SECTION FOUR : Discussion
Interpreting the results of the lab
1: For the opening paragraph of the Discussion, explain what the findings
mean in terms of the scientific concept or laboratory procedure of the
lab. In other words, discuss the connection between the evidence you collected
and what you were supposed to be learning about by doing the lab. If necessary,
refer to graphs, drawings, tables, lists, or other visuals from the Results
to support your explanation.
- Go back to the first part of your Introduction where you establish
the main focus of the lab--the scientific concept or procedure of
the lab--and use what you have written to address the following questions
in your opening paragraph of the Discussion:
- What is the connection between your findings and the scientific
concept or procedure of the lab?
- What implications do the findings suggest about the concept
- How do the findings relate to your description of what you already
knew about the concept or procedure in the first paragraph of
- If appropriate, refer to specific drawings, tables, or other visuals
from the Results to support your explanation.
2: Go back
to the questions you raised in your Introduction, and in a paragraph or
so, discuss any answers you arrived at as a result of doing the lab or
as a result of additional research you may have done. Where appropriate,
refer to specific data in your findings or to specific points in the protocol
to support the answers to these questions. Finally, discuss the importance
of these questions to the scientific concept or lab procedure you explored
in this lab. Note any citations you use here for including in the References
section of your report.
- Return to the Introduction and to the original PreLab question (if
you did one) where you raised the questions to guide your learning.
Identify any of those questions that doing the lab or doing additional
research provided answers for, even partial answers. These are the
ones you can discuss in this section of the report.
- In the Discussion, consider each question separately, unless some
questions are better grouped together. Restate the question or issue
and then present what you think is an answer to it. Then explain how
you came to the answer. This is where you should refer to specific
findings or other observations from the laboratory procedure.
- If you are not sure of an answer, put in any qualifiers you think
are appropriate. You can say that you think the answer is tentative.
- For help with citing references, go to Citations
3: In the final part of your Discussion, write about
other items as appropriate, such as (1) questions from the Introduction
that remain unanswered; (2) sources
of uncertainty in your lab methods that may have led you to unclear
answers; (3) how your findings compare to the findings of other students
in the lab and an explanation for any differences; (4) what further investigations
you would do in order to gather more information; (5) suggestions for
improving the lab.
- The final part of your Discussion allows you to bring up other issues
that may be appropriate for this lab. The list here is intended to be
suggestive. They point to the kinds of things you could address here.
- Previously, you had identified questions from the Introduction that
you could answer based on the lab research. Go back to the ones that
you don’t have a satisfactory answer for. Restate those questions
and talk about why they remain unanswered and speculate, if you can,
on what it would take to answer them.
- If you have reason to be uncertain about some of your data (for example,
it doesn’t match you think you should have found or if you had
problems in your lab procedure) go back to the notes you took as you
were setting up the lab and collecting and recording data. These notes
might enable you to identify sources
- In scientific articles, the Discussion is where scientists typically
compare their results to those from other scientific experiments. If
your teacher says it is permissible, you can do something similar by
comparing your results to those of other students in the lab. In your
paragraph, comment on any similarities or differences you find and offer
possible explanations for the differences.
- Professors who write lab manuals are typically interested in how they
can improve the experiments in the manuals. You can also demonstrate
your ability to provide productive critique of the lab by offering suggestions
- In the Discussion section, use the past tense when referring to what
has been done in the experiment, but use present tense when talking
about most everything else, such as scientific concepts, explanations,
and references to articles. For help with citing references, go to Citations
Return to Top