Laboratory Report Format

Title Page

The title page gives all the information that is relevant for a reviewer in order to figure out who was involved with the experiment. It should contain the title of the experiment, the names of the participants, and ways to contact the participants if questions arise on the experiment and the results. It should also include dates, times, and locations of the experiment.

In the spirit of saving precious resources, this "title page" maybe just a small portion of the front of the report. See example.

Abstract

The abstract should be a concise description of the experiment, the results, and the conclusion. The main purpose of the abstract is for the reader to determine if she wishes to read further. The abstract differs depending if it is in a final report or a continual lab journal but should generally be consistent with the idea of informing a reader what is to follow.

Introduction

A description of the idea behind the experiment (i.e. the overview -- in lab journal area or see next paragraph). This will include a number of items enticing the reader to understand your experiment. This will describe the reasons behind your experiment. Work by others on the subject matter will usually be summarized here as they apply to your experiment.

Also included in the introduction would be an overview of the experiment which contains observation that leads to a hypothesis, the hypothesis, and a suggested experiment to test the hypothesis, and the predicted outcome of the experiment. This section will include a summary of the reading notes used in determining the hypothesis. Experiments will in general be controlled experiments, and, to be generally accepted, will be replicated multiple times by independent experiments. This means that your notes and musings on this subject must be complete and thorough so that others may understand how you arrived at your hypothesis.

All experiments will involve some sort of hypothesis regardless of how mundane it might seem.

Materials

This includes all the equipment, tools, and materials used in this experiment. Include model numbers and serial numbers for the equipment. Sketches of the equipment should suffice, however in some instances pictures of the equipment can be of use.

Procedure

The procedure should be outlined in this section with detailed drawings of the equipment mentioned above and how they were used. The drawings do not have to be perspective drawings, detailed sketches should be sufficient. The procedure does not include data. Data is reserved for the result section or the appendix.

Results

All the results should be summarized in this section. Data should be graphed along with any analysis information like fits. Fit equations should be reported in this section. Raw data may be placed in the appendix and a citation should be made in this section. Tables of data with the appropriate units, graphs with appropriate labels, images of the result with appropriate caption, sketches of some action, diagrams, and simple calculations should all be shown in this section (if brief) or reference should be made to the appendix. All measure quantities have an error associated with them. These should be noted here. Give a brief summary of the various sources of error.

Appropriate use of significant figures should also be used when reporting results.

Discussion

This section should include a discussion of the results. Any unusual or note-worthy features should be described here. Any problems with the present experiment or methods to improve the experiment should be cited here.

Conclusion

This section includes the conclusions derived from the result. The results must support the conclusion and the reasons for the support should be cited here. The conclusion should be brief. Any lengthy discussion should be reserved for the discussion section of the lab report.

References

List all books, web sites, and articles used in the completion of the laboratory.

Appendices (optional)

This section, which can be many different sections, should include raw data or lengthy calculations that, while important, overshadow the general hypothesis, procedure, discussion, and conclusion. Data should be placed in tables that give the units and indicate whether it is a measured quantity or a derived quantity. Derivations should be as complete as possible if they are different from known work. In any paper for publication this section will likely be removed, so if there is any important information that is necessary to understand the experiment then it should be summarized in the text with a reference to the appendix.