Quick Guide to PostLab

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 lab.
  • 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 labs.
  • 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 section.

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 the hypothesis.
  • 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 final report.

  • 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/ Section Eight

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 and References

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.





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