Designing Experiments

PostLab: writing your lab report


Describing the lab procedure

Using the notes you took while performing your experiment(s) and any other appropriate sources, describe in paragraph form the experimental procedures you followed. Be sure to include enough detail about the materials and methods you used so that someone else could repeat your experiment as you performed it.

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Making sense of your data for yourself and others

Step 1: If you haven't already done so, put your lab data in visual form by creating appropriate tables, graphs, and other figures. Representing your data in a visual format will allow you to identify trends and relationships among variables more easily. MORE HELP for Step 1 of Results

Step 2: Once you have generated visual representations of your data, decide the order in which your tables, graphs, or other figures should be presented in the Results section. MORE HELP for Step 2 of Results

Step 3: Review all the data from your experiment. In a sentence or two summarize the overall results of this lab. This is the opening sentence(s) of the Results section. MORE HELP for Step 3 of Results

Step 4: In separate paragraphs summarize the finding in each of your visuals--tables, graphs, or other figures. First state the overall relationship or interaction among variables that each visual represents. Then include any specific details from the visual that are important for understanding the results. Refer to your tables, graphs, or other figures as figure or table 1, 2, 3, etc. MORE HELP for Step 4 of Results

Step 5: Complete the Results by placing all the elements you've written in the proper order: (1) the sentence summarizing the overall data for the lab; (2) the paragraphs of word descriptions for each visual arranged in the order the visuals are presented. Remember that the Results only reports and describes what you observed and collected during your lab. The Results does not explain, discuss, or draw conclusions. MORE HELP for Step 5 of Results

MORE HELP for all Steps of Results


SECTION THREE : Introduction

Establishing a context for the lab

Step 1: (Use your response to PreLab question 1 for this step.) Briefly describe the research problem you were given to solve or which you identified based on your individual research. Define the problem by giving the knowns and the unknowns. Then state the research question that you used to guide the research to solve your problem. This will be the first paragraph or so of your Introduction.

Step 2: (Use your response to PreLab questions 2 and 3 for this step.) In the next paragraph or two, state the scientific concept that this problem relates to. Then describe what you know about the scientific concept that is relevant to understanding and solving the problem. Note any citations you use here for References section.

Step 3: (Use your response to PreLab questions 3-5 for this step.) In a paragraph or two, present the hypothesis that emerged out of the research question. Then explain the reasoning you used, based on what you have said about the scientific concept, to arrive at the hypothesis. Finally, in a sentence or two, briefly describe the experimental procedures you used to test your hypothesis.

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SECTION FOUR : Discussion

Interpreting the results of the lab

Step 1: Write a sentence or two stating whether or not the results from the lab procedures fully support your hypothesis, do not support the hypothesis, or support the hypothesis but with certain exceptions.

Step 2: In a paragraph, identify specific data from your lab that led you to either support or reject your hypothesis. Refer to the visual representations of your data as evidence to back up your judgment about the hypothesis.

Step 3: In a paragraph or two, use your understanding of the scientific concept of this lab to explain why the results did or did not support your hypothesis. If the hypothesis from the Introduction was not fully supported, show how your understanding of the scientific concept has changed. Note any citations you use here for including in the Reference section of your report.

Step 4: In a paragraph or two, restate the research question and present the answer your experiment has suggested for that question. Show how the experiment has helped you to solve for the unknowns.Then restate the problem that your research was designed to solve and discuss the solution to the problem suggested by the answer to the research question.

Step 5: Discuss other items as appropriate, such as (1) any problems that occurred or sources of uncertainty in your lab procedure that may account for any unexpected results; (2) how your solution to the problem compared with the solutions of other students in the lab and an explanation for any differences; (3) suggestions for improving the lab.

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SECTION FIVE : Conclusion

Focusing on what you learned by doing the lab

Step 1: Write a paragraph summarizing what you have learned about the scientific concept of the lab from doing the lab. Back up your statement with details from your lab experience.

Step 2: If there is anything else you have learned about from doing the lab, such as how to solve this particular problem, how to design an experiment, the kinds of the lab procedures or kinds of analyses you used, describe it in a paragraph or 2.

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SECTION SIX : Abstract

Summarizing the lab report

Summarize each major section of the lab report--Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion--in 1 sentence each (two if a section is complex). Then string the summaries together in a block paragraph in the order the sections come in the final report.

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Capturing the essence of the report

Write a title that captures what is important about the lab, including the scientific concept the lab is about and variables involved, the procedure, or anything else that is important to understanding what this report is about.

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SECTION EIGHT : References

Acknowledging sources of information

If it is appropriate for your lab report, put a References section at the end. List all the sources you referred to in writing the report, such as the lab manual, a textbook, a course packet, or scientific articles. Be sure to use the proper form of documentation for the scientific field you are working in (ask your lab instructor if you are not sure). See Citations and References

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