SECTION THREE : Introduction
Establishing a context for the lab
1: Begin the opening paragraph of the Introduction by stating the
scientific concept (principle, theory, law) or laboratory procedure of
the lab. Then finish the paragraph by writing down all the details about
the concept or procedure relevant to the lab that you can find in the
lab manual, textbook, class notes, handouts, etc. If you completed the
PreLab, this step corresponds to question 1. Note any citations you use
here for including in the References section of your report.
- If you are having trouble writing a good opening sentence for the
lab report, you can say something like: "This laboratory experiment
focuses on X
"; "This laboratory experiment is about
" ; "This lab is designed to help students learn
about, observe, or investigate, X
." Or if you are working
with a scientific concept or procedure, you can begin by defining
it: "X is a theory that
"; or "X is a procedure
that is used for..."
- Once you have your opening sentence, you are ready to complete the
opening paragraph by telling what you know about the scientific concept
or lab procedure. The point is to show your lab instructor that you
have a good grasp of the scientific concept. Make sure to include
- Information about the scienctific concept or laboratory procedure
that is directly related to the lab (not everything there is to
know about the concept or procedure)
- Additional relevant information about the concept or procedure
you may have learned since doing the PreLab or since doing the
- If you have a lot to say about the scientific concept or lab procedure,
use more than one paragraph.
- This part of the Introduction is typically written in present tense.
- For help with citing references, go to Citations
For more advanced labs:
If you are writing a lab report that is more
like a full scientific paper, you may need to do more research using
the internet and library. With your teacher's guidance, you should
search the recent scientific literature to find other research in
this area of study. Summarize that research in a paragraph or so,
stating what the general findings have been and using those findings
to describe the current knowledge in the area (such a "review
of the literature" is typical of scientific journal articles).
This summary should come after your initial sentence about the scientific
concept. For help with citing references, go to Citations
2: Write in sentence form the objectives for
this lab--specific things you are being asked to do in the lab, such as
measure, analyze, observe, test something, etc. Then, continue the paragraph
by describing the purpose of the lab--how the achievement of these objectives
are designed to help you learn about the scientific concept or procedure
of the lab. If you completed the PreLab, this step corresponds to questions
2 and 3.
- Objectives are typically actions you are being asked to perform
for the lab. Often the objectives are listed in the lab manual. Writing
the objectives of the lab in your own words demonstrates your understanding
of what you were supposed to accomplish in the lab. With most labs,
you should be able to do this in 1 or 2 sentences. You can begin by
saying something like: "The main objectives of this lab were
"; "In this lab we were asked to
will be the beginning of the paragraph. If your response to PreLab
question 2 was a list of objectives, revise it by summarizing the
primary objectives in your own words.
- Continue the paragraph by addressing the purpose of the lab. This
is where you make the all-important link between what you do in the
lab (the objectives) and the purpose for doing the lab: to learn something
about the scientific concept or procedure of the lab. Read over the
objectives again. In what way do you think that doing the experiment,
accomplishing the objectives, helped you learn about the scientific
concept? You can start by saying something like this: "The objectives
of this lab enabled me to learn about X by
these objectives helped me to understand X by
." If you
completed the PreLab, revise question 3, showing that you comprehend
the purpose of the lab.
- This part of the Introduction is usually all in past tense.
3: Describe the questions you had before doing the lab,
things you didn't understand or would like to know more about. These are
questions about the scientific concept, lab materials, procedures, or
application of this lab to other scenarios. If other questions came up
as you were completing the lab, include them here as well. State why these
questions are important to understanding the lab. Make sure to describe
your questions in the context of the scientific concept for the lab. If
you completed the PreLab, this step corresponds to question 4.
- Since the purpose of the lab and the report is to help you learn something
about science, the final paragraph of the Introduction should create
a learning context for the rest of the lab report. Writing a paragraph
that describes issues that you didn’t understand or wanted to
know more about before or during the lab establishes a basis for learning.
It shows what you may be able to learn by doing the lab. You will return
to these issues in the Discussion.
- If you did not do the PreLab, one strategy for finding these issues
at this point is to go back to the lab manual and read the section about
this lab. Look for things that you were unclear about before you did
the lab. Perhaps, you didn’t fully understand aspects of the scientific
concept for the lab. Or perhaps there were some details about how to
perform the lab procedure that were not clear to you. It may be that
you were curious about how you could apply the lab protocol to another
situation. You can include issues that you still don’t understand.
- To write the paragraph, describe what you don’t know or are
just curious about. You can do this in sentence form or list them in
- To show how the issues you raise are important to the lab, show how
they relate to the main scientific concept or procedure of the lab.
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