Introduction > Writing Scientifically > Lab Report

Lab Report

Laboratory (lab) reports often relate directly to practical/field classes and are used to gauge your understanding of the research you've carried out. Note that although it's referred to as a lab report, they are used generally to record experimental research, and therefore are not restricted to work carried out in a laboratory.

The structure of lab reports are usually similar to that of a scientific paper, but tend to be slightly more detailed, particularly in the materials and methods section. Generally, a lab report should contain the labelled sections as follows.

Test tubes Title: needs to be concise whilst clearly explaining what the report will contain

Introduction: may include a short literature review and should state the objectives and hypotheses of the piece of work

Materials and methods: explains what you've done and how you've done it in as much detail as possible, including suppliers of equipment, machinery used, environmental conditions, etc.  It should contain enough detail to allow someone to replicate your research (and results)

Results: including statistical analyses and graphs, plates, tables etc.  It's important not to discuss the results here

Field observation Discussion: how your results correlate to previous research on this topic, any major differences between your results and that of others and suggestions why there may be differences

Conclusion(s): brief summary of your findings

Future work
: ideas for research that have stemmed from your initial investigation

References: a detailed list of literature you used

Appendix: anything that adds value to your work but isn't essential in the main body of the text (typically this may include raw data).

The length of your lab report may differ depending on the credit allocation or your lecturer's preferences, so it's vital to check this before you start writing!

Here's a typical Lab Report - note the content of the different sections

Click to play PodcastDr Julian Park, Senior Lecturer at the University of Reading, discusses the general structure of lab reports
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