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Experiment report writing example

Apr 21, 2018

Sample Lab Assignment

Below is a sample lab report assignment from a UW-Madison bacteriology course.

We will be using a format for the lab reports which is similar (but modified) to formats for scientific papers. That is, you must include an abstract, introduction, materials and methods section, results section, discussion, and literature citations. Your grade on the reports will depend on completeness, scientific accuracy and insight, organization, and writing skills. We will discuss this more in lab. We expect lab reports to be prepared using modern word-processing programs.

The format is as follows — point totals for each section are for a 100 point report. For partial or 150 point reports they will be adjusted as needed.

1. Abstract of experiment. (10 points)

This is a summary of the basic content of the experiment. It should state the purpose of the experiment, mention the techniques used, report results obtained, and give conclusions. The point of the abstract is to give a concise summary of the whole report. The most common mistake that students make is not including summary data. Example:

Chromosomal DNA was successfully isolated from Bacillus subtilis strain 151 using a modification of the Marmur technique. Spectrophotometric analysis revealed some contamination with protein, but little RNA contamination. The pure DNA had a concentration of 1.05 mg/ml with a 10.3 mg total yield. The DNA was sterile, as judged by streaking onto penassay agar.

2. Introduction. (20 points)

An introduction gives focus to the report similar to the "Purpose" written in the lab notebook, but also should put the experiment into context and provide the reader with information necessary to understand the scientific basis of the experiment and the techniques used. In most cases, you should include background information on the organisms used and explain the theory behind the techniques. Much of the introductory material should be referenced and references have been put on reserve for you at Steenbock Library. You are encouraged to also search the library for other relevant references.

3. Materials and Methods. (30 points)

This is a section which will be a major deviation from scientific papers. Instead of asking you to tediously rewrite all your lab notes into a materials and methods format, we instead want you to include your lab notes in lieu of materials and methods. The lab notes should be complete, including all raw data, observations, calculations and appropriate graphs.

We do not expect (nor do we want) rewritten notes.

4. Results. (15 points)

Separate from the lab notes, include a section containing a summary of the final data, presented in a form that is most useful for interpreting the results. A short paragraph should be sufficient, along with any relevant charts and graphs labeled well. Remember to title and provide legends for all graphs and tables. The graphs and tables should be comprehenable independently of their association with the text.

5. Discussion. (25 points)

Discuss the experiment and the results obtained. This does not mean you simply report the results again, but rather interpret and discuss their significance. Results should also be compared with those in the literature, if possible. (Be sure to give proper citations). If problems were encountered during the course of the experiment, how might they be rectified in the future? Are there any other things we could do to make this a better experiment or to more specifically address the initial question posed? Are there any better techniques available that would allow one to more accurately generate data? Is there more than one way to explain the results? Your results may support your initial hypothesis, but there may be more than one conclusion that could be drawn from your results. Lastly, do not spend enormous amounts of time explaining data that cannot be explained!

6. Reference Citations

As required in all scientific literature, statements of fact, not considered "common" knowledge, must be properly referenced. Relevant articles for each of our experiments are on reserve in Steenbock Library.

Give complete citations of all literature cited in the report. What's complete? Here are some examples:

Articles in Journals:

Marmur, J. 1961. A procedure for the isolation of deoxyribonucleic acid from

microorganisms. J. Mol. Biol. 3:208-218.

Articles in Books:

Coakley, W.T., A.J. Bates and D. Lloyd. 1977. Disruption of bacterial cells. p279-341. In A.H.

Rose and D.W. Tempest (ed.), Advances in Microbial Physiology, Vol. 16. Academic Press, London and New York.

Tim Paustian
Department of Bacteriology
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Lab reports are an essential part of all laboratory courses and usually a significant part of your grade. If your instructor gives you an outline for how to write a lab report, use that. Some instructors require the lab report be included in a lab notebook, while others will request a separate report. Here's a format for a lab report you can use if you aren't sure what to write or need an explanation of what to include in the different parts of the report.

A lab report is how you explain what you did in ​your experiment, what you learned, and what the results meant. Here is a standard format.

Lab Report Essentials

  1. Title Page
    Not all lab reports have title pages, but if your instructor wants one, it would be a single page that states:
    • The title of the experiment.
    • Your name and the names of any lab partners.
    • Your instructor's name.
    • The date the lab was performed or the date the report was submitted.
  2. Title
    The title says what you did. It should be brief (aim for ten words or less) and describe the main point of the experiment or investigation. An example of a title would be: "Effects of Ultraviolet Light on Borax Crystal Growth Rate". If you can, begin your title using a keyword rather than an article like 'The' or 'A'.
  3. Introduction / Purpose
    Usually, the Introduction is one paragraph that explains the objectives or purpose of the lab. In one sentence, state the hypothesis. Sometimes an introduction may contain background information, briefly summarize how the experiment was performed, state the findings of the experiment, and list the conclusions of the investigation. Even if you don't write a whole introduction, you need to state the purpose of the experiment, or why you did it. This would be where you state your hypothesis.
  1. Materials
    List everything needed to complete your experiment.
  2. Methods
    Describe the steps you completed during your investigation. This is your procedure. Be sufficiently detailed that anyone could read this section and duplicate your experiment. Write it as if you were giving direction for someone else to do the lab. It may be helpful to provide a Figure to diagram your experimental setup.
  1. Data
    Numerical data obtained from your procedure usually is presented as a table. Data encompasses what you recorded when you conducted the experiment. It's just the facts, not any interpretation of what they mean.
  2. Results
    Describe in words what the data means. Sometimes the Results section is combined with the Discussion (Results & Discussion).
  3. Discussion or Analysis
    The Data section contains numbers. The Analysis section contains any calculations you made based on those numbers. This is where you interpret the data and determine whether or not a hypothesis was accepted. This is also where you would discuss any mistakes you might have made while conducting the investigation. You may wish to describe ways the study might have been improved.
  4. Conclusions
    Most of the time the conclusion is a single paragraph that sums up what happened in the experiment, whether your hypothesis was accepted or rejected, and what this means.
  5. Figures & Graphs
    Graphs and figures must both be labeled with a descriptive title. Label the axes on a graph, being sure to include units of measurement. The independent variable is on the X-axis. The dependent variable (the one you are measuring) is on the Y-axis. Be sure to refer to figures and graphs in the text of your report. The first figure is Figure 1, the second figure is Figure 2, etc.
  1. References
    If your research was based on someone else's work or if you cited facts that require documentation, then you should list these references.

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Your Citation

Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Write a Lab Report." ThoughtCo, Sep. 14, 2017,

Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, September 14). How to Write a Lab Report. Retrieved from

Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Write a Lab Report." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 26, 2018).

Do You Need to Write a Lab Report? Rely on Us!

Lab report writing comes after you have done the required experiment. They form an essential part of your grade and can be included in lab notebooks or submitted independently. Usually, instructors provide outlines for reports, but if you don’t have one, you can always find a template online.

Writing a good lab report requires you to include the following parts:

This is a generic structure of a lab report, so you should use a specific one (if any) given to you by your instructor.

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Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. Eleanor Roosevelt

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