How to Write a Lab Report: Definition, Outline & Template Examples

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A lab report  is a document that provides a detailed description of a scientific experiment or study. The purpose of a lab report is to communicate the results of experimentation in a clear and objective manner. It typically includes sections such as introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, and references.

In this blog post, you can find lots of helpful information on writing a lab report and its basics, including such questions:

  • What are lab reports?
  • Howto create an outline and structure reports?
  • How to write a lab report?
  • How to format your report?
  • Some extra tips and best practices to take into account.

Several exemplary laboratory report samples are also offered in this article. You are welcome to use them as an inspiration or reference material. 

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What Is a Lab Report?

Let’s start with the lab report definition and then dive deeper into details. A lab report is a document in which you present results of a laboratory experiment. Your audience may include your tutor or professor, your colleagues, a commission monitoring your progress, and so on. It’s usually shorter than a research paper and shows your ability to conduct and analyze scientific experiments.

Lab Report Definition

The purpose of a laboratory report is to fully share the results and the supporting data with whoever needs to see them. Thus, your laboratory report should be consistent, concise, and properly formatted. Both college and scientific lab reports must follow certain strict rules, particularly:

  • Use valid research data and relevant sources
  • Include enough information to support assumptions
  • Use formal wording appropriate for scientific discussions.

Let’s talk about these rules in more detail.

Lab Report Main Features

Wondering how to write a lab report? First of all, such documents must be descriptive and formal. An average scientific lab report is expected to:

  • Display your own research results
  • Contain assumptions, proving or disproving some hypotheses
  • Present the evidence (lab data, statistics, and calculations) in a comprehensive manner
  • Be logical and concise.

Additionally, your school or institution may have its own very specific requirements, so make sure to check them before creating a report.

How Long Should a Lab Report Be?

First of all, lab reports need to be informative, so there is no need for making your writing too wordy. That being said, your paper’s volume will be defined by the specifics of your research. If its results are complicated and require much explaining, your paper isn’t going to be brief.

Recommended lab report length varies between 5 and 10 pages, which should include all appendices such as tables or diagrams. You should also confirm such requirements with your tutor prior to planning your report.

Lab Report Structure

Plan ahead before writing your lab report. It is useful to keep its structure in mind from the very beginning. 

Lab Report Structure

Here is our detailed list of what to include in a lab report:

  1. Title Page The first page must only include the experiment’s title along with its date, your name, your school’s name, and your professor’s name. All further descriptions and explanations should appear on the next pages.
  2. Title Give a meaningful heading to your lab paper, so that it would help readers understand the basic purpose of your experiment and its background. However, don’t make it longer than 10 words.
  3. Abstract This part is a formal summary of your lab experiment report. Provide all essential details here: what was the purpose of your research, why it was important, and what has been found and proven as a result of your controlled experiment. Keep it short, from 100 to 200 words.
  4. Introduction Here you should provide more details about the purpose and the meaning of your research, as well as the problem definition. Related theories or previous findings can also be mentioned here. Particularly, you can refer to your previous lab reports on the same subject.
  5. Methods An approach to solving selected problems is a critical part of a science lab report. You need to explain what methods you use and why they are optimal in this specific situation.
  6. Procedure Provide a detailed explanation of all steps, measurements, and calculations you’ve performed while researching. Don’t forget about the chronology of these actions because this can be of crucial importance.
  7. Results After you’ve described all the steps of your research process, present its results in an orderly fashion. It should be clear from your laboratory report how exactly they were obtained and what their meaning is.
  8. Discussion In most cases any data derived from experiments can be interpreted differently and thus varying conclusions can be drawn. A scientific lab report must address such nuances and explain all assumptions its author has made.
  9. Conclusion The lab report is expected either to confirm or to refute some hypotheses. Conclude your paper with clearly showing what has been proven or disproven based on your research results.
  10. References As a scholarly work, your report must use valid sources for analysis and discussion of the results. You should provide proper references for these sources each time you are using certain data taken from them.
  11. Graphs, Tables and Figures It is important to illustrate your findings when writing lab reports. The data you’ve obtained may be obvious for you, but not for your readers. Organize it into tables, flow chart, or schemas and put these illustrative materials at the end of your lab report paper as appendices.

