Writing Lab Reports: Introduction
Keys to the introduction.
Purpose : Why did you conduct this study? Relative size : 15-20% of total Scope : Broad to narrow: the top of the hourglass Verb Tense : Use present tense to indicate established knowledge (e.g., frogs are amphibians). Use past tense to refer to specific studies (e.g., Smith (2013) found that) and to to refer to what you did (e.g., We hypothesized that).
The introduction contextualizes the experiment.
In the introduction, you will define the scope of your study, introduce key concepts and terms, present the current state of knowledge, identify gaps or inconsistencies that lead to your study, summarize what you did, and state your hypotheses and predictions.
The introduction must therefore address the following essential questions:
- What have previous studies found?
- Why is your research important?
- What is the purpose of your research?
- What did you expect to find and why?
Remember that the introduction forms the top of the hourglass – begin with the over-arching concepts and gradually narrow to your specific study. You must write in proper sentence and paragraph style, with each paragraph transitioning logically to the next. The following table provides a summary of key points included in a strong introduction.
Scope : Define the scope of your study, making sure that it is neither too broad nor too focused. Refer to the introduction in your lab manual and review published papers on your topic for ideas on the range of scope.
Definitions : Define key terms you have used in your paper – you must define words before you refer to them as definitions may vary among studies.
Background Research : Provide a brief overview of the current state of knowledge in your subject area. This is not an exhaustive literature review, but you should introduce the most relevant studies for your research. This should logically lead the reader to the importance of your research.
Importance of your research : Explain why your study is important – are you filling a gap in the existing research? Clarifying conflicting results? Embarking on a new area of research? State how your study will contribute to the existing research.
Purpose of your research : What did you expect to find and why? State your hypothesis, prediction, and rationale. Cite appropriate research that provided your rationale and informed your hypothesis and prediction.
How you met your purpose : Briefly state how you tested your hypothesis, but do not go into the specific details of your methods or results sections. Take no more than a sentence or two.
A good introduction should:
- Provide a brief background of the study topic
- Provide any necessary definitions, along with common and scientific species names
- Explain how your study fits into existing research
- Provide rationale for your hypotheses and predictions
A good introduction should NOT:
- Be an exhaustive literature review – include only enough information to inform the reader on your study topic and logically present your hypothesis
- Provide extraneous information that does not specifically relate to your project
- Include detailed information on what you did
- Include results or discussion
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Introduction of Your Lab Report
Test yourself (introduction).
- Materials and Methods
The introduction of your lab report is a chance for you to "hook" the reader and preview the important details you'll be talking about in the later sections of the paper. It's kind of like the first paragraph in a short story or the first act of a play. While the abstract was a very short summary of the entire paper, the introduction will be a longer section with more detail. It could be anywhere from three or four paragraphs to a couple pages long, depending on the complexity of the topic and, of course, the requirements of your instructor. Here are some tips for organizing your introduction :
- Start off with a very broad introduction to the topic. For instance, let's say you are writing a lab report about an experiment where you tested the effect of temperature on the enzyme catalase. You should start the introduction by talking about what enzymes are and how they work.
- Next, narrow down the introduction to talk more specifically about the topic you are investigating, and why the study you did was so important. In the catalase example, you should now talk specifically about what the catalase enzyme does, where it is found, how it works, and why it is important enzyme to study how temperature affects this enzyme.
- The introduction should also include a literature review t hat discusses what is already known about the topic. This where you will summarize the research you have done about your topic. Make sure you properly cite all of the sources you used in your research.
- Finally, state the purpose of the study, the hypothesis you tested in your study, and/or the question(s) you were trying to answer.
The introduction should not include details about the procedures you used in your study. Save these for the Materials and Methods section. You should also leave out the results, which will go in the Results section.
Introduction Osteoporotic fractures , particularly hip fractures, constitute a large and growing problem worldwide, in both women and men, with a profound impact on quality of life  and mortality . The fracture risk is influenced both by the genetic constitution and by environmental factors, with lifestyle becoming more important with increasing age . Physical activity, one conceivable and modifiable risk factor, can prevent fractures by improving muscle mass and balance, and by increasing skeletal strength, and thus reducing the risk of injurious falls [4,5]. However, the clinical relevance regarding exercise for maintaining or improving bone mineral density in adult men cannot be determined from existing studies [6,7]. The investigation of the effects of physical activity on the most important outcome—fracture risk—should ideally be evaluated in a randomized study , but this design is unlikely to ever be well performed owing to methodological issues, e.g., study size, compliance, drop-outs, blinding and long-term follow-up. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are no randomized trials in this area. Although moderate levels of leisure physical activity, such as walking, are associated with a substantially lower risk of hip fracture in postmenopausa l women , data from prospective observational fracture studies in men are inconsistent. Whereas some studies in men report significant reductions in risk with a high physical activity [9–12], others do not [13–17]. Lack of validation and the absence of regular assessment of physical activity during follow-up may be factors that explain these contradictory results. The analyses in the positive reports have involved few osteoporotic fractures, and no consistent dose-response pattern has been detected. In addition, only a few studies have taken possible confounding by poor health into account, and in none of the studies has it been considered that changes in physical activity and other lifestyle habits might have occurred during follow-up. Thus, it is uncertain whether, to what extent, and at what level physical activity influences the risk of osteoporotic fractures in men. This study therefore investigated the impact of physical activity on the risk of fracture in a population-based cohort of men followed over a 35-y period. EXPLANATION OF EXAMPLE In the first paragraph of this introduction we learned some general information about bone fractures. The second paragraph narrowed the discussion down to talk specifically about how exercise is related to bone fractures. The third paragraph tells us why the current study is so important. The final paragraph starts off with a literature review telling us what sorts of previous studies have been performed on this topic. The last sentence then gives us the purpose of the current study. The numbers in brackets are citations for papers that would be listed at the end of the paper, in the References or Works Cited section. Hover your cursor over highlighted terms for the definition.
