LAB REPORT GUIDELINES
Writing a good lab report is an important goal of your science education, and gives you the opportunity to enhance your writing skills and to communicate your understanding of the scientific process to others.
Your lab report for this semester will be a write up of your independent research project. This will follow the standard format for a lab report and should include the following sections: Title
Materials and Methods
For this course we are giving extra emphasis to the materials and methods section. This section should include sufficient detail to allow others to reproduce your experiments, without being overly descriptive.
A guide to writing each section is as follows:
Name the experiment.
The title should be descriptive of what you did or what your data showed. A reader should be able to obtain some understanding of the content of your report from the title. In the research world, scientists scan the table of contents of journals to determine if there are any papers relevant to their research that they should read. Therefore the title is important for getting your work recognized.
Explain why you choose this project, and what you hoped to learn from it. You will be required to research the background information for your project, and present the current state of knowledge for the topic of your research. In addition, you must explain your rationale for choosing this project, clearly state the objective or hypothesis, and predict the outcome of the experiments if the hypothesis holds true.
Example: if an independent research project investigated the effect of hand sanitizers on the growth of E. coli, then the introduction should include background information on hand sanitizers (what they are, how they are used, the ingredients that kill bacteria), and background information on E. coli (what it is, why it is a problem). It would also include the experimental hypothesis, e.g. “Hand sanitizers will be more effective at killing E. coli than soap.”
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Describe how you conducted your experiments in sufficient detail that someone else could repeat them, WITHOUT excess detail.
First and foremost, this section is NOT simply a list of materials and a step-by-step accounting of what you did. You should write your materials and methods in descriptive form, using past tense (describe what you did). Do not include reasoning in your methods – this belongs in the discussion section.
You should describe what you did in enough detail that someone could repeat the experiment if he or she wanted to, but do not use excessive details.
As you are doing your experiment, be sure you keep track of what you actually did in your lab notebook, especially any details which vary from the instructions in the lab manual. What you do could have important implications for the results you get, and your interpretation of those results. The Materials and Methods in your lab report should be what you actually did, and not just what the lab manual told you to do.
Points to remember:
Organize this section carefully and logically, place the methods in the order in which you ran them.
Use subheadings that break the text into distinct sections (if warranted). Do not use subheadings such as “Lab 4.” Use a descriptive subheading, such as “Agarose Gel Electrophoresis” and make use of bold text to distinguish subheadings.
Provide enough information to allow others to repeat the same experiment
Use specific, informative language (quantify whenever possible)
Omit unnecessary information. You do not need to include every possible detail of the time you spent in the lab. Include only those procedures directly pertaining to the results you plan to present in the paper.
Include complete mathematical formulas if appropriate.
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