Lab Report Guidelines

Components of a Lab Report

Abstract: State the ultimate goal of the experiment, give a brief description of the experiment, and list the experimental results succinctly and accurately. The abstract is written for scientist; therefore you should not provide explanations of terms or give step-by-step descriptions of the experiments. Typical abstract errors include: incorrect goal, the paragraph is not an abstract but an introduction, poor/incomplete phrasing, too lengthy, and spelling/grammatical errors.

Introduction: Short discussion of each of the main topics, including a brief presentation of theory if appropriate. Typical errors in this section are due to verbosity, incorrect statement of theory, poor/incomplete phrasing, spelling/grammar and plagiarism.

Body: Procedure and data analysis. The procedure should not contain "obvious or tedious" information such as "…put the plug into the interface…" The data listed should be essential data (if there is "lots" of data then present it as a graph). Typical errors (points off) in this section include: mislabeled units or no units identified, errors in calculations, labeling graph axes incorrectly, sloppy presentation of data, not doing all parts of the lab including answering questions, spelling/grammar errors and plagiarism.

Conclusion: This section should be a scientific conclusion describing the lab results, and whether or not your results agree with theory. Your statements should contain a description of error or precision where appropriate. If you results disagree with theory, then a good explanation must be provided. Typical errors (points off) in this section are just reporting what was done with no conclusion, e.g. not comparing your results with theory. Examples of non-scientific conclusions are "…this is a good lab…a fun lab…we hated it."

Further Notes on Lab Report Notes

  • Tables and graphs (pasted from Excel) should be near the discussions referring to them. Appropriate labels, symbols, subscripts and superscripts should be used.
  • Units must be indicated for all measured and calculated quantities. WARNING: Do Not Use the phrase "This lab proved…", or any phrase with similar meaning!!! Your labs are one-time observations, and do not constitute proof of any theory. Your lab results are consistent with theory within some level of precision (hopefully)!
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