What information should be included in the Introduction of a lab report? Which of these answers are correct?
a. The purpose of the study b. General information about the topic being investigated c. Specific details about how the study was done d. The conclusions you have made based on the results of your study e. A literature review that summarizes what is already known about the topic.
A, B, E The introduction should not include details about procedures, results, or conclusions. These will be included in later sections of the paper
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Writing a lab report: introduction and discussion section guide.
In an effort to make our handouts more accessible, we have begun converting our PDF handouts to web pages. Download this page as a PDF: Writing a Lab Report Return to Writing Studio Handouts
Part 1 (of 2): Introducing a Lab Report
The introduction of a lab report states the objective of the experiment and provides the reader with background information. State the topic of your report clearly and concisely (in one or two sentences). Provide background theory, previous research, or formulas the reader should know. Usually, an instructor does not want you to repeat whatever the lab manual says, but to show your understanding of the problem.
Questions an Effective Lab Report Introduction Should Answer
What is the problem.
Describe the problem investigated. Summarize relevant research to provide context, key terms, and concepts so that your reader can understand the experiment.
Why is it important?
Review relevant research to provide a rationale for the investigation. What conflict, unanswered question, untested population, or untried method in existing research does your experiment address? How will you challenge or extend the findings of other researchers?
What solution (or step toward a solution) do you propose?
Briefly describe your experiment : hypothesis , research question , general experimental design or method , and a justification of your method (if alternatives exist).
Tips on Composing Your Lab Report’s Introduction
- Move from the general to the specific – from a problem in research literature to the specifics of your experiment.
- Engage your reader – answer the questions: “What did I do?” “Why should my reader care?”
- Clarify the links between problem and solution, between question asked and research design, and between prior research and the specifics of your experiment.
- Be selective, not exhaustive, in choosing studies to cite and the amount of detail to include. In general, the more relevant an article is to your study, the more space it deserves and the later in the introduction it appears.
- Ask your instructor whether or not you should summarize results and/or conclusions in the Introduction.
- “The objective of the experiment was …”
- “The purpose of this report is …”
- “Bragg’s Law for diffraction is …”
- “The scanning electron microscope produces micrographs …”
Part 2 (of 2): Writing the “Discussion” Section of a Lab Report
The discussion is the most important part of your lab report, because here you show that you have not merely completed the experiment, but that you also understand its wider implications. The discussion section is reserved for putting experimental results in the context of the larger theory. Ask yourself: “What is the significance or meaning of the results?”
Elements of an Effective Discussion Section
What do the results indicate clearly? Based on your results, explain what you know with certainty and draw conclusions.
What is the significance of your results? What ambiguities exist? What are logical explanations for problems in the data? What questions might you raise about the methods used or the validity of the experiment? What can be logically deduced from your analysis?
Tips on the Discussion Section
1. explain your results in terms of theoretical issues..
How well has the theory been illustrated? What are the theoretical implications and practical applications of your results?
For each major result:
- Describe the patterns, principles, and relationships that your results show.
- Explain how your results relate to expectations and to literature cited in your Introduction. Explain any agreements, contradictions, or exceptions.
- Describe what additional research might resolve contradictions or explain exceptions.
2. Relate results to your experimental objective(s).
If you set out to identify an unknown metal by finding its lattice parameter and its atomic structure, be sure that you have identified the metal and its attributes.
3. Compare expected results with those obtained.
If there were differences, how can you account for them? Were the instruments able to measure precisely? Was the sample contaminated? Did calculated values take account of friction?
4. Analyze experimental error along with the strengths and limitations of the experiment’s design.
Were any errors avoidable? Were they the result of equipment? If the flaws resulted from the experiment design, explain how the design might be improved. Consider, as well, the precision of the instruments that were used.
5. Compare your results to similar investigations.
In some cases, it is legitimate to compare outcomes with classmates, not in order to change your answer, but in order to look for and to account for or analyze any anomalies between the groups. Also, consider comparing your results to published scientific literature on the topic.
