Tips on How to Write a Lab Report: A Full Guide 2023
What Is a Lab Report
Let's start with a burning question: what is lab report? A lab report is an overview of your scientific experiment. It describes what you did (the course of the experiment), how you did it (what equipment and materials you used), and what outcome your experiment led to.
If you take any science classes involving a lab experiment – or full-fledged laboratory courses, you'll have to do your share of lab report writing.
Unlike the format of case study writing, lab reports have to follow a different structure. They, along with other lab report guidelines, are likely defined by your instructor. Your lab notebook may also contain the requirements.
But if it's not your case, here's what to include in a lab report:
- title page;
- equipment and materials list;
If this structure looks intimidating now, don't worry: we'll break down every component below.
Format for Lab Reports
Different instructors require different formats for lab reports. So, look through the requirements you've received and see if a science lab report format is specified.
If no format is specified, see if your school, college, or university has specific formatting guidelines or a lab report template to follow.
If that's also not the case, then you can choose the most common formatting style for research papers and lab reports alike: the APA (American Psychology Association) format. Other options include the MLA (Modern Language Association) and Chicago styles.
APA Lab Report Style
Let's break down the main particularities of using the APA style for lab reports. When it comes to the lab report outline, this style dictates that you should include the following:
- a title page;
- an abstract;
- sources (as a References page).
How to format references under the APA format deserves a separate blog post. But here's a short example:
Smith, J. (2021). A lab report introduction guide. Cambridge Press.
To cite this source in the text, style it like this: (Smith, 2021)
As for the text formatting, here are the key APA guidelines to keep in mind:
- page margins: 1" (on all sides);
- indent: 0.5";
- page number: in the upper right corner;
- spacing: double;
- font: Times New Roman 12 pt.
How Long Should a Lab Report Be?
The appropriate report length depends heavily on the kind of experiment conducted – and on the requirements set by your instructor. That said, most lab reports are five to ten pages long, in our experience. That includes all the raw data, appendices, and graphs.
Need a lab report example? You'll find three below!
What's the Difference Between Lab Reports & Research Papers?
While lab report format and structure are similar to that of a research paper, they differ. But unfortunately, in our work as a college essay writing service, we see them confused often enough.
The key differences between lab reports and research papers are:
- Lab reports require you to conduct a hands-on experiment, while research papers are focused on the interpretation of existing data;
- A lab report's purpose is to show that you understand the scientific methods central to the experimental procedure – that's why the lab report template is different, too;
- A lab experiment doesn't require you to have an original hypothesis or argument;
- Research papers are usually longer than lab reports.
How to Do a Lab Report: Outline
Like with any other papers, from SWOT analysis to case studies, writing lab reports is easier when you have a clear college lab report outline in front of you. Luckily for you, the lab report structure is the same in most cases.
So, here's how to do a lab report – follow this outline (unless your instructor's requirements contradict it!):
- Title page: your name, course, instructor, and the report title;
- Abstract: a short description of the key findings and their significance;
- Introduction: the purpose of the lab experiment and its background information;
- Methods and materials: what you used during the experiment (e.g., a lab manual, certain reagents, etc.);
- Procedure: the detailed description of the lab experiment;
- Results: the outcome of your experiment and its interpretation;
- Conclusion: what your findings may mean for the field;
- References: the list of your sources;
- Appendices: raw data, calculations, graphs, etc.
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Guide on How to Write a Lab Report
If the outline above is overwhelming at first, don't worry! As a paper and essay writing service, we've had our share of experience in writing lab reports. Today, we'd like to share this experience with you in this lab report guide.
So, below you'll find everything you need to know on how to write a good lab report, along with handy lab report guidelines!
Lab Report Title Page
The lab report title page should include your name, student code, and any lab partners you may have had. It should also contain the date of the experiment and the title of your report.
The title length should be less than ten words. You'll also need to include the name of the academic supervisor in your lab report title page if you have one.
This paragraph describes your experiment, its main point, and its findings in a nutshell. Here are several guidelines on how to write an abstract for a lab report:
- Keep it under 200 words;
- Start with the purpose of your experiment;
- Describe the experimental procedure;
- State the results;
- Include 2-3 keywords (optional).
