Lab Report Format and Writing Steps
Why work on lab report format?
So, what are the next steps in the lab report format? A teacher, together with a student, belongs to a scientific community, and the individuals participating in this community usually have mutual values. If the values of a scientific community are respected, then, most likely, the audience's expectations will be met.
So what is the purpose of writing the lab report? What students think – is just one more assignment from the professor. However, students working on a scientific hypothesis are responsible for sharing the gathered information with the scientific world.
Usually, readers of scientific reports have two primary goals:
- gather the information;
- conclude if the findings are legitimate.
“IMRAD” is the writing format. It may be different, depending on the audience or discipline; in some cases, there can be a requirement to include an abstract or a hypothesis in a separate section. In general, the IMRAD format is meant to exemplify a textual type of scientific method.
Drafting the Laboratory Report Format
For the student to be ready to work on the laboratory report format, he/she has to make sure that everything needed for the experiment is at hand. Carefully study the lab manual before starting experimenting. A student to be 100% ready to work on a lab report should complete the following steps:
- What will others learn from the given experiment?
- What are the reasons for participating in this exercise?
- What exactly is the plan of action in this particular laboratory? (For example, what kind of procedure will take place?)
- What benefits will we get from this experiment?
- What lessons can we take after we are done with this experiment?
If you answer the above-mentioned questions, you get a better understanding of the experiment. Overall, a general picture will guide you in writing a good report for a laboratory experiment.
Check-in with your supervisor in the laboratory while doing your laboratory assignment. In case it is hard to answer some of the listed questions, you might ask for assistance from a laboratory teacher, and he or she will most likely guide you through (in another case, at least, you will get the right perspective of the task).
It is necessary to work in a team. All laboratory partners should discuss properly every step of the exercise. No need to be in a hurry. It will increase the probability of success if you keep all your records of findings precisely. Remember to think about organizing the existing data before writing down the numbers.
Do not forget to consult with your lab partners during every step. During study groups, the two most common mistakes are: only two people do all the major work, while two do nothing; or it may be the case that students do the assignment together until the group task is done.
Bear in mind who is your target audience. Students make mistakes when they think that readers are not important. If you work on the lab report, taking into account only your lab instructor, there is a danger of omitting something crucial for a complete understanding of the experiment. Consider sticking to an approach where your reader is a student as you are. Another piece of advice for you is to envision yourself five years from now, and all the knowledge has faded a bit. After all the aforementioned pieces of advice were followed, you will be in a good position to write a good lab report.
Formal Lab Report Introduction
To write a good formal lab report, we will consider the introductory part that is very important in terms of general content. The introduction must have the stated purpose, mention the scientific literature used, the hypothesis, and the reasons for choosing the hypothesis. It will be helpful to formulate a clear organizational strategy for the introduction section.
How to Write the “Materials and Methods” Part
It is true for any writing that a certain section (methods section in our case) will be successful if it matches the readers’ expectations. Reviewing the purpose of the methods section will help a student to understand what the focus should be. For this kind of assignment, others should be able to confirm your findings; thus, the experiment must be reproducible, so that other researchers can use the pattern to follow the alike procedure and to obtain the results (similar or different).
Below will be presented a real example of how important is reproducibility. Back in 1989, two physicists Martin Fleischman and Stanley Pons claimed that they had discovered “cold fusion,” a method to produce power and heat with no nuclear radiation, accompanying “hot fusion.” This finding had great ramifications to produce energy, thus it created a great deal of interest. Later, other scientists tried to copy the experiment, but they failed to achieve the same results. Even today, one can debate the viability of cold fusion in the field of science even though a big number of various reputable researchers rely on the fact that it is possible. Consequently, while writing the method section, it is significant to define the given experimentation well so the readers and evaluator would get the best out of it.
Without any doubt, a results section is not an easy part of the report. One can find some kind of paradox here. It is the shortest and the most important section of the written report. A writer should follow a simple rule: be brief but direct. On the one hand, the methods and materials section displays the ways the results were obtained. On the other hand, the discussion part points to the importance of the consequences; subsequently, obviously the ‘results section’ formulates the support of the report. The main critical information points are provided in this section regarding the experiment. The provided information allows the writer to deliberate how the chosen hypothesis is or is not supported. At the same time, it does not offer something else, which clarifies the reason this particular section is normally smaller than the others.
To start the work on this section, you should look at and consider all the relevant facts which can be collected. It will help to figure out all relative facts to the hypothesis. In the results section, it is necessary to highlight such material to keep you on the right track. Do your best so that you have the opportunity to see everything you need. Moreover, it will help to see what you truly want to do. Do it to help yourself. To do everything possible to get the best result, it is necessary to draw certain conclusions regarding the results. You have all the tools needed to succeed. It is a good suggestion to include nothing in the result section about what the readers can doubt or argue. Results are results, so be specific and direct.
Steps to Write a Discussion Section
Perhaps, the discussion part is the least formal section of the report since you cannot apply the same structure of each kind of experiment. To state it in simpler terms, discussion serves as a bridge between achieved results and further practical usage. In case the results part was done pretty well, it is will be easy for the readers to identify the trends in the information, as well as get a fairly clear point of whether the hypothesis was reinforced. Since the received results might seem to be so understandable, numerous students find it problematic to distinguish what material to enhance in the last section.
Essentially, the discussion consists of several sections. There is no particular order. Nonetheless, you can start from the general (for instance, the way the retrieved findings relate to the larger community or science) and move to specific (for example, information that is relevant just to the experiment). Usually, this section requires you to:
- Admit some deviations or anomalous data from what you predict.
- Clarify whether the facts do support the chosen hypothesis.
- Communicate the received findings to previous work in the same area (not mandatory).
- Develop proper conclusions, based on the findings, relate them to your major.
- Announce practical and/or theoretical suggestions of your findings.