You should shape the structure of a lab report before writing its complete text by preparing a brief write-up, i.e. an outline. Below we’ll explain how it is done.

Lab Report Outline & Template

Preparing lab report outlines is useful for extra proofreading: you can review such a sketch and quickly find some gaps or inconsistencies before you’ve written the complete text. A good laboratory report outline must reflect the entire structure of your paper. After designing such a draft, you can use it as a lab report template for your next papers. It is highly advisable not to ignore this approach since it can boost your general academic performance in multiple other areas.

Here is an example of a science lab report template:

Lab Report Outline Example

How to Write a Lab Report Step-By-Step?

Now, let’s discuss how to write a scientific lab report. You already know what elements it contains, so get ready for detailed laboratory report guidelines. We’ve collected helpful information for each step of this guide and broke it down into comprehensive sections.

So, scroll down and learn how to write a good lab report without experiencing extra pains and making unnecessary mistakes.

How to Write a Lab Report in 9 Steps

1. Create a Strong Title

Before you write your lab report, think about a good title. It should help understand the direction and the intent of your research at the start, while not being too wordy. Make sure it is comprehensible for your tutor or peers, there is no need to explain certain specific terms because others are expected to know them.

Here are several examples that could give you some ideas on how to name your own lab write up:

• Effects of temperature decrease on Drosophila Melanogaster lifespan

• IV 2022 marketing data sample analysis using the Bayesian method

• Lab #5: measurement of fluctuation in 5 GHz radio signal strength

• Specific behavioral traits of arctic subspecies of mammals.

Also, check our downloadable samples for more great title suggestions or use our Title Generator to create one. 

2. Introduce Your Experiment

A good scientific lab report should contain some explanations of what is the meaning of your experiment and why you conduct it in the first place. Provide some context and show why it is relevant. While your professor would be well aware of it, others who might read your laboratory report, may not know its purpose. Mention similar experiments if necessary. As usual, keep it short but informative. One paragraph (100 – 150 words) would suffice. Don’t provide too many details because this might distract your readers.

Here is an example of how a science lab report should be introduced:

Lower temperatures decrease the drosophila flies’ activity but also increase their lifespan. It is important to understand what temperature range is optimal, allowing them to feed and multiply and at the same time, increasing their lifespan to maximum. For this purpose, a strain of Drosophila Melanogaster has been observed for 3 months in an isolated lab under varying temperatures.

3. State the Hypothesis

When learning how to make a lab report, pay a special attention to the hypothesis part. This statement will be the cornerstone of your lab writing, as the entire paper will be built around it. Make it interesting, relevant, and unusual, don’t use well-researched topic or state obvious facts - exploring something really new is what makes your work worth time and effort.

Here is an example of statement for your lab report sample:

The temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for Drosophila Melanogaster longevity and ability to multiply while being at a lower border of their normal zone of comfort.

4. Present the Methods and Materials

One of the key parts of a lab report is the section where you describe your assets and starting conditions. This allows any reviewers to understand the quality of your work and thus contributes to the credibility of your scientific lab write up.

The following elements must be mentioned:

  • Research subjects E.g. raw data samples you analyze or people you interview.
  • Conditions Your experiment must be limited to certain space, time period or domain; and the factors influencing your independent and dependent variables need to be mentioned as well.
  • Methods You are expected to follow specific rules (e.g. from your lab manual) when analyzing your subjects and calculating your analysis results.
  • Materials Mention all tools and instruments employed to collect data and name each item model.

More lab report writing tips available below, so let’s keep on!

5. Explain Procedures

The core part of a lab report is describing the course of the experiment. This is where you explain how exactly the experiment has been conducted. Give all necessary information about each step you’ve taken, arranging all the steps in proper chronological order so that readers could clearly understand the meaning behind each action.

The following procedure elements may be present in an experimental report:

  • Processing raw data
  • Observing processes
  • Taking measurements
  • Making calculations
  • Observing trends
  • Comparing calculation results to other researchers’ results or to some reference values, etc.

After you have finished describing your actions, it is time to summarize them, answer all remaining questions, and present your findings. Check out other tips on how to write lab reports in a few sections below and you’ll learn more about that.