The “Introducing a Lab Report” guide was adapted from the University of Toronto Engineering Communications Centre and University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center.
The “Writing the Discussion Section of a Lab Report” resource was adapted from the University of Toronto Engineering Communications Centre and University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center.
Last revised: 07/2008 | Adapted for web delivery: 02/2021
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How To Write A Lab Report | Step-by-Step Guide & Examples
Published on May 20, 2021 by Pritha Bhandari . Revised on July 23, 2023.
A lab report conveys the aim, methods, results, and conclusions of a scientific experiment. The main purpose of a lab report is to demonstrate your understanding of the scientific method by performing and evaluating a hands-on lab experiment. This type of assignment is usually shorter than a research paper .
Lab reports are commonly used in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This article focuses on how to structure and write a lab report.
Table of contents
Structuring a lab report, introduction, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about lab reports.
The sections of a lab report can vary between scientific fields and course requirements, but they usually contain the purpose, methods, and findings of a lab experiment .
Each section of a lab report has its own purpose.
- Title: expresses the topic of your study
- Abstract : summarizes your research aims, methods, results, and conclusions
- Introduction: establishes the context needed to understand the topic
- Method: describes the materials and procedures used in the experiment
- Results: reports all descriptive and inferential statistical analyses
- Discussion: interprets and evaluates results and identifies limitations
- Conclusion: sums up the main findings of your experiment
- References: list of all sources cited using a specific style (e.g. APA )
- Appendices : contains lengthy materials, procedures, tables or figures
Although most lab reports contain these sections, some sections can be omitted or combined with others. For example, some lab reports contain a brief section on research aims instead of an introduction, and a separate conclusion is not always required.
If you’re not sure, it’s best to check your lab report requirements with your instructor.
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Your title provides the first impression of your lab report – effective titles communicate the topic and/or the findings of your study in specific terms.
Create a title that directly conveys the main focus or purpose of your study. It doesn’t need to be creative or thought-provoking, but it should be informative.
- The effects of varying nitrogen levels on tomato plant height.
- Testing the universality of the McGurk effect.
- Comparing the viscosity of common liquids found in kitchens.
An abstract condenses a lab report into a brief overview of about 150–300 words. It should provide readers with a compact version of the research aims, the methods and materials used, the main results, and the final conclusion.
Think of it as a way of giving readers a preview of your full lab report. Write the abstract last, in the past tense, after you’ve drafted all the other sections of your report, so you’ll be able to succinctly summarize each section.
To write a lab report abstract, use these guiding questions:
- What is the wider context of your study?
- What research question were you trying to answer?
- How did you perform the experiment?
- What did your results show?
- How did you interpret your results?
- What is the importance of your findings?
Nitrogen is a necessary nutrient for high quality plants. Tomatoes, one of the most consumed fruits worldwide, rely on nitrogen for healthy leaves and stems to grow fruit. This experiment tested whether nitrogen levels affected tomato plant height in a controlled setting. It was expected that higher levels of nitrogen fertilizer would yield taller tomato plants.
Levels of nitrogen fertilizer were varied between three groups of tomato plants. The control group did not receive any nitrogen fertilizer, while one experimental group received low levels of nitrogen fertilizer, and a second experimental group received high levels of nitrogen fertilizer. All plants were grown from seeds, and heights were measured 50 days into the experiment.
The effects of nitrogen levels on plant height were tested between groups using an ANOVA. The plants with the highest level of nitrogen fertilizer were the tallest, while the plants with low levels of nitrogen exceeded the control group plants in height. In line with expectations and previous findings, the effects of nitrogen levels on plant height were statistically significant. This study strengthens the importance of nitrogen for tomato plants.
Your lab report introduction should set the scene for your experiment. One way to write your introduction is with a funnel (an inverted triangle) structure:
- Start with the broad, general research topic
- Narrow your topic down your specific study focus
- End with a clear research question
Begin by providing background information on your research topic and explaining why it’s important in a broad real-world or theoretical context. Describe relevant previous research on your topic and note how your study may confirm it or expand it, or fill a gap in the research field.
This lab experiment builds on previous research from Haque, Paul, and Sarker (2011), who demonstrated that tomato plant yield increased at higher levels of nitrogen. However, the present research focuses on plant height as a growth indicator and uses a lab-controlled setting instead.
Next, go into detail on the theoretical basis for your study and describe any directly relevant laws or equations that you’ll be using. State your main research aims and expectations by outlining your hypotheses .
Based on the importance of nitrogen for tomato plants, the primary hypothesis was that the plants with the high levels of nitrogen would grow the tallest. The secondary hypothesis was that plants with low levels of nitrogen would grow taller than plants with no nitrogen.
Your introduction doesn’t need to be long, but you may need to organize it into a few paragraphs or with subheadings such as “Research Context” or “Research Aims.”
