Lab Report Instructions:
Your report should include at a minimum the following elements:
Title of exercise
Describe in a single sentence the experiment that you carried out; making sure that the title is fully descriptive of the exercise you carried out.
Provide sufficient background information to orient the reader to the laboratory exercise. Then, describe in a couple of sentences the aim(s) of the experiment. Please don’t restate what you did; however, mention WHY you did it. For example, “This lab was performed to assess the effect of sunlight exposure on tomato plants.” Your hypothesis should be an if/then statement. “If tomato plants are given unlimited sunlight, then we would expect them to grow to taller compared to plants that are only exposed to 12 hours of sunlight per day.” Be sure to carefully consider the variables in your experiment when formulating your hypothesis.
Describe how you conducted your experiment. The methods section should be a detailed description of the methods you used for investigating your hypothesis (in past tense – you have completed the experiment and so should be written as past tense). It should include a description of any equipment used, the timing of your experiments, the protocol for your experiments, etc. You need to include enough detail that another scientist could replicate your experiments following just the information you provide.
The results section will include any observations made, data collected, etc. You should both describe the observations, data, etc. in words, and include graphs, photographs, and/or figures to enhance your results section. The narrative part of this section should be brief. Concisely state the experimental results that you obtained. Do not restate the methods used. Start with an overview statement of the general trend in your data and then go into more detail about individual data points, averages, etc. that will present a full picture of your results. You should use the text to describe the patterns, trends, etc. that you observe in your visuals (graphs, figures, etc.) and draw the reader’s attention to these trends. It is helpful to clue the reader into the fact that you’re discussing one of your figures by using notations such as “As illustrated in Figure 2….” You should NOT discuss whether or not your results support your hypothesis in the results section; save this assessment for the discussion section of your report. For example, here you would report a trend in the growth of tomato plants, but not what those results mean in terms of your hypothesis (sunlight did or did not help the tomato plants grow taller).
Critically evaluate the results & discuss their significance. The discussion section should begin with a discussion of how/if your results support or reject your hypothesis. Following this sentence, you should discuss the major results of the experiment/investigation and go into more detail about how these results support, reject, or modify your original hypothesis. Present a rational analysis of your results. The idea is not to summarize your results (you should have already done that in the previous results section), but instead consider reasons underlying your results. What do your results tell you? Did the experiment work as planned? If not, explain why not? Pay particular attention to any positive or negative controls that were used! Were the values observed higher or lower than expected? Did any errors occur, or were there inherent problems in the experimental procedure? Discuss the significance of the experiment. Finish this section with conclusions that “wrap up” your report. Are there any remaining questions? Were there new questions raised by your investigation? What might you have done differently if you had the chance to do the experiment again?
Proper citations and references should be used throughout.
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