PostLab/ 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 the experimental
procedure you followed. Be sure to include enough detail about the materials
and methods you used so that someone else could repeat your procedure.
Tips on writing the Methods:
- Describe the experimental procedure you followed in paragraph form.
- Review directions in the lab manual and your notes taken during the
- Include enough detail for someone else to repeat your procedure.
- Describe the procedure clearly.
- Describe what you actually did, even though it may be different from
the ideal procedure in the manual.
- Avoid putting results in the Methods.
- Write one paragraph for simple labs, multiple paragraphs for complex
- Write in past tense.
PostLab/ Section Two
Results: Making sense of your data for yourself and others
Step 1: Create appropriate tables, graphs,
and other figures to enable you to visualize your lab data.
Step 2: Decide the order in which your
tables, graphs, or other figures should be presented in the Results
Step 3: Review all the data from your experiment.
In a sentence or two summarize the main finding of this lab.
Step 4: In separate paragraphs summarize
the finding in each of your visuals, tables, graphs, or other figures.
Each paragraph has two parts: (1) the overall relationship or interaction
among variables represented by the visual; (2) key details from the
visual that are important to understanding the experiment.
Step 5: Place all the elements you've written
in the proper order.
PostLab/ Section Three
Introduction: Establishing a context for the lab
Step 1: Clearly state the scientific concept
(PreLab question #1) and information about the scientific concept related
specifically to this lab.
Step 2: Write how achievement of the main
objectives of the lab (PreLab questions #2, #3) helped you learn about
the scientific concept of the lab.
Step 3: State your hypothesis clearly (PreLab
questions #4, #5). Based on the scientific concept of the lab, rewrite
the explanation for your hypothesis.
More tips on writing the Introduction:
- Ensure that your Introduction establishes a context for the rest of
the lab report, a way of understanding its siginificance.
- Focus your introduction on information about the concept that is most
clearly related to the lab procedure.
- You may need more than one paragraph.
- If your report is more like a full scientific paper, you may need
to do more research using the internet and library. Search the recent
scientific literature. Summarize that research in a paragraph stating
the general findings and using those findings to describe the current
knowledge in the area. Cite your references.
- Use background material about the scientific concept of the lab to
explain your reasoning for the hypothesis even if your hypothesis was
not supported by your data.
- Verb tense is a little tricky in this part of the report. When talking
about the experiment itself, such as when you are addressing the objectives
of the lab and the hypothesis, use past tense. But when you are talking
about broader issues, such as the learning context and the purpose of
the lab, use the present tense. When you are referring to sources, such
as the lab manual, textbook, or scientific articles, use present tense.
PostLab/ Section Four
Discussion: Interpreting the results of the lab
Step 1: State whether the results from
the lab procedure support your hypothesis.
Step 2: Identify specific data from your
lab that led you to either support or reject your hypothesis. Refer
to the visual representations of your data as evidence to back up your
judgment about the hypothesis.
Step 3: Using your understanding of the
scientific concept of this lab, explain why the results did or did not
support your hypothesis.
Step 4: Additional discussion: (1) problems
or sources of uncertainty in lab procedure; (2) how your findings compare
to other students'; (3) suggestions for improving the lab.
Tips on writing the Discussion:
- It is not considered a failure if your data does not support your
hypothesis. Failure to support hypotheses is common in science.
- Back up the statement about the hypothesis with direct evidence from
the lab data that supports, does not support, or partially supports
- Experimental science is about testing hypotheses. You, as a scientist,
must be unbiased and objective.
- Do not introduce any new findings that are not presented in the Results.
- Do not put detailed analysis of graphs, tables, and drawings in the
discussion. The analysis belongs is Results.
- 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.
PostLab/ Section Five
Conclusion: Focusing on what you learned by doing the lab
Step 1: Write a paragraph summarizing what
you have learned about the scientific concept of the lab from doing
the lab. Back up your statement with details from your lab experience.
Step 2: In a second paragraph, decribe
anything else you learned from doing the lab.
PostLab/ Section Six
Abstract: Summarizing the lab report
Step 1: 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 block paragraph in the order the sections come in the
- Introduction: main objective(s) of the lab; hypothesis
- Methods: a quick description of the procedure
- Results: statement of the overall findings
- Discussion: judgment about hypothesis; explanation for judgment
- Conclusion: what you learned about the scientific concept
PostLab/ Section Seven
Title: Capturing the essence of the report
Write a title that captures what is important
about the lab, including the scientific concept the lab isabout and
variables involved, the procedure, or anything else that is important
to understanding what this report is about.
Tips on creating a good Title:
- The title captures what is important about the lab, including the
scientific concept and variables involved.
- A title should use the fewest possible words to adequately describe
the content of the report.
- A title should be as specific as possible. Specify the primary focus
of the experiment.
- Do not write the title as a complete sentence, with a subject and
a verb. Titles are labels, not sentences.
- Do not use catchy titles. This is not an English paper or an editorial.PostLab/
PostLab/ Section Seven
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
scientific articles. Be sure to use the proper form of documentation
for the scientific field you are working in (ask your lab instructor
if you are not sure). See Citations
Tips on writing the References section of your lab report:
- The References section is a bibliography listing all the sources you
used in writing your lab report, such as the lab manual, textbook, course
packet, or scientific article.
- Use the proper form of documentations for the scientific field you
are working in- check with your lab instructor.
- Find out what form of documentation is appropriate to use in your
class before you write your first report. The best place to
look is the lab manual.
- Different scientific fields use different styles for documenting
sources in the References. In chemistry, you would follow the American
Chemical Society (ACS) style. In English, it would be the Modern Language
Association (MLA) format and the Council of Biological Editors (CBE)
style is used in the life sciences.