For each group of 3-4 students:
- 3 glass jars or beakers
- 3 medium size rubber bands
- Hand lens
- Felt pen
Example Lab Report Format
In this class we will frequently be doing labs that you design and carry out on your own. For these labs, you will turn in a report, either on paper or on disk (your choice), that follows the following format:
TITLE: The title should specifically describe what the lab is about ("The effect of insecticides on plant growth," not "Chemicals and plants").
INTRODUCTION: Tell the reader why you are doing the study. Give enough background information so the reader will understand why the subject and the study is important. Tell the reader what you are trying to figure out in the form of a clear, logical, and answerable question.
MATERIALS: List all the supplies that you used so someone else could use exactly the same materials when repeating your study.
PROCEDURE: Pretend your lab is like a recipe and that you are writing for a reader not as smart as you. You have to describe exactly what to do and how to do it or the reader will probably mess it up. Procedures are best written in a numbered list (step 1, step 2, etc.) rather than in paragraph form, but if you like the paragraph form and can write very clearly, you may use it. If you've done it correctly, a younger student ought to be able to follow your instructions. Drawings or diagrams are often helpful. Be sure to identify CONTROL treatments and REPLICATES clearly in your procedure.
RESULTS: Data can take many forms, but it all needs to be clearly shown to the reader. You may use drawings, tables, or graphs, depending on what you are trying to show, but all have to be very well labeled, with titles and all units shown. You must also write in paragraph form what you found. This is where you draw the reader's attention to the most important or useful parts of your data. We will discuss these issues further in class.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: This is the heart of the lab! Plan to spend LOTS of time on this section! This section should be written in paragraph form, not in a list. There are several parts to a good discussion section:
a. Summarize why you did the lab and how you did it.
b. Summarize what you found.
c. Relate your findings specifically back to your purpose or question. Did you fulfill the purpose, answer the question? (It's totally OK if the answer is no; many experiments don't turn out to be what we expect them to be.) Either way, explain why.
d. Discuss sources of error: These are things that you couldn't control—faulty equipment, limits on time or resources, other things you didn't plan on. Don't cop-out by just reporting that you messed up.
e. If I wanted to pursue this research, what would you recommend that I do next? Leave me with a sense of where the research would go from here.