What is a lab report?
Lab reports are written to describe and analyse a laboratory experiment that explores a scientific concept.
They are typically assigned to enable you to:
- Conduct scientific research.
- Formulate a hypothesis/hypotheses about a particular stimulus, event, and/or behaviour.
- Review relevant literature to justify your hypothesis.
- Allow someone to replicate your study by providing precise details.
- Apply statistics to test your hypothesis.
- Explore theoretical explanations.
- Evaluate research objectively and methodically.
- Communicate concisely and precisely.
Remember that with lab reports it may be impossible to rely on a single explanation for your findings. Therefore, it is vital that you provide as many potential and relevant interpretations as possible.
Even if your findings do not support your hypothesis, they are still valuable because you can then demonstrate that within the contextual constraints of your study, your argument was not reliable, and you can then move on to consider other areas for research, without having to go down the same path.
Further, this may open up avenues for others to investigate your hypothesis under different conditions. Nevertheless, there may have been unforeseen circumstances or conditions that were not possible to isolate and control, which you can use to help justify your results.
It is also important to be clear about the voice or grammatical style in which you write your report. For instance, traditionally, lab reports have been written in the passive voice, and used the third person pronoun, as in “The study was conducted by Smith and Jones (1996)” and “It was hypothesised that…”. However, more recently, it has become acceptable to use the active voice, as in “Smith and Jones (1996) conducted the study”, as well as make reference to yourself where relevant, as in “I hypothesised that…”. Check your assignment instructions, or course coordinator, for clarification, and keep the voice consistent throughout the report. If you are using a style guide, then follow the style guide consistently. For example, in the American Psychological Association Publication Manual (6th ed.) it is recommended that authors use the first person to avoid ambiguity and anthropomorphism.
See the section on introduction to academic writing for more.