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How To Write A Good Lab Report

A lab report can seem like a huge and complicated task. If you need a lab report help read our simple guide on how to make a lab report.

What is a lab report?

In the domains of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, lab reports are frequently assigned. They detail the goal, methodology, results, and conclusions of a scientific experiment.

What is the purpose of writing a lab report?

A lab report's goal is to demonstrate your understanding of the scientific method by conducting a lab experiment.

How to write lab report

Lab report structure can vary from college to college and document to document but as a general guide these are the common lab report sections in the table below.

Lab report title page / cover page

The title should NOT be written as a question and should indicate:

  • what the study is about
  • the variables under investigation

The page should also include:

  • your name and any lab accomplices’ names
  • your professor’s name
  • the date of the experiment, or due date of the report

Lab Report contents page / table of contents

MLA:

  • should have the title ‘contents’ at the top of the page, aligned left, and bolded.
  • all major headings should be aligned left also
  • the subheadings should be 5 spaces to the right of the main heading
  • include the page number on which the headings and subheadings are located
  • the table of contents should not exceed two pages
  • the headings and subheadings must be connected to their appropriate page numbers by a dotted line
  • include appendices titles and labels

APA: A contents page may not be required but you may need one if your paper is lengthy or covers a lot of material

Lab Report Abstract

To write an abstract for a lab report:

  • Begin with a couple of sentences about the study's goal and justification.
  • Briefly describe the environment and participants and study/experiment design (see methods section below)
  • Summarize the main findings
  • Summarise what your study’s findings contribute to the field

Lab report introduction

Follow a funnel structure (general to specific):

  • State the general theory and subject
  • Review and synthesise past research
  • Justify how does your study fills a gap in the literature or solves a problem
  • Make a clear/succinct prediction about your expected findings

Lab report methods / methodology and results

Design:

  • State whether your experiment has a within-subjects or between-subjects design (within-subjects means all participants take part in every condition, whereas a between-subjects design means each participant is exposed to only one condition
  • describe how your sample units were assigned to conditions

Participants:

  • Note the total number of participants as well as the number of participants per condition/group.
  • Where did you obtain your participants? E.g., social media, Crowdsource, Listservs, a shopping mall, etc.
  • include demographic statistics e.g., gender, age, genetic background, etc.

Materials: State resources used e.g., thermometer, measuring tape, questionnaires, photographs, etc.

Variables:

  • state the controls, independent variable (IV) and how the IV and dependent variable (DV) are put into practise
  • identify the statistical test performed. Was it a correlational e.g., Chi-Square, comparison e.g., paired t-test, regression e.g., simple regression, or non-parametric e.g., a sign test?
  • provide accurate statistics, e.g., t-scores, percentages, averages (mean, median or mode), range, etc.
  • State if the results are significant.

Lab report analysis / lab report discussion

Summarise your findings and state if they support your hypothesis/predictions and the literature you have already discussed. Are outcomes comparable or dissimilar? Why/why not?

Explain the study’s limitations if they can be used to explain the outcome. If the study demonstrated a dependable effect, be cautious about identifying limits because you are questioning your findings. It's best to skip this part unless you can think of a confounding variable that can explain the results instead of the IV.

Suggest strategies to improve your research.

Explain what implications your findings have e.g., Psychologists need to appreciate the breath and scope of cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in adults, to utilize it to its full potential.

Suggest subsequent research pathways e.g., It is recommended that future research involve the treatment of adolescents suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to ascertain if similar results are achieved as with adult Post Traumatic Stress disorder sufferers.

Concluding by summarizing your main findings.

Lab report conclusion

(Note: a conclusion may not be required in addition to the last section. Check with your educational instructor)

Describe the experiment's findings

Give a brief review of the study's strengths and limitations

State implications for future research.

Lab report references

List of all sources used in alphabetical order (you can use a free online citation generator to help you but be sure to proofread it to double check it is correct).

Include page numbers (normally required to be in the top right-hand corner).

