lab report has specific expectations so a definitive
style does not really exist. Thus, the best advice is
to read the lab sheet carefully to ensure that you meet
all the expectations. They serve several functions:
- Persuade others to accept or reject hypotheses by
presenting data and interpretations
- Detail data, procedures, and outcomes for future
- Become part of the accepted body of scientific knowledge
when published unless later disproved
- Provide an archival record for reference and document
a current situation for future comparison
There are some general guidelines you can follow.
- Always include an underlined, centered title at
the top of the report (assuming a title page has omitted--see Class APA Guides/Writing Format).
- Always include an underlined date to the right of
the title at the top of the report (assuming a title page has omitted--see Class APA Guides/Writing Format).
- Always put your name at the very top left or right
of the report. It is helpful to place the names of
your lab partners under your name (assuming a title page has omitted--see Class APA Guides/Writing Format).
- If you wish to include subtitles to separate sections
of the report, be consistent in your style. They should
be flush with the left margin, but not underlined (see Class APA Guides/Writing Format). For example, if you
use a subtitle "Observations",
you should also use subtitles such as"Conclusions" and etc.
- If there is a hypothesis for the experiment, it
is typically the first section of the report, unless
otherwise specified. It may be informal (just a prediction
such as "It is predicted that bromthymol blue
indicator will turn yellow in foods that contain acids".
It may be formal (for example, "If hydration
affects test scores, then it is predicted that the
more water high school students drink during the day,
the higher their test scores will be on average".
The type of hypothesis expected will be stated.
- Typically the observations section comes next. There
are two main types of observations that are requested,
but most often the work is displayed in a table. You
may be asked to make an observations table or a results
table. An observations table only includes data that
was directly observed and no inferences, conclusions
or calculations. A results table includes both data
that was directly observed and inferences, conclusions
or calculations. Making concise and clear tables is
a developed skill and is much harder than most students
realize. Any table needed, is very specific to the
experiment being conducted. Try to make sure it is
very clear, there should be no short-forms and it
should neatly summarize results without creating redundancies.
It should not be ambiguous, misleading or difficult
to interpret. The easier it is to decipher, the better
the table. All data tables must either have an introduction
or a title. For example, an introduction could be,
"The following table depicts the measurement
of blood pressure of grade eleven students recorded
before and after ten minutes of vigorous exercise".
The same goal can be achieved using a table title
which would be immediately above the table and is
flush with the left edge of the table. It would be
written as, "Table 1: Blood Pressure Measurements
of Grade eleven Students Before and After Ten Minutes
of Vigorous Exercise" or "Table 1:
Measurement of blood pressure of grade eleven students
before and after completing ten minutes of vigorous
exercise." The former is a title with capitals
and no punctuation, while the latter is sentence with
only one capital and a period at the end and must
have perfect grammar. The styles are different so
do not mix them. Making a good table title is very
challenging, but it should be concise and allow the
reader to know all about the experiment.
- Typically any graphs would come next and would still
be included in the observations/results section. They
can go on separate paper at the end of the report,
in order used in the report. In this case, they should
be mentioned in the report. For example, "The
relationship between blood pressure and sex is depicted
in figure one", or "No relationship was
found between blood pressure and sex of grade eleven
students (see figure one)". It is sometimes acceptable
to just use a title on the graph, but it is better
to have a figure caption instead of a title. The figure
caption is placed flush with the left edge of the
graph at the bottom of the graph. It should be concise
summary that allows the reader to know exactly what
happened during the experiment. For example, "Figure
1: The relationship between blood pressure and
sex for grade eleven students before and after ten
minutes of vigorous exercise." Figure captions
are most typically sentences, but can occasionally
use title format.
- Typically the report ends with the conclusions section.
This is where you may be asked to summarize your findings,
support or reject your hypothesis, conduct math or
answer questions. It is very important that your reword
the question as clarity is extremely important. All
math should be conducted in an Appendix section (a
separate sheet of paper, at the end of the report).
The appendix can be a little rougher (in pencil, short-forms,
fractions or division lines can be drawn free-hand),
but there must be a formal statement for the math
in the main body of the report. Thus, you do the work
in the appendix and state the answer in the conclusions
- If you needed sources to help explain your answer,
then you must include citations, and a separate reference
page as outlined by the APA. The Reference page would
be the last page in the report in this case.
Some general points of style:
- Strive for logic and precision and avoid ambiguity,
especially with pronouns and sequences
- Keep your writing impersonal; avoid the use of the
first person (i.e. I or we)
- Use the past tense and be consistent within the
report note: "data" is plural and "datum"
is singular; species is singular and plural
- Italicize all scientific names (genus and species)
- Use the metric system of measurement and abbreviate
measurements without periods (i.e. cm kg) spell out
all numbers beginning sentences or less than 10 (i.e.
"two explanations of six factors").
- Write numbers as numerals when greater than ten
(i.e. 156) or associated with measurements (i.e. 6
mm or 2 g)
- Have a neutral person review and critique your report