Lab Report Introduction
The first paragraph is where you explain your hypothesis and the purpose of your experiment. You can also add any previous research on the matter and any background information worth including. Here's a short lab report introduction example with a hypothesis:
This experiment examined the correlation between the levels of CO2 and the rate of photosynthesis in Chlorella algae. The latter was quantified by measuring the levels of RuBisCO.
Equipment (Methods and Materials)
Next in the lab report structure is the equipment section (also known as methods and materials). This is where you mention your lab manual, methods used during the experimental procedure, and the materials list.
In this part of the report, ensure to include all the details of the experimental procedure. It should provide readers with everything they need to know to replicate your study.
Procedure (with Graphs & Figures)
This part is, perhaps, the easiest (unlike how to write a hypothesis for a lab report). You should simply document the course of the lab experiment step-by-step, in chronological order.
This is usually a significant part of the report, taking up most of it. So make sure to provide detailed information on your hands-on experience!
This is the overview of your experiment's findings (also known as the discussion section). Here's how to write a results section for a lab report:
- Discuss the outcome of the experiment;
- Explain how it pertains to your hypothesis (whether it proves or disproves it);
- Keep it brief and concise.
Note. You might notice that describing future work or further studies is absent from the tips on how to write the discussion section of a lab report. That's because it's a part of the conclusion, not the discussion.
This is where you sum up the results of your experiment and draw any major conclusions. You may also suggest future laboratory experiments or further research.
Here's how to write a conclusion for a lab report in three steps:
- Explain the results of your experiment;
- Determine their significance – and any limitations to the experimental design;
- Suggest future studies (if applicable).
The conclusion part of lab reports is typically short. So, don't worry if you can't write a lengthy one – you don't have to!
This is the part of your lab report outline where you list all of the sources you relied on in your lab experiments. It should include your lab manual, along with any relevant recommended reading from your course. You may also include any extra sources you used.
Remember to format your references list according to the formatting style you have to follow. Apart from every entry's formatting, you'll also have to present your references in alphabetical order based on the author's last name (for APA lab reports).
Finally, any lab report format includes appendices – your figures and graphs, in other words. This is where you add your raw data in tables, complete calculations, charts, etc.
Keep in mind: just like with sources, you need to cite each of the appendices in the main body of the report. Remember to format the appendix and its citation according to the chosen formatting style.
Lab Report Examples
As a paper and dissertation writing service, we know that sometimes it's better to see a great example of how to write a lab report once than to read dozens of tips. So, we've asked our professional writers to prepare a lab report template for three disciplines: chemistry, biology, and science.
Look at these samples if you keep wondering how to do a lab report! But keep in mind: you won't be able to use them as-is. So instead, use them as examples for your writing.
Note. References to lab manuals are made up – you should refer to the one you use in the experiment!
How to Write a Formal Lab Report for Chemistry?
The same lab report guidelines listed above apply to chemistry lab reports. Here's a short example that includes a lab report introduction, equipment, procedure, results, and references for an electrolysis reaction.
How to Write a Lab Report for Biology?
Next up in your lab report guide, it's a biology lab report! Like in any other lab report, its main point is to describe your experiment and explain its findings. Below you can find an example of one biology lab report that seeks to explain how to extract DNA from sliced fruit and make it visible to the naked eye.
How to Write a Science Lab Report?
Finally, let's look at a general science lab report. In this case, the science lab report format is the same as for other disciplines: start with the introduction and hypothesis, describe the equipment and procedure, and explain the outcome.
Here's a science lab report example on testing the density of different juices.
7 More Tips on How to Write a Lab Report
Need some more guidance on writing lab reports? Then, we've got you covered! Here are seven more tips on writing an excellent report:
- Carefully examine your lab manual before starting the experiment;
- Take detailed notes throughout the process;
- Be conscious of any limitations of your experimental design – and mention them in conclusion;
- Stick to the lab report structure defined by your instructor;
- Be transparent about any experimental error that may occur;
- Search for examples if you feel stuck with writing lab reports;
- Triple-check your lab report before submitting it: look for formatting issues, sources forgotten, and grammar and syntax mistakes.
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