A lab report Method section details the steps you took to gather and analyze data. Give enough detail so that others can follow or evaluate your procedures. Write this section in the past tense. If you need to include any long lists of procedural steps or materials, place them in the Appendices section but refer to them in the text here.
You should describe your experimental design, your subjects, materials, and specific procedures used for data collection and analysis.
Briefly note whether your experiment is a within-subjects or between-subjects design, and describe how your sample units were assigned to conditions if relevant.
A between-subjects design with three groups of tomato plants was used. The control group did not receive any nitrogen fertilizer. The first experimental group received a low level of nitrogen fertilizer, while the second experimental group received a high level of nitrogen fertilizer.
Describe human subjects in terms of demographic characteristics, and animal or plant subjects in terms of genetic background. Note the total number of subjects as well as the number of subjects per condition or per group. You should also state how you recruited subjects for your study.
List the equipment or materials you used to gather data and state the model names for any specialized equipment.
List of materials
35 Tomato seeds
15 plant pots (15 cm tall)
Light lamps (50,000 lux)
Describe your experimental settings and conditions in detail. You can provide labelled diagrams or images of the exact set-up necessary for experimental equipment. State how extraneous variables were controlled through restriction or by fixing them at a certain level (e.g., keeping the lab at room temperature).
Light levels were fixed throughout the experiment, and the plants were exposed to 12 hours of light a day. Temperature was restricted to between 23 and 25℃. The pH and carbon levels of the soil were also held constant throughout the experiment as these variables could influence plant height. The plants were grown in rooms free of insects or other pests, and they were spaced out adequately.
Your experimental procedure should describe the exact steps you took to gather data in chronological order. You’ll need to provide enough information so that someone else can replicate your procedure, but you should also be concise. Place detailed information in the appendices where appropriate.
In a lab experiment, you’ll often closely follow a lab manual to gather data. Some instructors will allow you to simply reference the manual and state whether you changed any steps based on practical considerations. Other instructors may want you to rewrite the lab manual procedures as complete sentences in coherent paragraphs, while noting any changes to the steps that you applied in practice.
If you’re performing extensive data analysis, be sure to state your planned analysis methods as well. This includes the types of tests you’ll perform and any programs or software you’ll use for calculations (if relevant).
First, tomato seeds were sown in wooden flats containing soil about 2 cm below the surface. Each seed was kept 3-5 cm apart. The flats were covered to keep the soil moist until germination. The seedlings were removed and transplanted to pots 8 days later, with a maximum of 2 plants to a pot. Each pot was watered once a day to keep the soil moist.
The nitrogen fertilizer treatment was applied to the plant pots 12 days after transplantation. The control group received no treatment, while the first experimental group received a low concentration, and the second experimental group received a high concentration. There were 5 pots in each group, and each plant pot was labelled to indicate the group the plants belonged to.
50 days after the start of the experiment, plant height was measured for all plants. A measuring tape was used to record the length of the plant from ground level to the top of the tallest leaf.
In your results section, you should report the results of any statistical analysis procedures that you undertook. You should clearly state how the results of statistical tests support or refute your initial hypotheses.
The main results to report include:
- any descriptive statistics
- statistical test results
- the significance of the test results
- estimates of standard error or confidence intervals
The mean heights of the plants in the control group, low nitrogen group, and high nitrogen groups were 20.3, 25.1, and 29.6 cm respectively. A one-way ANOVA was applied to calculate the effect of nitrogen fertilizer level on plant height. The results demonstrated statistically significant ( p = .03) height differences between groups.
Next, post-hoc tests were performed to assess the primary and secondary hypotheses. In support of the primary hypothesis, the high nitrogen group plants were significantly taller than the low nitrogen group and the control group plants. Similarly, the results supported the secondary hypothesis: the low nitrogen plants were taller than the control group plants.
These results can be reported in the text or in tables and figures. Use text for highlighting a few key results, but present large sets of numbers in tables, or show relationships between variables with graphs.
You should also include sample calculations in the Results section for complex experiments. For each sample calculation, provide a brief description of what it does and use clear symbols. Present your raw data in the Appendices section and refer to it to highlight any outliers or trends.
The Discussion section will help demonstrate your understanding of the experimental process and your critical thinking skills.
In this section, you can:
- Interpret your results
- Compare your findings with your expectations
- Identify any sources of experimental error
- Explain any unexpected results
- Suggest possible improvements for further studies
Interpreting your results involves clarifying how your results help you answer your main research question. Report whether your results support your hypotheses.
- Did you measure what you sought out to measure?
- Were your analysis procedures appropriate for this type of data?
Compare your findings with other research and explain any key differences in findings.
- Are your results in line with those from previous studies or your classmates’ results? Why or why not?
An effective Discussion section will also highlight the strengths and limitations of a study.
- Did you have high internal validity or reliability?
- How did you establish these aspects of your study?
