Study Skills

Study Skills

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Lab Reports

Writing lab reports is very different from writing narratives, persuasive essays, or other literary-based papers, because lap reports are based solely on research and data instead of on opinions, imagination, or bias. Lab reports state specific details about a procedure that was performed, the outcome of that procedure, any data that was collected, and possible applications of that outcome or data to solve a problem. Lab reports also provide knowledge and a record for others who are interested in or are doing research on a similar topic. Most lab reports are comprised of the same sections: title, abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, and references/literature cited.

The title of a lab report should be straightforward and indicate what the lab report will be about. It should not be too long, usually no longer than ten words. When you are thinking of a title, try to include key words that researchers and search engines on the Internet will recognize. Do not be whimsical or too creative when deciding on a title.

An abstract, the next section of a lab report, is a very concise summary of what you are about to present to the reader. In no more than 200 words, the abstract will explain the purpose of the lab report, summarize the data, and outline the most important conclusions. In essence, it is a preview of what is to come.

The third section is called the introduction. Begin by explaining your hypothesis and the steps that comprised the procedures in the experiment. Give any background information, and provide the reader with other studies that have already been conducted on the topic. This allows the reader to have access to knowledge about the topic that already exists.

In the next section, materials and methods, list every single material that was used in the experiment, as well as how they were used. If special materials were used, describe them and explain their purpose in the experiment. Also indicate where the experiment was performed. The reader should be familiar with the experiment by this point, but not overwhelmed or confused.

In the results section, you should summarize the data taken from the experiment. Do not, however, explain any implications or applications for that data. Try to focus on the big picture, leaving out small or unimportant details. Organize the data presented in graphs, charts, figures, etc. Make sure to title and number every graphic you include in this section.

The discussion section is where you have the chance to interpret the data you collected. Explain whether or not your hypothesis was correct, as well as procedures you may improve on or change in the next attempt at the same experiment. You should also explain how your results are related to other theories about the same subject.

In the last section, cite any references you used to write your lab report. Make sure to follow formatting rules so that others will be able to locate the sources if they choose to do so.  

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