Lab report body paragraphs
Lab reports are written to describe and analyse a laboratory experiment that explores a scientific concept.
There are many different ways to structure paragraph in lab reports. So, check your assignment instructions or ask your lecturer regarding what is the most appropriate way to structure paragraphs in your report.
This is one way you could structure the body paragraphs in a lab report:
- Point: the topic sentence, which describes the focus (main point) of the paragraph
- Illustration: explanations, evidence, and examples that reinforce the main point
- Explanation: evaluation of the illustration or discussion of its significance and connections between this paragraph, the hypothesis, and/or nearby paragraphs.
The acronym PIE (which stands for Point/Illustration/Explanation) may be helpful to remember as a guide for developing well-structured, coherent paragraphs. Academic paragraphs are usually at least three sentences long, but can be longer. However, don't make those sentences too long. As a rough guide, a sentence longer than three lines is too long.
All paragraphs should be focused: they should discuss only one major point. That point should connect with the overall focus of the report (the hypothesis).
The major point of a paragraph is often called the controlling idea. Every paragraph should have a different controlling idea, with each one discussing one aspect or part of the overall report.
Body paragraphs will often begin with a summary of the controlling idea: the point (also known as the topic sentence). The point (or topic) sentence summarises the paragraph.
The rest of the paragraph supports that main point (the topic sentence), by explaining it in detail, giving an example, or citing evidence that reinforces it.
The largest part of any body paragraph is usually the illustration, which consists of explanations, supportive evidence or examples. Illustrations use logic to fully explain the main point raised in the topic sentence. It is not enough to just explain an idea, however: you need to show that outside evidence supports it as well.
The illustration can include:
- Published opinions
- Research from books, journal articles, websites, etc.
- Published case studies
- Research data
Your illustration must be relevant to the topic and it must be used and credited properly. Outside sources can be quoted, summarised, or paraphrased. For information on the right and wrong ways to do this, see quoting and paraphrasing. Crediting outside sources is known as referencing, and is described in detail in the section titled introduction to referencing.
The explanation should clarify how the reader should interpret your illustrative evidence and, where relevant, how the paragraph's controlling idea relates to the hypothesis.
It may also discuss the significance of your explanation. Remember that body paragraphs do not exist in isolation. They should fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Transitions show the connections between paragraphs themselves, and the connections between the paragraphs and the overall focus of the report. They often appear at the end of a paragraph.