When describing limitations, use specific examples. For example, if random error contributed substantially to the measurements in your study, state the particular sources of error (e.g., imprecise apparatus) and explain ways to improve them.
The results support the hypothesis that nitrogen levels affect plant height, with increasing levels producing taller plants. These statistically significant results are taken together with previous research to support the importance of nitrogen as a nutrient for tomato plant growth.
However, unlike previous studies, this study focused on plant height as an indicator of plant growth in the present experiment. Importantly, plant height may not always reflect plant health or fruit yield, so measuring other indicators would have strengthened the study findings.
Another limitation of the study is the plant height measurement technique, as the measuring tape was not suitable for plants with extreme curvature. Future studies may focus on measuring plant height in different ways.
The main strengths of this study were the controls for extraneous variables, such as pH and carbon levels of the soil. All other factors that could affect plant height were tightly controlled to isolate the effects of nitrogen levels, resulting in high internal validity for this study.
Your conclusion should be the final section of your lab report. Here, you’ll summarize the findings of your experiment, with a brief overview of the strengths and limitations, and implications of your study for further research.
Some lab reports may omit a Conclusion section because it overlaps with the Discussion section, but you should check with your instructor before doing so.
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A lab report conveys the aim, methods, results, and conclusions of a scientific experiment . Lab reports are commonly assigned in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
The purpose of a lab report is to demonstrate your understanding of the scientific method with a hands-on lab experiment. Course instructors will often provide you with an experimental design and procedure. Your task is to write up how you actually performed the experiment and evaluate the outcome.
In contrast, a research paper requires you to independently develop an original argument. It involves more in-depth research and interpretation of sources and data.
A lab report is usually shorter than a research paper.
The sections of a lab report can vary between scientific fields and course requirements, but it usually contains the following:
- Abstract: summarizes your research aims, methods, results, and conclusions
- References: list of all sources cited using a specific style (e.g. APA)
- Appendices: contains lengthy materials, procedures, tables or figures
The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.
In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.
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Writing Lab Reports
Writing lab reports follows a straightforward and structured procedure. It is important to recognize that each part of a lab report is important, so take the time to complete each carefully. A lab report is broken down into eight sections: title, abstract, introduction, methods and materials, results, discussion, conclusion, and references.
- Ex: "Determining the Free Chlorine Content of Pool Water"
- Abstracts are a summary of the experiment as a whole and should familiarize the reader with the purpose of the research.
- Abstracts will always be written last, even though they are the first paragraph of a lab report.
- Not all lab reports will require an abstract. However, they are often included in upper-level lab reports and should be studied carefully.
- Why was the research done or experiment conducted?
- What problem is being addressed?
- What results were found?
- What are the meaning of the results?
- How is the problem better understood now than before, if at all?
- The introduction of a lab report discusses the problem being studied and other theory that is relevant to understanding the findings.
- The hypothesis of the experiment and the motivation for the research are stated in this section.
- Write the introduction in your own words. Try not to copy from a lab manual or other guidelines. Instead, show comprehension of the experiment by briefly explaining the problem.
Methods and Materials
- Ex: pipette, graduated cylinder, 1.13mg of Na, 0.67mg Ag
- List the steps taken as they actually happened during the experiment, not as they were supposed to happen.
- If written correctly, another researcher should be able to duplicate the experiment and get the same or very similar results.
- The results show the data that was collected or found during the experiment.
- Explain in words the data that was collected.
- Tables should be labeled numerically, as "Table 1", "Table 2", etc. Other figures should be labeled numerically as "Figure 1", "Figure 2", etc.
- Calculations to understand the data can also be presented in the results.
- The discussion section is one of the most important parts of the lab report. It analyzes the results of the experiment and is a discussion of the data.
- If any results are unexpected, explain why they are unexpected and how they did or did not effect the data obtained.
- Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the design of the experiment and compare your results to other similar experiments.
- If there are any experimental errors, analyze them.
- Explain your results and discuss them using relevant terms and theories.
- What do the results indicate?
- What is the significance of the results?
- Are there any gaps in knowledge?
- Are there any new questions that have been raised?
- The conclusion is a summation of the experiment. It should clearly and concisely state what was learned and its importance.
- If there is future work that needs to be done, it can be explained in the conclusion.
- If using any outside sources to support a claim or explain background information, those sources must be cited in the references section of the lab report.
- In the event that no outside sources are used, the references section may be left out.
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Lab reports are an essential part of all laboratory courses and usually a significant part of your grade. If your instructor gives you an outline for how to write a lab report, use that. Some instructors require a lab report to be included in a lab notebook , while others will request a separate report. Here's a format for a lab report you can use if you aren't sure what to write or need an explanation of what to include in the different parts of the report.
A lab report is how you explain what you did in your experiment, what you learned, and what the results meant.
Lab Report Essentials
Not all lab reports have title pages, but if your instructor wants one, it would be a single page that states:
- The title of the experiment.
- Your name and the names of any lab partners.
