Laboratory Report Guidelines (if applicable to the lab)
The following contains information intended to assist you in writing a high quality laboratory report. Note the following general rules:
1) Use passive instead of active voice. Avoid the first person (I, we, us, our, etc.) as well as the second person “you”.
2) Avoid colloquialisms and use proper grammar and spelling in order to avoid having a reader judge the quality of the technical work by that of the written presentation.
3) Read the report several times for continuity and flow. If possible, have an “outsider” read the report to see if it is clear and understandable.
Weekly Report Structure (if applicable)
Lab reports should be roughly 5-6 pages (double-spaced with 12 point font), NOT including the Title Page, References, or Appendix.
• Title Page
• Introduction–objectives and a brief description of the experiment.
• Results–experimental data and results, organized neatly in tabular and/or graphical form. Primarily, this section will just include Tables and Figures, but some text is required to briefly describe the Table/Figure.
• Discussion–comparison of experimental results with theoretical findings (or published data), error analysis, and conclusions. This will be the longest section, so that you can properly describe the experimental findings.
• Appendix–sample calculations (NOT Equations only!), if required
Final Report Structure
In general, the report should read like a (good) book. Start with basic concepts and good organization. Then add more and more detail. All drawings, tables, and graphs must be created using appropriate software tools, and must be numbered and captioned.A typical lab report is structured as follows:
- Title Page
- Materials & Methods
Also sometimes called “Summary” or “Executive Summary,” the abstract is a brief (one to two paragraphs) summary of the objectives, work conducted during the experiment, and significant results or findings. The abstract allows the reader to determine the nature and scope of the report without having to read from beginning to end. The optimal length is one paragraph, but it could be as short as two sentences. The length of the abstract depends on the subject matter and the length of the paper. Between 80 and 200 words is usually adequate.
The introduction is one of the most difficult parts of a document to write. It’s also one of the most important, because the introduction is where your reader’s first impressions are formed.If the introduction is not logical, then your reader will assume that the rest of the document is garbage. A good introduction is a clear statement of the problem or project and the reasons that you are studying it. This information should be contained in the first few sentences. Give a concise and appropriate discussion of the problem and the significance, scope, and limits of your work. The Introduction can be structured something like this:
- Context: Connect the lab you are doing to real world applications to show that you understand the problem and its relevance from an engineering perspective
- Problem Description: Give a brief description of what you were required to do in the lab – an overview, or scope, of the work.
- Goals: Discuss the objectives of the lab. What were you trying to accomplish and why?
Provide any information necessary for the reader to understand subsequent sections of the report.
Materials & Methods
For experimental work, give sufficient detail about your materials and methods (both experimental procedures and methods of data analysis) so that other experienced workers can repeat your work and obtain comparable results. Identify the materials and equipment/apparatus used for the laboratory work. Describe equipment/apparatus only if it is not standard or not commercially available. Giving a company name and model number in parentheses is adequate to identify standard equipment. Describe the experimental procedures used, unless they are established and standard. If the laboratory work will also involve calculations using theoretical equations, these should be included here as well. The calculations section should include sufficient mathematical detail to enable other researchers to reproduce derivations and verify numerical results. Include all background data, equations, and formulas necessary, but lengthy derivations are best presented in the Appendix.
Many students fail to recognize that the equations and statistical methods applied to obtain the results are as important as the raw data.The reader expects to see these methods discussed in this section BEFORE the results are presented, in order to understand how the objectives of the work were achieved.After reading these details in the Procedures section, the reader will know what to look for and expect in the Results and Discussion section.Subheadings, such as “Experimental Procedures” and “Theoretical Calculations” or “Methods of Data Analysis”, can help you to write and organize this section.
This is where you detail the results you obtained in the laboratory. Summarize the data collected and their statistical treatment.Tables and graphs should be used where necessary to present your data, calculations, and results.Remember that all figures and charts must be accompanied by supporting text. Note: this section should only include the facts of the study, not your interpretation, which belongs in the Discussion section.
Discussion must be provided to describe and explain the data and significance of the information in the tables and graphs. The purpose of the discussion is to interpret and compare the results. Be objective; point out the features and limitations of the work. Relate your results to current knowledge in the field and to your original purpose in undertaking the project. Comparison of results with theory or accepted formulas should be discussed. Sources of error should be discussed with respect to your findings and the significance of these errors with respect to the objectives of the lab.Include only relevant data, but give sufficient detail to justify your conclusions. This is where you should document the “lessons learned” during the course of the laboratory exercise. What were your expected results? Were those results achieved? If not, why not? Have you resolved the problem? What exactly have you contributed? Briefly state the logical implications of your results. Suggest further study or applications if warranted. If you were allowed different constraints in the laboratory, how could you improve the experiment?What types of follow-up studies could be performed?