bibliography should begin on a separate page from the text of your lab report.

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