- Your instructor's name.
- The date the lab was performed or the date the report was submitted.
The title says what you did. It should be brief (aim for ten words or less) and describe the main point of the experiment or investigation. An example of a title would be: "Effects of Ultraviolet Light on Borax Crystal Growth Rate". If you can, begin your title using a keyword rather than an article like "The" or "A".
Introduction or Purpose
Usually, the introduction is one paragraph that explains the objectives or purpose of the lab. In one sentence, state the hypothesis. Sometimes an introduction may contain background information, briefly summarize how the experiment was performed, state the findings of the experiment, and list the conclusions of the investigation. Even if you don't write a whole introduction, you need to state the purpose of the experiment, or why you did it. This would be where you state your hypothesis .
List everything needed to complete your experiment.
Describe the steps you completed during your investigation. This is your procedure. Be sufficiently detailed that anyone could read this section and duplicate your experiment. Write it as if you were giving direction for someone else to do the lab. It may be helpful to provide a figure to diagram your experimental setup.
Numerical data obtained from your procedure usually presented as a table. Data encompasses what you recorded when you conducted the experiment. It's just the facts, not any interpretation of what they mean.
Describe in words what the data means. Sometimes the Results section is combined with the Discussion.
Discussion or Analysis
The Data section contains numbers; the Analysis section contains any calculations you made based on those numbers. This is where you interpret the data and determine whether or not a hypothesis was accepted. This is also where you would discuss any mistakes you might have made while conducting the investigation. You may wish to describe ways the study might have been improved.
Most of the time the conclusion is a single paragraph that sums up what happened in the experiment, whether your hypothesis was accepted or rejected, and what this means.
Figures and Graphs
Graphs and figures must both be labeled with a descriptive title. Label the axes on a graph, being sure to include units of measurement. The independent variable is on the X-axis, the dependent variable (the one you are measuring) is on the Y-axis. Be sure to refer to figures and graphs in the text of your report: the first figure is Figure 1, the second figure is Figure 2, etc.
If your research was based on someone else's work or if you cited facts that require documentation, then you should list these references.
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Writing a scientific lab report is significantly different from writing for other classes like philosophy, English, and history. The most prominent form of writing in biology, chemistry, and environmental science is the lab report, which is a formally written description of results and discoveries found in an experiment. College lab reports should emulate and follow the same formats as reports found in scholarly journals, such as Nature , Cell , and The American Journal of Biochemistry .
Title: The title says what you did. It should be brief (aim for ten words or less) and describe the main point of the experiment or investigation.
- Example: Caffeine Increases Amylase Activity in the Mealworm ( Tenebrio molitar).
- If you can, begin your title using a keyword rather than an article like “The” or “A.”
Abstract: An abstract is a very concise summary of the purpose of the report, data presented, and major conclusions in about 100 - 200 words. Abstracts are also commonly required for conference/presentation submissions because they summarize all of the essential materials necessary to understand the purpose of the experiment. They should consist of a background sentence , an introduction sentence , your hypothesis/purpose of the experiment, and a sentence about the results and what this means.
Introduction: The introduction of a lab report defines the subject of the report, provides background information and relevant studies, and outlines scientific purpose(s) and/or objective(s).
- The introduction is a place to provide the reader with necessary research on the topic and properly cite sources used.
- Summarizes the current literature on the topic including primary and secondary sources.
- Introduces the paper’s aims and scope.
- States the purpose of the experiment and the hypothesis.
Materials and Methods: The materials and methods section is a vital component of any formal lab report. This section of the report gives a detailed account of the procedure that was followed in completing the experiment as well as all important materials used. (This includes bacterial strains and species names in tests using living subjects.)
- Discusses the procedure of the experiment in as much detail as possible.
- Provides information about participants, apparatus, tools, substances, location of experiment, etc.
- For field studies, be sure to clearly explain where and when the work was done.
- It must be written so that anyone can use the methods section as instructions for exact replications.
- Don’t hesitate to use subheadings to organize these categories.
- Practice proper scientific writing forms. Be sure to use the proper abbreviations for units. Example: The 50mL sample was placed in a 5ºC room for 48hrs.
Results: The results section focuses on the findings, or data, in the experiment, as well as any statistical tests used to determine their significance.
- Concentrate on general trends and differences and not on trivial details.
- Summarize the data from the experiments without discussing their implications (This is where all the statistical analyses goes.)
- Organize data into tables, figures, graphs, photographs, etc. Data in a table should not be duplicated in a graph or figure. Be sure to refer to tables and graphs in the written portion, for example, “Figure 1 shows that the activity....”
- Number and title all figures and tables separately, for example, Figure 1 and Table 1 and include a legend explaining symbols and abbreviations. Figures and graphs are labeled below the image while tables are labeled above.
Discussion: The discussion section interprets the results, tying them back to background information and experiments performed by others in the past.This is also the area where further research opportunities shold be explored.
