Lab Report Writing Explained!

Any student who is taking a course that involves laboratory work can expect to have to write a lab report at least once in their academic career. Moreover, these reports usually contribute in a significant way to the student’s overall grade. If it is the case your course instructor provides a guide showing how to do the task, use the guide you have been given. Some course instructors ask for lab reports to be written in a special laboratory notebook while other instructors may ask for them in report form.

So, why are lab reports important and how does one create them?

The following is a lab report format you are welcome to use in the event you are not certain how to write a report like this or you need to know what should be included in different sections of your report.  

So, what would most likely be included in the “analysis” section of a lab report?

Firstly, a report of this type describes an experiment you conducted (what exactly you did), what it was you discovered or learned, the results you obtained, and what they mean. Below is a standard lab report format.

How to Make a Lab Report Format: the Essentials

If you refer to an existing lab report example, you will see that some laboratory reports do not require title or cover pages. However, if an instructor asks for one, it should be just one page that sets out:

  1. Experiment name or title of laboratory report. The name or title indicates what work was done. This should be fairly brief (no more than ten (10) words) and it should provide a description of the primary reason for the investigative work or experiment.

Here is an example of a high school physics lab report title: “Ultraviolet Light – Effects on the Growth Rate of Borax Crystal.” Where possible, lab report titles should begin with a keyword and not an article word such as “A” or “The.”  

  1. The laboratory report purpose should be set out in the introductory section. This section is usually a paragraph long in which the reasons for or objectives of the lab work are explained. State your hypothesis in a single sentence. An introductory section can sometimes give background or historical information and summarize in brief terms how the investigative work or experiment was undertaken. It should also say what results the experiment produced and it should say what the investigators conclusions are. Even in cases where you do not or cannot write a complete introductory section, you should explain why you undertook the work – the purpose of the work. It is here you should set out your report’s hypothesis.
  2. A formal lab report format describes what resources/materials were used. Hence, you should provide a list of everything you used to carry out the lab experiment you are writing about.
  3. What method(s) did you use? List each step you went through to undertake your experiment or investigation. This represents the procedure you followed. Provide sufficient detail so that any other person who reads this part can replicate the work you did. Write this part of your report as though you were providing instructions for another person to undertake what you did. It can help to include a diagram or Figure to illustrate the set-up of your experiment.
  4. Set our all necessary data. Unlike a lab report cover page, this section is not optional. It is usual to present any numerical data that is obtained during this type of work in table form. The term “data” refers to any numbers, facts, or information you noted during your experimental work. This refers only to facts, and at this stage, you should not try to interpret their meaning.
  5. Experiment findings/results. Use words (i.e. narrative) to describe the meaning of any data you collected/recorded. In some cases, it is appropriate to combine a Findings/Results section with a report’s Discussion section (e.g. Findings/Results and Discussion).
  6. Write the analysis and/or discussion section. A data section in a report of this type consists of numbers. The section on analysis usually consists of any calculation work you did using these numbers. It is here you offer an interpretation of any data you collected and determine whether these prove your hypothesis or not. It is also in this section you should draw attention to any errors that may have occurred while you were undertaking the experiment or investigation. It may be that you want to mention any way in which the experiment could have been done differently or better. 
  7. What conclusion(s) have you arrived at? In most cases, the concluding section is a one-paragraph summary describing the main points of the experiment, whether or not your initial hypothesis was proved or disproved, and what it all means.
  8. If you are just learning how to write a physics lab report high school or for college you will need to know how to handle graphs and figures. You will need to label any graphs and/or figures you used with a title that describes their meaning. The axes of any graphs you use should be labelled, making sure to indicate any measurement units you used. The X-axis should show independent variables and the Y-axis should show dependent variables (the ones being measured). Do not forget to make reference to graphs and figures in the narrative part of your lab report e.g. the figure on page one is Figure 1, the figure on page three is Figure 2 and so on.
  9. Do not forget to create a list of references. If any of your experiment or research was drawn from the work of other people or you referred to any facts that need to be documented, these should be listed as references.

Lab Report Example on a Test for Monosaccharide 

Purpose

Introduction

This lab test was done to test for monosaccharide. Each of the four items under test would be tested using a litmus test and benedict’s solution. For a solution to be classified as containing monosaccharaides, it had to pass both the litmus test and the benedict’s solution tests.

When using the litmus paper, solutions with monosaccharaides were expected to turn green, yellow, yellow orange, orange or orange red based on the sugar concentration on the litmus paper based on the concentration levels. Monosaccharaides are classified among reducing sugars. Therefore, the presence of monosaccharaides in any of these solutions would form a red precipitate on the benedict’s solution. The precipitate would be formed because of the ability of monosaccharaides to reduce CU2+ ions in the benedict’s solution into brick red precipitate, which is CU20. Since monosaccharaides are not the only reducing sugars, the litmus test would be used to determine whether the solution contained monosaccharaide (McDonald, 2004).

Materials

  1. Litmus papers
  2. Test tubes
  3. Benedict’s solution
  4. Potato juice
  5. Onion juice
  6. Water
  7. Starch suspension
  8. Glucose suspension
  9. Control solution

Methods

First Experiment

Second experiment

Results

In the first experiment, test tubes containing potato juice and onion juice changed color. Onion changed color from foggy clear into a green blue precipitate. Potato changed from brownish cloudy into foggy blue. The solution containing glucose changed into red after it was heated in benedict’s solution. All the other solutions changed from being clear into blue color.

In the second experiment, the glucose solution changed the litmus paper into red. Onion and potato juice changed the litmus paper’s color into orange while the others had no effect on the litmus paper.

Discussion

After being heated in equal amounts of benedict’s solution, each solution changed color accordingly. Glucose changed from clear into red in both the benedict’s solution and the litmus paper meaning that the concentration of sugar or monosaccharaides in glucose was high. Potato and onion also had some effect on the color of both the litmus paper and the benedict’s solution meaning that they contained little amounts of monosaccharaides (Sharma, J. P. (2010). The other did not test positive for monosaccharide in both the first and the second experiment. 

Reference

  1. McDonald, M. (2004). Review guide for LPN-LVN pre-entrance exam (2nd ed.). Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett.
  2. Sharma, J. P. (2010). Comprehensive Biology Activities Vol. I XI. Laxmi Publications. New York: Routledge