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Writing

Lab Reports 

Before starting, review assignment expectations, learning goals, and the pre-lab report (if applicable). 

 

Common Structure (NOTE: Always follow your course laboratory coordinator and professor’s instructions): 

  • Title Page—Include course name, course code, title of lab with clarification of type of lab (pre-lab, in-lab, post-lab, formal lab report), student name(s), McMaster student ID number, instructor name, lab section and TA name, if applicable include lab partner’s name & student number, due date, McMaster University.  
  • AbstractSummarize major findings along with the problem and hypothesis. Clarify why the problem was studied and the approach used to study it. Describe major findings and conclusions.  
  • IntroductionProvide an overview of the experiment and discuss how the results expand knowledge. 
  • Include past test results (if applicable) with statements supported by the peer reviewed scientific literature in the proper citation format.  
  • Use present tense for theory, equipment, and report, and past tense for results and experiment.
  • Methods and Materials—State what was done and how (instructions should facilitate experiment duplication). 
    • Include the experimental design, apparatus description, methods for gathering and interpreting results, and controls used. Use past tense and the passive voice.
  • ResultsProvide data and observations without interpreting their meaning or significance. Describe events in the order they took place. 
  • Include tables (raw data) and graphs (interpreted data), calculations: Tables, figures and graphs should be properly numbered and include captions. Include proper units of measurement and legends. Figures and tables should be organized and clear (no fuzzy images).
  • Include results that deviated from expectations (leave discussion for next section).
  • Maintain an adequate font size for graph legends. Use past tense.
  • Discussion—Follow the same order as Results section.
    • Analyse results: How do they relate to previous studies? Why did they occur?  
    • Identify patterns and relationships: How did results differ from expectations? How do they relate to theory? 
  • ConclusionsBriefly restate the purpose, results, and concluding interpretations.
  • Include recommendations for further study and/or suggest changes to the procedure.  
  • Support statements with scientific literature. Include research citations in the proper format.
  • References—List references in the proper referencing format (as indicated by the instructor, TA, and lab coordinator). References should display strong evidence that has been recently published.
  • Appendices—Include data, calculations, graphics, and notes along with captions and titles.
    • Provide measurements and legend. Place each appendix on a separate page. 

Remember to maintain a balanced perspective, use clear and precise language, and apply a logical structure. 

 

Improve your writing and study skills! Book an appointment with a writing advisor and/or academic coach on OSCARplus.  Questions? Email skills@mcmaster.ca

Source: University of Toronto (n.d.). The Lab Report. Retrieved from: UFT Lab Reports Writing Advice 

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