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Laboratory reports and lab books

Many schools have a clear view of how they would like you to write-up and present your practical work so ensuring that you follow their guidance is important.

It is usual to write your report under a set sequence of sub-headings such as, for example:

Introduction

Explain why you did the experiment, identify what were your goals and describe the factors that you considered.

Materials and methods

Describe exactly what protocols you followed, along with what materials and equipment you used. (If you are provided with a written protocol you may only be expected to explain where your actual practice differed from the given protocol). The intention is that someone else ought to be able to replicate your experiment from what you've written here.

Observations and results

Accurately record your experimental findings. These may be presented graphically or in tables, drawings or descriptions.

Analysis

Present your critical interpretation of the results you obtained. This may involve statistical tests of your data. It may also require a critique of the approach taken and the limitations of methods you used.

Conclusions

Explain what the results mean and relate this to the goals you described in the introduction. It may also be appropriate to give your recommendations or say what you would do differently if you were to repeat the experiment and what you have learnt from carrying it out.

Note

Writing up or reporting your practical work is an important part of the learning process, and even if you worked collaboratively, you may be expected to write your own report individually. If you are asked to write an individual report, about experiments that you did in a group, it is better that you do not work together when you are actually writing your reports. This sometimes causes confusion and can lead to students being accused of copying from each other and plagiarism.

Recording results
Recording results 
 

Further reading

Studying at university

Types of teaching

Reading and interpreting sources and data

Practical strategies for science writing

more from Academic Support study resources 

People who can help

Talk to someone in your school or a specialist support service

 

Hear from staff and students

Different kinds of writing (Scientists)

 

 

A good lab report

 

Different kinds of writing in science

 

Cathy on writing lab reports

 

 

James on writing lab reports

 
 

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