Lab Report Guidelines
A Lab Report should be a document that tells the reader what was done in an experiment or activity, and what was discovered.  It should be written so that the reader can duplicate the activity and results if they so desire.  Some labs will be performed from handouts or lab manuals, while in others you will devise your own procedure.  This is supposed to be a general guide so you can write a clear lab report from any class activity in any science class.  Remember that the main goal is to show the reader what was done in the order it was done.  Some of the details will be different from instructor to instructor. 

  1. Title Section - This should be the first thing the reader sees when they look at your report.  It should include your name, the name of anyone you actually worked with (write "no partner" if you worked alone), the date the lab is due, the class and period, and of course the title of the lab
  2. Purpose/Hypothesis - This section should be short, and should tell the reader why the experiment was performed.  Do not describe the procedure or repeat the introduction section of any handouts - this section should be short.  This section may actually be unnecessary if it is included on the lab handout, and you are allowed to include the handout.
            Activities that are designed to prove a point, determine a value, or identify an unknown will have a stated purpose.  It should be short: one or two sentences stating the goal of the activity.
            Activities designed to answer a question should have a hypothesis.  This is an "If...Then..." statement that can be proven or disproven. 
  3. Procedure - A concise numbered list of instructions describing what you actually did.   If this is on your lab handout you may not need to re-write it, but you should note any changes you made.  Also, if you performed a procedure from a lab manual, don't re-write the steps, just tell the reader exactly where they can find the procedure. 
  4. Data & Observations - Data is any information you read directly off a tool or instrument.  This should always be in table form.  Make sure every single number has a description, a value, and a label (this can be condensed if you have many similar pieces of data by labeling a column heading such as "Length (m)").  Make sure you read your instruments correctly.  There should not be any information that isn't data, and there shouldn't be anything missing.  Data should be presented in the order it was obtained.  Spend time making sure this section is clear and easy to read. 
  5. Graph(s) - Sometimes it is easier to show information or perform calculations on a graph than a list of numbers.  In some cases, a graph will be shown but not the data it came from (keep the data in your notebook!).  A graph should always fill the available space.  The axes should be named and labeled ("Mass in grams").  The scales should be consistent but they don't have to be the same.  You only need to use a range to include your data - if the temperature stays between 20 and 70 Celcius, your graph doesn't need to go from 0 to 100. 
  6. Analysis or Questions - this part depends on the lab.  You may have specific questions to answer or calculations to perform.  Most handouts or lab manuals include a few questions or instructions after the procedure.  Show these clearly and fully answered in the order they turn up.  Show all your work for calculations (including units) and answer every question with full sentences and clear explanations. 
  7. Neat - The sections must be in the correct order, one side of each sheet, stapled or bound,  typed or neatly written in dark ink