Lab Report references are often formatted in APA or MLA style. APA 7th edition example:

Gautam, M., Tripathi, A., Deshmukh, D., & Gaur, M. (2020). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 62(8), 223. https://doi.org/10.4103/psychiatry.indianjpsychiatry_772_19

In-text citation:

(Gautam et al., 2020)

MLA 9th edition example:

Gautam, Manaswi, et al. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 62, no. 8, Jan. 2020, p. 223, https://doi.org/10.4103/psychiatry.indianjpsychiatry_772_19.

In-text citation:

(Gautam et al.)

Lab report appendices

Each appendix starts on a new page and has appendix labels and descriptive titles e.g., the label ‘Appendix’ should appear first, followed by ABC, etc and descriptive title underneath.

The first appendix will additionally be labelled ‘Appendices’ if there are multiple appendices.

Include page numbers in appendices (top right-hand corner)

For instance:

26

Appendices

Appendix A

Interview Responses from Participant S

Appendices may include:

  • calculations, statistics, raw data
  • charts, graphs, photographs
  • maps, diagrams, and drawings
  • demographic details about participants or groups
  • examples of participant responses
  • extended or detailed descriptions

Lab report format

If you want to learn how to write a good lab report, get the hang of formatting. Popular lab reports formatting styles are APA and MLA.

APA Formatting

MLA Formatting

  • Set margins to 1-inch on all sides
  • Double-space all text, including headings
  • Indent the first line of every paragraph 0.5 inches
  • Use an easy-to-read font, e.g., Times New Roman 12pt., Arial 11pt., or Georgia 11pt
  • Include a page number on every page
  • Numbers reported to 2 decimal places (with a 0 before the decimal if the number is 1.00, e.g., ‘0.51’. The following are exceptions to this rule: Report to 3 decimal places and do not include a 0 before the decimal place, e.g., ‘.001.’
  • Report whole numbers for percentages
  • Italicize statistical symbols that aren't Greek letters (e.g., ‘SD, t, X2’)
  • Both sides of the equals symbol should have spaces
  • Upper and lower bounds are indicated inside square brackets when providing 95 percent CIs (confidence intervals), e.g., ‘95 percent CI [73.37, 102.23]’
  • Set 1-inch margins on all sides
  • Double-space all text, including headings
  • Indent the first line of every paragraph 0.5 inches
  • Use an easy-to-read font, e.g., Times New Roman, 12pt
  • Create a uniform header that automatically generates page numbers for every page of your paper starting with the second page
  • Make sure the italics stand out from the rest of the font
  • Unless your instructor specifies otherwise, leave one space after periods and other punctuation marks.
  • For numbers exhibiting a comparative relationship, use the same pattern e.g., 5 out of 25 participants, not five out of 25 participants
  • In large numbers, use commas between every three digits from the right e.g., 4,305,573 or 9,100
  • when discussing money amounts and percentages, symbols should be used instead of words. $8,000 and 26%.
  • keep dates in the same order (day-month-year with no punctuation or month-day-year with a comma between the day and the year and another after the year) e.g., 11 May 2022 or May 11, 2020.

Tips for lab report writing

  1. Write in the third person
  2. Use acronyms in brackets after you have written the words out fully, then you only need use the acronym for that word from that point on onwards e.g., Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SSPS), science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
  3. Acknowledge:
    • anomalies/outliers/exceptions/limitations (if applicable)
    • things that did not go to plan (if applicable)
    • how to avoid making the same mistakes (if applicable)
    • data that doesn’t support your hypothesis, as well as data that does.
  4. Compare your findings to the existing research you have already mentioned in the report
  5. Write your abstract last. It is much easier to write the abstract after everything else has been completed and you can see ‘the whole picture’.
  6. Check everything is in the correct order, flows well and makes sense.
  7. Correct any spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors.

Conclusion

A lab report consists of several sections, and they require quite a lot of work. Hopefully by following our guide you will now better understand how to write a lab report. Remember to include at a minimum:

  • a title page
  • an introduction
  • methodology and findings
  • discussion/conclusion
  • references

And ensure you format according to your educational establishments required style.

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