PostLab: writing your
SECTION ONE : Methods
Describing the lab procedure
Using your lab manual, handouts, and notes taken during
the lab as a guide, describe in paragraph form how you did the lab. The
point is to demonstrate that you have a solid grasp of the lab procedures,
such as conducting a dissection or using specific laboratory equipment
to determine an unknown. Provide enough detail of the materials you used
and the methods you followed so that someone else could repeat the procedure.
Make sure to note any differences between the procedures presented in
the lab manual and what you actually did. This will be very important
when you are writing the discussion portion of your report. Remember that
the Methods should only describe what you did in the lab and not what
SECTION TWO : Results
Making sense of your findings for yourself and others
Step 1: If you haven't already done so, create appropriate tables,
graphs, and other figures to enable you to visualize your lab data. Use
a spreadsheet program or table function in a word processing program.
If your lab data consists of only drawings, or observations, you may want
to organize these in tabular format as well. If not, go to Step 2. Remember
that representing your data in a visual format will allow you to identify
trends, relationships, and other patterns in your data more easily.
with Step 1 of Results
Step 2: Once you have generated visual representations
of your data, determine the best order for presenting the visuals. If
the the proper order for visuals is already determined by the lab manual,
go to step three.
with Step 2 of Results
Step 3: Review all the data from your experiment. In
a sentence or two, summarize the main finding of this lab. This is the
opening sentence(s) of the Results section.
with Step 3 of Results
Step 4: In separate paragraphs, summarize the general
finding in each of your visuals--tables, graphs, drawings, or other
figures. First, describe any relationship or interaction which exists
among variables for each visual. Then include any specific details from
the visual(s) that are important for understanding the results. Refer
to your tables, graphs, drawings, or other figures as figure or table
1, 2, 3, etc.
with Step 4 of Results
Step 5: Complete the Results by placing all the elements
you've written in the proper order: (1) the sentence summarizing the overall
data for the lab; (2) the paragraphs of word descriptions for each visual
arranged in the order the visuals are presented. Remember that the Results
only reports and describes what you observed and collected during your
lab. The Results does not explain, discuss, or draw conclusions.
with Step 5 of Results
SECTION THREE : Introduction
Establishing a context for the lab
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.
HELP with Step 1 of Introduction
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
HELP with Step 2 of Introduction
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.
HELP with Step 3 of Introduction
SECTION FOUR: Discussion
Interpreting the results of the lab
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.
HELP with Step 1 of Discussion
Step 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.
HELP with Step 2 of Discussion
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.
HELP with Step 3 of Discussion
SECTION FIVE: Conclusion
Focusing on what you learned by doing the lab
Write a paragraph summarizing what you have learned about the scientific
concept or procedure of the lab. Back up your statement with details from
your lab experience.
HELP with Step 1 of Conclusion
There may be more that you have learned about from the lab experience
that is not directly related to the main focus of the lab, the scientific
concept or lab procedure. If so, describe it in a paragraph or two.
HELP with Step 2 of Conclusion
SECTION SIX: Abstract
Summarizing the lab report
Summarize each major section of the lab report--Introduction, Methods,
Results, Discussion, and Conclusion--in 1 sentence each (two if a section
is complex). Then string the summaries together in a paragraph in the
order the sections come in the final report.
with the Abstract
SECTION SEVEN: Title
Capturing the essence of the report
A good title very efficiently tells the reader what the report is about.
Write a title that captures what is important about the lab, including
the scientific concept the lab.
MORE HELP with
SECTION EIGHT: References
Acknowledging sources of information
List all the sources you referred to in writing the report,
such as the lab manual, a textbook, a course packet, or a scientific article.
Be sure to use the proper form of documentation for the scientific field
you are working in (See Citations
MORE HELP with