Writing a Lab Report Lab Reports are the most common way to share experimental data with other researchers. Papers that a published in prestigious journals follow basically the same format as a lab report. The purpose of the paper is present the results of the experiment(s) that were performed. The authors then, explain the significance of these results. To make the paper more interesting and relevant, the introduction serves to provide some background information or the logic behind the experimental approach. The report is broken up into the sections: Abstract, Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results and Discussion. The following paragraphs describe in more detail what is found in each section of the paper Abstract The abstract is a summary of the WHOLE paper. Someone reading the abstract should know WHY the experiment was done, HOW it was done, the RESULTS and the overall CONCLUSION(S). The abstract is short to the point. A good rule of thumb is to use 1-2 sentences to summarize each of the rest of the sections of the paper. Introduction The introduction provides a context for the work. Why is this work interesting? Why does one want to know that answer to the question that the authors are asking? In addition, any novel experimental approaches or techniques used in the study should be described in the introduction. The introduction is usually written AFTER the Methods, Results and Discussion are finished. . The introduction does not contain step by step instructions of how you did you experiment nor does it contain a summary of the experimental results and conclusions. The intro should be written in present or future tense. THIS IS OFTEN THE HARDEST PART TO WRITE! Materials and Methods Here you should have a detailed account of everything that you did. All concentrations, times, volumes, temperatures, etc. should be noted exactly the way you did them. Don’t write what it says in the manual if you did it differently, only write the way you did it. In addition, you can describe how you made dilutions and any equations you used. Anyone should be able to read this section and do the experiment just like you did. The methods should be written in past tense. Results Here you should have a description of all of the results (data) you obtained. This is written in text format. This description should include any measurements or observations you made. You can also include the range of the measurements or any trends you note in the data. To help the reader visualize and better organize the data, it is a good idea to include figures or tables that display your data (this is in addition to your results in text form!) Each table and figure should have a number and an appropriate title (as descriptive as possible). In addition, each table and figure should have a caption that briefly describes HOW (methods) you got the data in that table or figure. Refer to the table and figures in your text e.g. (Figure 1). You should not comment on the data here so words like “indicate, suggest, means, shows,” etc. are inappropriate. The results should be written in past tense. Discussion In the discussion, you should comment on your data and give conclusions. It is best to start with a statement reviewing what your experiment was about. Then, you should guide the reader through your data and tell what you think it means. Review the data you are using to support your conclusions (the reader will have forgotten it by now). You should review all of your data (otherwise, why did you show it?). It may seem a bit repetitive but what you are doing is reminding your reader of the data and then telling them what you think it means. Your conclusions must be logical and appropriate based on your data. You can’t say that a treatment increases cell growth when you data show that the plants got smaller. The discussion is not the place to put “blame” for unexpected or disappointing results. Don’t make the reader think that you were careless or apathetic, they won’t trust any of your work. Results are not “inaccurate” or “wrong” unless you measured them incorrectly. They may, however, be “unexpected” or “surprising”. Finish with an overall conclusion relating to your experiment as a whole. The discussion should be written in past and present tense.