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Writing a lab report

Dr Sally Alkhafaji C&M Engineering Department The University of Auckland

Lab report structure

Title page for technical report Abstract or summary on separate page Contents page List of symbols List of figures List of tables Introduction Theory Materials and Methods Results and discussion Conclusions Recommendations (if required) References Acknowledgements (if required) Appendices


Allows the reader to judge whether it would serve his or her purposes to read the entire report,

Provides a concise summary of the entire report and its most important results, Although is the first section of a lab report, maybe written last, because it is a summary.

The abstract summarizes: The purpose of the experiment, What is the question to be answered, Key findings, what were the results, Most significant point of discussion, Significance and major conclusions, Usually its only one paragraph of few lines (up to 10). The abstract may include: Brief method Brief theory


Table of contents List of symbols List of figures List of tables


Defines the subject of the report, Outlines the scientific objective for the research performed, Theoretical background, Gives some information about the motivation of hypothesis (includes what we already knowor rather, what scientists generally accept as true), Brief summery of previous related research, a statement of a problem that this research has raised.

Important questions that have to be answered in the introduction section:

What is the question that the experiment is supposed to answer? What it the importance of answering the question? What knowledge already exists about this subject?


Theoretical background to understand how the experiment works, basic principles, What assumptions has been made, and how the experiment is related to the physics being studied,

Equations that defines the phenomenon studied.

When writing equations, remember to:

Give a number for each equation, Define all variables, Writ the units, Use equation editor.

Materials and methods

Materials Description of equipment/ sketch/ block diagram, Description of materials used in the experiment and how they were used. Experimental methods includes All the process steps in the order they actually happened, Any difficulties with the apparatus, and if so how were resolved, Any problems or difficulties in following the lab manuals procedure, and if the procedure have been modified.

When writing experimental procedure also consider the following:


be written clearly so another researcher should be able to duplicate the experiment, Past tense should be used to refer to everything was done during the experiment.

Results, discussion and data analysis

Results Description of the findings of the experiment, Presenting the data into organized tables, figures, graphs, photographs, and so on, Attention to key points need to be drawn by sentences, Discussion on how the slope and intercept were calculated of any linear graphs, Calculation, (sample of calculation, leave the remainder in an appendix), Compare expected results with those obtained. If there were differences, how can you account for them?

All figures and tables should:

Include descriptive titles and a legend explaining any symbols, or special methods used, Be numbered separately and referred to in the text by number, Be self-explanatory; the reader should be able to understand them without referring to the text, All columns and rows in tables and axes in figures should be labelled, Data included in a table should not be duplicated in a figure or graph.


is the significance or meaning of the results? This question can be answered by both aspects of discussion: 1. Analysis
What do the results indicate clearly? What was found? Explanation of what was found with certainty based on the results.

2. Interpretation
What is the significance of the results? What questions might we raise? Logical explanations for problems in the data.

Discussion part also include: Suggestions for the improvement of techniques or experimental design, Suggestions of future experiments that might clarify areas of doubt in the results, Compare results to similar investigations, Error analyzing, experimental error Was it avoidable? Was it a result of equipment?


Review the purpose of the lab, Summarize the implications of the experimental results, Emphasis the detections from the data analysis in more details than in the abstract.


All references that been used to write the report including the lab manual, Example, lab manual, text book, references to get some data for example steam tables or any sketch that youve copied or scanned.


Calculation OR sample of calculations Raw data Make of equipments Each kind of item should be contained in a separate appendix.

Other important information on writing lab reports

You are expected to write good clear English in your lab reports, Use correct grammar in complete sentences, Remember that the point of any report is communicating with someone else, If you keep distracting the reader with grammatical mistakes or unclear prose, you will make it difficult for them to concentrate on the meaning, After writing a report, read it over, watching especially for lack of precision and for ambiguity, each sentence should present a clear message.

Two sheets to be attached to your lab report (available in Cecil):

Cover sheet Marking sheet