What’s in a Lab Report?
What Should be in a Lab Report?
You’re a high school student and have just performed a lab at home. You collected the equipment, read and followed the procedure, and jotted down the results. Now what? Well, it is important to learn how to master the typed lab report! It’s really not as complicated or as intimidating as it may sound. And, with a little practice, composing lab reports will become routine and prepare you for college lab assignments.
Composing a lab report is all about documenting the scientific method in a clear and organized way. There are different formats a lab report may take, but, in general, the following parts should be included.
Parts of a Lab Report
In this section the student gives the Problem of the lab. The problem is basically the question the lab is investigating. For example, a problem may be, “Will the enzyme lactase break down the sugars lactose and sucrose?”
In the introduction, the student will also want to include some Background Research. The purpose of the research is to find out what is known about the given problem and use that information in order to make the best hypothesis for the lab. This information must be put into your own words and typed in a paragraph format.
The last part of the introduction section is the Hypothesis. This is a restatement of the problem in which the student uses what was learned in the background research to predict what will happen in the lab. For example, for the problem given above, a possible hypothesis would be, “The enzyme lactase will be able to break down the sugar lactose but not the sugar sucrose.” It is important that the introduction of the lab report is completed before the lab is performed.
2. Materials and Procedure
In this portion of the lab report, the student first lists all materials needed for the lab and then lists the step-by-step procedure of the lab. I always think of this part as a recipe card that lists ingredients and then instructions. The instructions must be detailed and accurate so that a reader would be able to replicate the lab exactly.
The results section is one of the most important and pertinent parts of the report. The reader is always drawn to this section because it includes graphics such as charts, graphs, and pictures that explain the data of the lab at a glance. The student will take the raw data that was gathered during the lab and organize it into some sort of visual graphic that is labeled and easy for the reader to instantly see what happened in the lab.
The discussion part of the lab is where the student not only mentions how the lab procedure went and any problems encountered, but it also convinces the reader that the student who prepared the report understands the purpose of the lab. The student will again review the data and explain why he got the results he did.
Example of a Student Lab Report
Here is an example of a good lab report from one of my biology students, Sarah.
About the Author
Debbie Stokes has been teaching science classes for over twenty years and still finds awe in how beautifully and intricately the Creator designed all things. She finds it a great privilege to journey through the “study of life” with students! Debbie graduated cum laude from Kennesaw State University in 1991 with a B.S. in biology. She also earned her M. Ed. in science education from Georgia State University. She taught high school science classes in the public school system of Cobb County, Georgia for sixteen years and has taught science classes online for the past six years.