How to Write a Formal Lab Report
The purpose of lab experiments is to provide “hands-on” demonstrations of topics
covered in the chapters of the textbook. Lab experiments are a way to support the lecture
material by providing the students with invaluable, firsthand experience. Often, following a lab
experiment, the student will be asked to write a formal lab report. The formal lab report allows
the student to present his or her understanding of the procedures performed in lab and to provide
thoughtful insight regarding the meaning of the results obtained. There are variations to the
structure of formal lab reports, but they all follow a basic format, which contains the following:
Introduction & Background
A detailed description of each heading may be found below.
*It is important to note that the formal lab report should be written in the 3rd person, using past
tense (e.g. Do not write: “First, you add 5.0 mL of concentrated HCl to the test tube” but,
rather: “Initially, 5.0 mL of concentrated HCl was added to the test tube”).
Title your lab report here. The title from the lab handout is sufficient. Lab partners (if
applicable) should be listed on the title page, as well as the date of submission.
The abstract summarizes four essential aspects of the report: the purpose of the experiment, key
findings, significance and major conclusions. The abstract often also includes a brief reference to
theory or methodology. The information should clearly enable readers to decide whether they
need to read your whole report. The abstract should be one paragraph, generally 100-200 words
Introduction & Background
Introduce your topic by describing the question, concern, variable, etc. that you will be testing.
An Introduction also clearly defines the purpose of conducting the experiment, and states the
hypothesis. Include any background or previous research you have conducted which affects the
experimental concepts. This may or may not include previous experiments, scientific theories,
emerging changes, etc. Remember to include in-text citations in APA format when referencing
previous studies or background information retrieved from outside sources.
Describe how you performed the experiment. This section is very detailed. It should include
information such as materials used, procedural steps, key instructions, data collection
technique(s), participants, controls, variables, the environmental setting, etc. The Method section
should be thorough enough for an outsider to replicate your experiment without requiring any
This section presents the data you collected from the experiment. Major findings are revealed
here, but data analysis should not be included. For example, patterns may be pointed out but the
implication(s) of the patterns should not be interpreted in this section. All data should be
displayed clearly. Tables, charts, statistics, etc. should be included in this section.
An analytical response to the data comprises the majority of the discussion. Begin with a
summary of the results you obtained; and, indicate if the results confirm or refute your
hypothesis. Did you obtain the results you expected? How do your results compare with the
industry standard? If your results are not what you expected, speculate why. What variable(s)
would you like to test next? Identify any sources of error, and assess how you could mitigate or
remove these sources in future experiments.
Purchase answer to see full