Good Lab Report

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How to Write a Good Lab Report
Andrew Garrard
Tuesday 23rd September 2008
Presented in this document is a detail guide to preparing well written, comprehensive laboratory reports for engineering experiments. The reasons for making a laboratory report, to document findings and procedures to allow reproduction of the experiment are discussed. The sections found in a typical laboratory report are given and the content appropriate for each of those sections is mentioned. While a number of suggestions are made as to the layout and content, these will vary depending on the size of document, audience of the report and the institutions for which it is prepared, a theme is established that lab reports are professional documents. As such should be to be well written, have consistent numbering a labelling schemes and should be concise. avoiding superfluous detail. For easy of reference, the main points are summarized at the end of the document.
1 Introduction – why do we do lab reports? Laboratory reports are one of the most frequently written documents in the field of engineering and as such the ability to proficiently produce one is a valuable skill. The objective of a lab report is two fold. Firstly, the lab report documents the results or observations from an experiment or investigation. Secondly, the process of conducting the experiment is recorded, including all procedures and equipment used, to that the experiment can be reproduced to validate the results. However, a well written lab report will go beyond these two objectives. In addition to presenting results that have been collected during an experiment the lab report should discuss the author’s interpretation of the results and discuss the significance of findings that have been made. It is likely that the reason for conducting an experiment will be related to a real world application and this should be discussed in the report.
2 Typical Sections used in lab reports The layout and content of any lab report will be dependent on the exact type of work that was undertaken, the length of the document, the intended reader and nature of the organization for whom the report is produced. However, in all laboratory reports it is importsnt that they are consistent, methodical and logical. The wording should be precise and accurate while containing no superfluous information.
2.1 Title page Should the size of the laboratory report justify it (personally, I would suggest no less than 5 pages) a page can be devoted to a title page or cover sheet. While the information displayed on the title page will depend on the context of the report, in most case the minimum requirements will be:
• The author’s name and any collaborators
• The date • The location • The institution
• Any other pertinent information. For example, if the report is produced as part of a University teaching course, the module number, the name of the course or your student number.
2.2 An abstract
The creation of an abstract (sometimes referred to as a summary or executive summary) is a difficult task and one that is often performed badly. Intended as a means for readers of the document to decide if the contents is relevant to them or is that they are expecting from the title, it is a summery of the entire document given in an extremely concise format. The abstract must include the background of the subject, the reason for conducting the experiment or research, the aims you wish to achieve, the method and procedure adopted to perform the work, any relevant phenomena that occurred, the results obtained and their anal-ysis, the interpretation of the results and their significance. All of this should be summarized in around 100-200 words (the abstract for my thesis was 332 words) and the art of writing a summary is principally deciding that information to include that the most concise method of its presentation. As the abstract is intended to be the first part of the report that will be read after the title, it is placed at the beginning of the document, before any pre-amble such as contents or acknowledgements page.

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