How to Write a Lab Report—Basic Parts and Steps

A lab report is a detailed explanation of experimental research done in a laboratory. Students, researchers, and other scientists often create lab reports to share their findings in fields such as chemistry, biology, and engineering.

Do you need to write a lab report? Keep reading to learn about the parts it should include and how to make sure it gives a complete account of your research.

What part of a lab report should you write first?

The structure list below shows the usual lab report format and parts. However, it typically doesn’t make sense to write the elements in this order. Instead, you might find the lab report example steps underneath that more useful.

While most lab reports follow the structure list, it can be helpful to write the parts out of chronological order.

Structure Steps
1. Title page 1. Introduction and references
2. Abstract 2. Materials and methods
3. Introduction 3. Results
4. Materials and methods 4. Discussion and references
5. Results 5. Conlusion
6. Discussion 6. Tables and figures
7. Conclusion 7. Abstract
8. Tables and figures 8. Title page
9. References 9. Editing

 

By working in this sequence, you can follow the logical order of your experiment and record information and raw data as you work. This will make your lab report more accurate and may save you a lot of time revising later.

Another way to save time is to make sure you completely understand any instructions your professor or supervisor has given you. Ask questions early to avoid mistakes. If your instructor has provided a template, it will serve as an excellent outline to start with and help you meet the requirements.

As you write, remember to stick to the standards of academic writing: a formal tone, no contractions or slang, complete sentences, and logical organization.

Parts of a lab report

Ultimately, the required elements for your lab report will depend on your university or your instructor. But below, we offer you a basic description of the usual parts and tips for getting them right. As shown in the steps above, we’ll start with how to write an introduction for a lab report, then move down the list.

Introduction and References

The introduction of a lab report gives a brief overview of previous research and background information on the subject. Then it describes how that research led to your research question and subsequent experiment and what you expect to find (your hypothesis).

Because it involves citing previous research, you’ll likely need to start writing your reference list while working on your introduction. Collect all the citation information you need as you mention sources and properly format them now to save time later.

You can (and should) begin writing your introduction even before you start your laboratory work. Not only will it lower the amount of writing you do later, but it will help you develop a more informed hypothesis.

Lab reports should always be written in third person and past tense.

When you’re citing sources, a Plagiarism Checker and a Citation Generator can help you avoid accidental plagiarism (as well as other types of plagiarism) and make sure you’ve included all the pertinent source information.

Methods and Materials

The methods and materials section of a lab report lists all the supplies and equipment you need to conduct the experiment and the steps you take to complete it. You really can’t overdo it when it comes to detail in this part of the report. It’s also important to use the correct terms for equipment and procedures.

You may start on this section before the laboratory work begins, writing down the materials you’ll need and the procedures you plan to do. Then take notes during the lab work, recording as many details as you can, such as:

  • Equipment settings and use
  • Experimental design
  • Types and amounts of substances or items
  • Demographics of participants and how you chose them
  • Steps you took, both planned and unplanned
  • Time taken for each step and between steps
  • Observations, both expected and unexpected
  • Measurements
  • Test results
  • Problems

Don’t forget to write down anything you forgot to include before you entered the lab or any steps you did differently than expected. Once the lab work is finished, you can revise what you wrote beforehand using the notes you took.

Results

The results section of the report is just that—the outcome of your experiment. It describes what happened as a result of the steps you took. Its focus is just the facts—save the explanation and analysis for the discussion section.

You’ll write about the key results after you’ve finished carrying out the experiment, using your lab notes. In some cases, you may present your findings as a table or graph. However, many instructors ask students to put tables and figures in an appendix instead.

Discussion and References

After you’ve given the results, it’s time to make sense of them. Use the data you gathered to draw conclusions. Explain whether your findings agree with your hypothesis and why. These are some questions to consider as you write the discussion section:

  • What do the results show?
  • Do the findings make sense in light of previous research? If not, what accounts for the unexpected results? For instance, you may have overlooked something or there may have been an experimental error.
  • Why do the results matter or what do they contribute to the field?
  • Do your findings lead to more questions?
  • How could your experiment be improved or what could be added to it?

If you mention other researchers’ work in this section, add citations to your reference list now so you won’t have to dig them up again later.

Don’t forget to use QuillBot’s Plagiarism Checker and Citation Generator!

Conclusion

Not all lab reports have a separate conclusion section, but if your instructor requires one, summarize the entire thought process, procedure, findings, and significance of your experiment in just a paragraph or two. Focus on the main points and keep it short.

For example, imagine your instructor is giving you two minutes to explain what you did, why, and what it means. What will you say?

QuillBot’s Summarizer can help you learn how to write a conclusion for a lab report by distilling longer statements into shorter ones that highlight only the key parts. And our Paraphraser can help you restate ideas in different words so you don’t sound repetitive.

Tables and Figures

Once you’ve finished the writing, it’s a good time to organize your data into tables and figures. Consider the best way to present what you found or follow the directions from your instructor.

Abstract

The abstract is similar to the conclusion in the sense that it’s a summary of the experiment. For that reason, it’s often easier to write after the other elements.

It should state the purpose or goal of the experiment, the materials and methods, the results, and the overall takeaway in just 200–300 words. One sentence, or at most two, for each of these aspects should do it.

When you’re learning how to write an abstract for a lab report, looking at examples of other abstracts can be extremely helpful.

Title Page

The title page is simply a cover sheet for your lab report. It lists basic information like your name, your instructor’s name, the course name, the date, and the title of your lab report.

To write an effective title, focus on the purpose of your experiment and aim for 10 words or fewer. Keep articles (a, an, the) and prepositions (in, on, for, etc.) to a minimum in favor of more substantial words with more impact.

Revising your lab report

When the writing is all done, it’s always good practice to go back and double-check it. This shouldn’t take long if you worked efficiently in the previous steps.

Make sure your reasoning and process flow smoothly and are clear. Review your grammar, punctuation, and spelling for errors. Give your source citations a second look. And finally, correct any formatting inconsistencies.

Try QuillBot’s Grammar Checker if you need a bit of help with English grammar. Even the best writers tend to overlook their own mistakes.

Lab work can be fun, and with a clear understanding of the requirements and a few handy tools, writing a lab report about it doesn’t have to be drudgery either.

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Paige Pfeifer, BA

Paige teaches QuillBot writers about grammar rules and writing conventions. She has a BA in English, which she received by reading and writing a lot of fiction. That is all she knows how to do.