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6. Share Your Results

After all the lab steps have been properly described, it is time to present the outcomes in your results section. Writing a good lab report means that it will be quite transparent for your reviewers how you’ve come to your results. So, make sure there is a clear connection between this part and the previous one. Don’t leave any gaps in your explanations, e.g. mention limitations if there are any.

Tell if the captured statistical analysis data falls in line with the experiment's initial purpose. Describe sample calculations using clear symbols. Where necessary, include graphs and images. Your raw data may be extensive, so present it in the Appendix and provide a reference to it.

Here’s an example of how to share the results when you create a lab report:

Average lifespan and average birth rate was measured for each group subjected to a different temperature range. Additionally, statistical methods have been applied to confirm the correctness of the results and to minimize potential errors. Lifespan and birth rate values corresponding to each temperature range can be found in the table below.

Optimal combination of lifespan and birth rate corresponds to the range between 75 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit, as demonstrated by the figure (see Appendix A).

7. Discuss and Interpret Your Outcomes

When you write an experiment report, your main purpose is to confirm whether your thesis  (hypothesis) is true. That’s why you should give a clear explanation on how useful your results were for the problem investigation.

Next, make sure to explain any dubious or controversial parts, if there are any. Science lab reports often contain contradictions to popular theories or unexpected findings. This may be caused by missing important factors, uncovering facts which have previously been overlooked, or just by fluctuations in experimental data. In any case, you need to study and address them in your lab report for the sake of clarity.

If you need some data interpretation in a science lab report example, here’s an excerpt from a discussion section:

According to the research results, the optimal temperature for Drosophila Melanogaster appears to be at the low border of the comfortable range which is considered normal for this species. It contradicts existing theories about Drosophila Melanogaster. However, this discrepancy may be caused by the longevity factor not taken into account by previous researchers. Additional experiments with larger sample size and extended timeline are needed in order to further investigate the temperature effect on the longevity of Drosophila Melanogaster.

8. Wrap Up Your Lab Report

Final step of your laboratory report is to make a proper conclusion. Here you just summarize your results and state that your hypothesis has been confirmed (or disproven). Keep it short and don’t repeat any descriptions from the previous section. However, you may add some notes about the significance of your work.

After finishing to write your lab report, don’t forget to read it again and check whether all its parts are logically connected with each other.

Here is an example of a lab report last section:

As confirmed by the experiment conducted in an isolated laboratory on a limited population of Drosophila Melanogaster, the optimal temperature for both its longevity and activity is 75 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Certain contradictions with the existing theories can be explained by the longevity factor being overlooked during previous research. Hopefully, this experiment will pave the way for further exploration of the temperature effect on the lifespan of Drosophila Melanogaster.

9. Write Your Abstract

Another stage of lab report writing is composing its abstract. This part should be placed at the beginning of your paper in order to get your audience familiar with its contents. Make it brief, up to 200 words long, but make sure you’ve included the following information:

  • Problem statement description
  • Hypothesis
  • Overview of materials, methods, and procedures
  • Outcomes.

Abstracts of laboratory reports are delivered on separate pages. So, you can compose one after writing the entire text. This is another good chance to review your work while you are briefly describing its key parts. Check our detailed guide to get more information on how to write an abstract.

Check below for more tips and hints on how to write a science lab report.

Lab Report Format

Learning how to format a lab report is crucial for its success. As all other scholarly papers, such reports must follow strict rules of presenting information. Make sure to find out which laboratory report format is required for your assignment. If there are no specific requirements, you may choose from the usual lab format styles, namely:

  • APA
  • MLA
  • Chicago.

Depending on the scientific domain of your experiment, you might want to choose one or another lab write up format from that list. Particularly, the APA style paper is typically required in Humanities, while MLA style can be used for papers in Technologies or Applied Science. In any case, pay close attention to citation and reference rules, as each of these styles has strict requirements for that.

A real lab report format example can be found below – note that it follows the APA guidelines.

Lab Report Examples

Need some good examples of lab reports in addition to all these guidelines? We’ve got some for you! Each sample lab report that can be found below is available for free and can be downloaded if needed. Feel free to use them as an inspiration for your own work or borrow some ideas, styles, or sources from them.

