Need help writing a lab report

But such data should be reserved for the Results section. In the Methods section, you can write that you recorded the results, or how you recorded the results e. As you draft your Methods section, ask yourself the following questions:.

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Describe the control in the Methods section. Here is an example:. Organization is especially important in the Methods section of a lab report because readers must understand your experimental procedure completely. Increasingly, especially in the social sciences, using first person and active voice is acceptable in scientific reports.

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Most readers find that this style of writing conveys information more clearly and concisely. This rhetorical choice thus brings two scientific values into conflict: objectivity versus clarity. The Results section is often both the shortest yay! Your Materials and Methods section shows how you obtained the results, and your Discussion section explores the significance of the results, so clearly the Results section forms the backbone of the lab report.

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Before you write this section, look at all the data you collected to figure out what relates significantly to your hypothesis. Resist the urge to include every bit of data you collected, since perhaps not all are relevant. Nothing your readers can dispute should appear in the Results section. Most Results sections feature three distinct parts: text, tables, and figures. This should be a short paragraph, generally just a few lines, that describes the results you obtained from your experiment. Feel free to describe trends that emerge as you examine the data.

Although identifying trends requires some judgment on your part and so may not feel like factual reporting, no one can deny that these trends do exist, and so they properly belong in the Results section.

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As in the Materials and Methods section, you want to refer to your data in the past tense, because the events you recorded have already occurred and have finished occurring. Tables are useful ways to show variation in data, but not to present a great deal of unchanging measurements. How useful is this table? As a rule, try not to use a table to describe any experimental event you can cover in one sentence of text. When you do have reason to tabulate material, pay attention to the clarity and readability of the format you use.

Here are a few tips:. Compare this table, in which the data appear vertically:. The second table shows how putting like elements in a vertical column makes for easier reading. In this case, the like elements are the measurements of length and height, over five trials—not, as in the first table, the length and height measurements foreach trial. This convention exists because journals prefer not to have to reproduce these lines because the tables then become more expensive to print.

Figures How do I include figures in my report? Although tables can be useful ways of showing trends in the results you obtained, figures i. Lab report writers often use graphic representations of the data they collected to provide their readers with a literal picture of how the experiment went. Under the same conditions, you would probably forgo the figure as well, since the figure would be unlikely to provide your readers with an additional perspective.

The strength of a table lies in its ability to supply large amounts of exact data, whereas the strength of a figure is its dramatic illustration of important trends within the experiment. Of course, an undergraduate class may expect you to create a figure for your lab experiment, if only to make sure that you can do so effectively.

Background and pre-writing

At the undergraduate level, you can often draw and label your graphs by hand, provided that the result is clear, legible, and drawn to scale. Computer technology has, however, made creating line graphs a lot easier. Most word-processing software has a number of functions for transferring data into graph form; many scientists have found Microsoft Excel, for example, a helpful tool in graphing results.

If you plan on pursuing a career in the sciences, it may be well worth your while to learn to use a similar program. Here are some of these expectations:. In simple terms, here you tell your readers what to make of the Results you obtained. If you have done the Results part well, your readers should already recognize the trends in the data and have a fairly clear idea of whether your hypothesis was supported.

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  • Because the Results can seem so self-explanatory, many students find it difficult to know what material to add in this last section. Basically, the Discussion contains several parts, in no particular order, but roughly moving from specific i. In this section, you will, as a rule, need to:.

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    You might begin this part of the Discussion by explicitly stating the relationships or correlations your data indicate between the independent and dependent variables. Then you can show more clearly why you believe your hypothesis was or was not supported. For example, if you tested solubility at various temperatures, you could start this section by noting that the rates of solubility increased as the temperature increased.

    If your initial hypothesis surmised that temperature change would not affect solubility, you would then say something like,. Note: Students tend to view labs as practical tests of undeniable scientific truths. Also, recognize that saying whether the data supported your hypothesis or not involves making a claim to be defended. As such, you need to show the readers that this claim is warranted by the evidence. In a scientific paper, by contrast, you would need to defend your claim more thoroughly by pointing to data such as slurred words, unsteady gait, and the lampshade-as-hat.

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    • In addition to pointing out these details, you would also need to show how according to previous studies these signs are consistent with inebriation, especially if they occur in conjunction with one another. To put it another way, tell your readers exactly how you got from point A was the hypothesis supported? You need to take these exceptions and divergences into account, so that you qualify your conclusions sufficiently.

      The key to making this approach work, though, is to be very precise about the weakness in your experiment, why and how you think that weakness might have affected your data, and how you would alter your protocol to eliminate—or limit the effects of—that weakness. These speculations include such factors as the unusually hot temperature in the room, or the possibility that their lab partners read the meters wrong, or the potentially defective equipment.

      If, for example, your hypothesis dealt with the changes in solubility at different temperatures, then try to figure out what you can rationally say about the process of solubility more generally. Another is to try to identify a conversation going on among members of that community, and use your work to contribute to that conversation. On a more pragmatic level, especially for undergraduates, connecting your lab work to previous research will demonstrate to the TA that you see the big picture. Capitalize on this opportunity by putting your own work in context.

      If, for example, researchers are hotly disputing the value of herbal remedies for the common cold, and the results of your study suggest that Echinacea diminishes the symptoms but not the actual presence of the cold, then you might want to take some time in the Discussion section to recapitulate the specifics of the dispute as it relates to Echinacea as an herbal remedy. Consider that you have probably already written in the Introduction about this debate as background research. This information is often the best way to end your Discussion and, for all intents and purposes, the report.

      In argumentative writing generally, you want to use your closing words to convey the main point of your writing.

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      In either case, the concluding statements help the reader to comprehend the significance of your project and your decision to write about it. To return to the examples regarding solubility, you could end by reflecting on what your work on solubility as a function of temperature tells us potentially about solubility in general.

      We consulted these works while writing this handout. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial. We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback. American Psychological Association.

      What to Write in Discussion of Lab Report?

      Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. Beall, H, Trimbur, J. A short guide to writing about chemistry. New York: Longman; A field guide for science writers: the official guide of the National Association of Science Writers. New York: Oxford University Press; The craft of research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Briscoe, MH. Preparing scientific illustrations: a guide to better posters, presentations, and publications.