- Interpret the data; do not restate the results.
- Observations should also be noted in this section, especially anything unusual which may affect your results.
For example, if your bacteria was incubated at the wrong temperature or a piece of equipment failed mid-experiment, these should be noted in the results section.
- Relate results to existing theories and knowledge.This can tie back to your introduction section because of the background you provided.
- Explain the logic that allows you to accept or reject your original hypotheses.
- Include suggestions for improving your techniques or design, or clarify areas of doubt for further research.
Acknowledgements and References: A references list should be compiled at the end of the report citing any works that were used to support the paper. Additionally, an acknowledgements section should be included to acknowledge research advisors/ partners, any group or person providing funding for the research and anyone outside the authors who contributed to the paper or research.
- In scientific papers, passive voice is perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, using “I” or “we” is not.
Incorrect: We found that caffeine increased amylase levels in Tenebrio molitar. Correct: It was discovered that caffeine increased amylase levels in Tenebrio molitar.
- It is expected that you use as much formal (bland) language and scientific terminology as you can. There should be no emphasis placed on “expressing yourself” or “keeping it interesting”; a lab report is not a narrative.
- In a lab report, it is important to get to the point. Be descriptive enough that your audience can understand the experiment, but strive to be concise.
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How to Write a Lab Report Introduction: 5 Pro Tips
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Laboratory experiments are good fun, aren’t they? You get the opportunity to learn something new while getting hands-on experience.
While conducting experiments is fun, the same cannot be said about what follows after. Yes, we’re talking about writing the lab report.
A lab report is a detailed documentation of the experiment conducted in a lab along with the findings. It should capture all the details and is presented in a predefined format so that anyone who wants to read and replicate or refer to the report later can do so easily.
Here’s what a typical lab report structure includes:
- Analysis and Discussion
As a powerful introduction lays the foundation for a winning lab report, this article will throw light on how you can write a strong introduction for your lab report.
5 Tips to Write a Lab Report Introduction that Captivates Attention
An effective introductory paragraph is integral to writing success - and the same holds true while writing lab reports too.
It comes right after the abstract, and students are often left wondering what the difference between the two is. So, let’s get that right first.
While an abstract needs to provide a brief idea of the report, the introduction needs to elaborate on it, state the objective of the experiment along with giving background information.
Here are five tips for writing a lab report introduction that captivates attention and impresses readers.
1. Hook your audience
The introduction is the first section that a reader reads right after the title. Whether the reader would want to read your entire lab report or not depends a lot on this section. Hence, your introductory paragraph needs to be attention-grabbing.
One of the most common hooks in lab reports is starting with an interesting fact or statistic (relevant to the field of the experiment).
It should be clear and crisp while sharing, providing background information, and stating the overall goal of the experiment. It should set the context and talk about why the experiment was done, including any laws/theories/formulae relevant to the experiment being conducted.
2. Maintain a logical flow
An introduction should have a logical flow. According to Simply Psychology , the introduction should follow a ‘funnel structure’.
Start with writing about the broader topic. For example, if you are doing an experiment on ice, then write about the different facts of ice, its properties, etc.
In the next step, explain the theoretical framework. Write about why you conducted the experiment, what the background was, and the overall purpose of the experiment.
Next, mention the previous studies that might have been done that connected to your study. Include the details like who were the experimenters, what was the study about, and finally, the outcome of that experiment.
You then need to draw a rationale between the previous studies and your study. Why did you do this experiment? Did it help to build the gap that was missing in the previous studies, or has there been any change in the scenario from the previous experiments to yours?
Write them down clearly. Finally, draw a hypothesis. What is your prediction about the experiment? This is also known as the hypothesis. However, do not include the final result or the procedure used here, as you will have dedicated sections for those in the latter part of the report.
3. Include the literature review
Your lab report introduction needs to also include the literature review, which is meant to state the existing information that’s already known about the topic of experimentation.
It’s generally an overview of all the scholarly articles and journals pertaining to the topic in question and is meant to offer context.
Here’s some practical advice by Grad Coach on how to write a literature review
4. Formulate a strong hypothesis
If XYZ, then ABC will happen - this is what a hypothesis resembles.
Forming a critical part of lab reports, hypotheses are tentative statements meant to predict the outcome of the experiment. The key to writing a solid hypothesis is ensuring it’s clear, specific, and testable.
It needs to be based on variables that will be measured during the course of the experiment.
Once you’ve conducted the experiment, in the discussions section, you can go on to explain whether you accept or reject it, along with justifying it with your findings.
5. Pay attention to the tenses
Students often get muddled up when it comes to the correct usage of tenses, especially while writing the lab report introduction, and make silly mistakes in the process.
When you’re referring to the experiment, which has already been conducted, you can stick to past tense and when you’re talking about the report or your findings, you should use present tense as that’s something that’s being worked upon.
Writing lab report introductions can get tedious because it’s the first paragraph your instructor reads, and let’s face it - the stakes are high.
