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As the Science Department Chair at the Dunn High School, I would like to cater our lab report style to that of the majority of UCSB undergraduate science courses.

Do you have a standard format for written lab reports?

For example: Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion)

Pre-lab Questions, Purpose, Hypothesis, Relevant Equations, Apparatus, Procedures, Raw Data, Results, Discussion, Conclusion, Post-lab Questions

I would appreciate any feedback you can supply. Thanks,

Question Date: 2008-02-27
Answer 1:

For geology papers, our general format is:
Results (Only data--absolutely no interpretation)

"Purpose" and "hypothesis" are incorporated into the introduction and used to frame the reason for doing the study.The aparatus is included in the methods--if it is a new aparatus, we take a moment to describe it and/or compare it to other instruments.We address all pre-lab and post-lab questions in the introduction and the interpretations (occasionally in the conclusions, but this is rare. We try to keep the conclusions as brief as possible.).

Hope this helps!

Answer 2:

I actually teach in Milwaukee, but am attaching a couple of files that I find useful in helping students to understand and follow standard lab report/scientific article format.Feel free to adapt them for your use.

If you want to read some of these files, please ask ScienceLine. Thank you

Answer 3:

Most lab reports follow the format of papers published in a scientific journal: Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, Summary. The Introduction explains the reasons for the experiment and gives any necessary background knowledge that the reader needs to know to understand the experiment. It also describes the hypothesis to be tested, as well as any pre-lab questions. The second section is Experimental Method (and/or materials), which describes the equipment and procedures which were used, in enough detail that someone else could exactly repeat the experiment. This is important. (One way to teach this is to have two groups students run different experiments and write them up, then have them trade lab reports and try to repeat the experiment based only on what's written in the lab report. This forces them to think about what information they need to include when they write up the lab.) The third part of the lab report is the Results from the experiment. This should only include measured data, not interpretation. For example, "Plants in the dark grew by 10cm the first week, and plants in the light grew by 5cm. The second week, all the plants in the dark died, and plants in the light grew 10cm." The fourth part of the lab report, Discussion, is where all the interpretation and opinion goes: "Green plants grow *healthier* in sunshine than in the dark," etc. The Discussion is where students try to make sense of their data. Post-lab questions are discussed here. Finally, a Summary paragraph gives a summary of the entire paper, including what was learned from the experiment. The summary should not say anything that was not already covered elsewhere in the paper.

It might be helpful to show your students why scientific papers are structured this way. Scientists are trained to separate their observation (raw data) from opinion (what the data means). As a non-scientific example, if a person is asked why someone crashed their car, they might respond simply, "He was driving drunk." But a scientist should reply first with the raw observations: "His was weaving back and forth before the crash, and after the crash he couldn't walk a straight line, and there was a strong smell of alcohol on his breath. Therefore I think he was driving drunk." A scientist gives you enough information to make up your own mind, whether you agree with them or not.

Journal papers begin with a short, one-paragraph summary of the entire paper, called the abstract. Lab reports usually skip the abstract since it is often similar to the Conclusion.

Answer 4:

When I was there (a few years ago), there was no consistent rubric between academic departments of what sections a lab report was to consist of, but they are closer to the simpler of your two examples. However,it matters quite a bit whether we are talking about a mathematically intensive lab science like physics or an observational science like field geology or ecology. In the former, you will have equations and apparatus and all that, but in the latter, you will just have "standard geological mapping techniques" or"floral survey techniques". Even the results and discussion may be merged together!

In general, I would say that introduction-methods-results-discussion is the closest thing to a standard there is, with the background,motivating questions, and hypothesis in the introduction, the study system, materials, and protocol in the methods, the raw data and statistical analysis in the results, and the interpretation and resulting questions in the discussion.

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