Pick a laboratory reports sample from this list below:

Lab report example 1

Identifying an Unknown Liquid From Its Density
Paper type:
Lab Report
3.79 MB

Example of lab report 2

Predator/Prey Lab Report
Paper type:
Lab Report
4.03 MB

Scientific lab report example 3

Flow Meter Lab Report
Paper type:
Lab Report
8.08 MB

Please avoid copying anything from them into your paper as that would be considered plagiarism. Make sure you submit 100% original text for your assignments.

Tips on Writing a Lab Report

We hope this detailed information on how do you write a lab report will be useful. In addition, to make our guide even more convenient, here are some quick lab report writing tips:

  1. Think things through before starting your research. Do you have enough data for it and can you organize appropriate conditions and equipment for conducting experiments?
  2. Don’t skip writing the sketch version first. Outlines help to form lab reports layout and avoid logical gaps.
  3. Take notes while conducting your experiment – unfortunately, it’s very easy to forget important details when you describe it later.
  4. Double check yourself when making calculations. The more complicated they are, the more error-prone your entire report is.
  5. Pick your sources carefully. You should only use valid and peer-reviewed scientific materials to retrieve empirical and theoretical information from.
  6. Properly refer to each and every source you’ve used. Your lab writeup format is very important for your grades.
  7. Pay attention to discussing weak points of your report. Try refuting your own results and hypothesis and see how you can counter that using actual data.
  8. Maintain a formal tone and keep it straightforward. Don’t be too wordy and avoid providing irrelevant details.
  9. Review your completed report several times, paying attention to layouts of different sections. If possible, ask some peer students or colleagues to do it for you – they might notice some missing details or weak assumptions.

Don’t forget to check our laboratory report example for more useful ideas.

Lab Report Checklist

Let’s summarize all the above information on how to do a lab report. We’ve prepared a short checklist for you. So, here’s what you should do in order to compose a great science lab report:

  • I completed all calculations on the experimental data and properly analyze my results.
  • I sketched my lab report layout by preparing its outline.
  • My thesis statement is strong.
  • I provided enough context in my intro.
  • I described methods, materials, and procedures in detail.
  • I conducted proper analysis, including all my calculations and assumptions in it.
  • I created illustrative materials if needed: tables, charts, figures etc.
  • All outcomes are discussed without omitting any of their weaknesses.
  • I wrote a brief but informative conclusion and show how the initial hypothesis has been confirmed or rejected.
  • I reviewed my laboratory report once again and wrote an abstract.
  • The title page and appendices are added.

Bottom Line on Lab Report Writing

In this article, we have prepared all necessary information on how to write a lab report. This should help you with your own research or studies, especially when it comes to complicated tasks, such as composing lab reports outline.

Several lab reports examples are also available here. They are provided by real researchers and may help you a lot with ideas for your own work. Feel free to check them online or download them. Just remember that you should only submit 100% original content for your assignments.

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FAQ About Lab Reports

1. What is the difference between a lab report and a research paper?

A lab report should showcase your ability to conduct experiments and properly describe your actions and findings. It is focused on specific data and methods used to analyze it.

A research paper is expected to reflect your investigation of a problem, including asking correct questions and finding relevant information about it.

2. Should I continue to write a lab report if an experiment failed?

It depends on your assignment. If your primary goal is to display your ability to document your steps and results, then you may report on a failed experiment too. Particularly, analyze the integrity of your data or conditions that were set and make an assumption about factors which led to the failure.

4. Should lab reports be written in the third person?

Yes, laboratory experiment reports usually present information in third person. The reason is that you are expected to focus on the data, methods, and findings, rather than on yourself or your audience. Check the samples available here and see what writing style is followed there.

3. What tense should a lab report be written in?

You should mostly use past tense in your paper, since your science experiment has already been conducted. But you can also speak in present tense when describing the context of problems which still exist. Check any template available here to get more clarity on this issue.

5. Where do I put calculations in a lab report?

Remember to follow our layout guidelines and put your calculations in the analysis section. This is where you process the results collected during your experiments. You can also make brief write ups about your calculations in the abstract paragraph or discussion section, but make sure they precede the description of outcomes.

Article posted on:Mar 2, 2023
Article updated on:Feb 16, 2024


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