However, with these five practical tips in mind, you’re sure to do a better job and write a lab report introduction that forms a strong foundation by reeling the reader in and making them want to read further.
If you’re finding it difficult to start your lab report, Writers Per Hour is here to help. Our team of writers is well-versed in lab report writing .
From biology and chemistry to physics and engineering - we can help you deliver original, plagiarism-free lab reports written from scratch to meet your requirements and deadline.
Last edit at Jul 27 2023
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How to Write an Introduction for a Lab Report: A Guide for Students
by Antony W
September 5, 2021
Take it from us when we say that writing an introduction for a lab report can be just as hard as writing the report itself.
While it boils down to establishing the learning context and the primary goal of the lab, and at the same time giving a hypothesis for the experimental procedures, this section can be a lot harder to put together than any other part of the report.
Here's perhaps the most challenging part about introducing a lab report:
It's a one-paragraph piece of test, which has to cover so many elements of the report, with the most important information appearing at the very top.
Don't worry if you’re currently struggling to write the introduction for your lab report – or if you don't know how to do it. That's because in this guide, you'll learn how to write the best introduction for your lab report.
Why is an Introduction Important in a Lab Report?
The introduction of a lab report offers readers a preview of the most important details that you’ll address in the other sections of the paper. It provides a background to the work in the report and unveils the objectives of the proposed work to bring out the context of the real life application of the study outside the experiment.
Unlike in essay writing, where the introduction is as short as one paragraph, the introduction for a lab report tends to be longer. The length can be anything between four paragraphs and a few pages long depending on factors such as the complexity of the topic, the brief provided by your instructor, and the depth of the topic in question.
It’s important to mind your audience when writing an introduction for a lab report. Many of your readers may not be familiar with the discipline under study. In that case, it may be necessary to explain technical terms for clarity. You should do that in the introduction.
What Should I Include in the Introduction of a Lab Report?
The introduction of your lab report should show three key pieces of information to meet the standards of your professor. These are:
- The purpose of the study
- Comprehensive and concise information about the topic under investigation
- A literature review about the topic
Don’t include specific details about the methodology of the study in this section of the assignment; this will go into the method section. Furthermore, the introduction should NOT feature the conclusions that you have made based on the studies that you’ve conducted; leave this for the results section of the report.
A Guide to Writing a Good Introduction for a Laboratory Report
To write a good introduction for a lab report:
Start with a Broad Introduction
The first step to writing an introduction for your lab report is to look at the topic from a broad spectrum. This gives you a perfect idea on how to approach the assignment.
Let’s say your instructor wants you to conduct an experiment and write a lab report about the effects of temperature on catalase enzyme.
For the introduction, a reasonable approach would be to talk about enzymes in general. You can describe what they’re, how to make them, and how they work.
Further, the introduction should clearly describe the background of the science, give the reason for the study, and explain whom the experiment will benefit
Narrow Down the Introduction
The next step is to narrow down your introduction to a specific top. In the case of our example above, you’ll need to focus more on why the catalase enzyme is important, how it works, and where it comes from. By narrowing down the topic, it becomes easy for you to study exactly how temperature affects the catalase enzyme.
Work on the Literature Review
The introduction for your lab report must include a literature review, where you discuss what people already know about the subject under investigation.
It’s important to cite all the sources you used in your research. Also, make sure you summarize the research that you have done on the topic to make your description clear.
Don’t worry if you’ve never written a literature review before. You can check our guide to writing a literature review to learn more.
Describe the Goal of the Study
Conclude the introduction for the lab report by giving a clear description of the study. As a reader goes through your writing, they should be able to tell what hypothesis you tested during the study and know the questions you were trying to answer.
The Elements of a Strong Introduction for a Lab Report
A strong introduction for a lab report is the one that:
- Easily established the primary context of the lab by clearly stating what it’s about and giving the necessary background to the lab by providing relevant information about the context of the study
- Clearly describes the primary goal of the lab experiment by highlighting the objectives of the experiment. This is where you tell the reader whether the study was to determine, test, or measure something.
- Offers hypothesis for the experiment if there’s any by stating the hypothesis and examining the reasoning behind that hypothesis.
Tips to Write a Good Introduction for a Laboratory Report
Below are some tips you can sue to write a comprehensive introduction for a lab report:
- Use the lab notes to understand the topic under investigation, but don’t copy content from it. Instead, write the introduction in your own words.
- Brief lab reports may not require introductions. If this is the case, you should go straight to the aim or statement of the study.
- Don’t hesitate to introduce relevant laws, theorem, or equations in the introduction if any
- If there are relevant theories that harmoniously link to the study, explain them in details
- Don’t shy away from consulting your instructor if you’re not sure about some part of the introduction to lab report
Now that you know how to write a good introduction for your report, it shouldn’t be hard for you to handle this part of the assignment. Still, feel free to contact us here if you need more help.
About the author
Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.