Writer's WebComponents of a Lab Report
by Tori Giaimo



Set-Up of a Lab Report

The set-up of a lab report could be compared to the shape of a Martini glass. In this analogy, each section corresponds to a different part of the glass. A typical APA lab report consists of the following sections:

The job of the author is to make each of these sections informative and interesting, both on its own and as part of the whole paper. The Abstract is also an important part of a lab, so it will be included on this page, even though it does not coincide with the Martini glass analogy. More expansive advice about each section of a lab report is included below.



An abstract is a general overview of what will be talked about in the paper. It is intended to describe the paper, not to evaluate or defend it. The abstract is found on the second page of a report, and is the only section found on that page. It should be double spaced, written in block form (no indents), and titled with "ABSTRACT," in all capitals, centered at the top of the page. Keep in mind the following tips:

Remember, the abstract is the part of your paper that potential readers will see first, and it will determine whether they want to read the rest of your report. Readers should know exactly what your report is about simply by skimming the abstract.



As mentioned before, the paper's introduction is a broad overview of the research question, which narrows into why this research is important. The introduction should answer the question "what was done, and why?" It contains background information about the subject, including prior research done, and states how this new study fits in with previous research. There should not be a heading for the introduction section. It begins on the third page, directly below the running header. Keep in mind the following tips:

Remember, the introduction does not include any conclusions about your research. Introduce the topic and your experiment without giving too much information that will be covered in other sections of your report (for example, it should not contain any results or analysis).



The methods section is where you tell your readers how your conducted the experiment, so that they can replicate it in the future. This section is the first section of your paper to have a heading (see Writing a Lab Report for more information about headings). This section is typically broken down into two subsections: participants, and procedures. There is also sometimes a list of materials used. Keep in mind the following tips:

Remember, the methods section does not need to be as long as the introduction; in fact, it most likely will not be. Instead, focus on making it as detailed -- but also as concise -- as you can.



The results section answers the question "what did you find out?" In this section, all statistical data, calculations, and major findings should be reported. This section also should have its own heading. Some people have trouble reporting statistics correctly, so they consider this section to be the most difficult, but the good news is that the results section almost always follows one very standard format, so following an example can be very helpful if you are having trouble. Keep in mind the following tips:

Remember, this section may be the shortest in your report, and that is ok. The results section is not a place to analyze or elaborate. Make sure to remember the Martini glass analogy -- the results section is the narrowest section of the stem of the glass.



The discussion section is where you finally get to analyze your findings, and explain why your research is so important. In this section, you will discuss what your results mean, why they are important, any further research that could be done or recommendations you have, and anything that could have been improved (or went wrong) during your research. This section is really where you, as the author, get to have the greatest impact on the reader's opinion of the topic, so have fun writing it! Remember, this is the section where you get to share your analysis of the results. Keep in mind the following tips:

Remember, this section closes out your paper, and flows in the opposite direction from the introduction ("narrow-to-broad" as opposed to "broad-to-narrow"). Since this section will close out your paper, try to add new information rather than repeating information you already shared. Many people consider the discussion section to be the most important part of a report, so try to make it as informative and interesting as you can. This is your chance to contribute something important to the discussion - run with it!



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