Overview of Lab Reports

Students undertaking scientific courses such as Physics, Biology, and Engineering carry out lab experiments that prompts them to write lab reports.

But how should they write the lab reports? This is a question that most students would love to be answered

In this post, we provide the tips of writing an internationally accepted lab report

First, the lab reports provides the students with the opportunity to showcase that they properly understood the experiment they carried out in the labs. It acts as a very detailed diary of the lab experience.

Structure of lab report

The basic structure of lab report consists of (in that order);

  1. Title of the report
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Materials and Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. References


Abstract: The abstract of the lab report is simply the summary of the report, the data, the results, and the major conclusions. In other words, it represents the synopsis of the experiment. It enables the reader to know whether the lab report would serve his or her propose to read the entire report.  

Introduction: Here, the student should discuss the basic problem under the study and the theory that relates to the problem. The introduction should provide a background of the experiment and the reasons for conducting the experiment. Besides, the introduction should contain the goal of the experiment. The goal can be one sentence that explains what the experiment hopes to achieve. Therefore, the introduction should define the subject of the report and give a scientific purpose/objective of the report. The introduction of a lab report may answer the following three questions;

  1. Why was the experiment performed?
  2. What knowledge already exists on the topic?
  3. What is the specific purpose of the study?

Materials and Methods: This section should provide the actual materials and methods as they were used in the lab. This section should be written in a concise manner without overwhelming the reader. The procedures should be exactly as they are explained in the lab manual. Properly written materials and methods section should attempt to answer the following questions;

  1. What materials were used?
  2. How were the materials used?
  3. What methods were used?

Results: This section should basically summarize the data from the experiment without discussing their implications. The data presented at the results section can be organized into tables, figures, graphs, charts among others. All these should be presented in such way that they should have descriptive enough and have proper titles.

The figures and the diagrams also need to be numbered (such as Fig. 1….). Also, the figures, charts, and tables should be self-explanatory. This section of your report should concentrate on general trends and differences and not on trivial details. Many authors organize and write the results section before the rest of the report.

Discussion: This section should interpret the results and relate them to theory and established academic knowledge. This section should be written in such a way that it allows for the acceptance and the rejection of the original hypothesis. The section can also suggest ways of improvement concerning the topic in question.

Note that longer lab results can also have the “conclusion” section as a separate heading.

Also, the “appendix” section can be included after the references to show the information that is too detailed and could not be part of the original report. If the appendix is “formal,” it should contain a beginning, middle, and ending. For example, if the appendix contains tables of test data, the appendix should not only contain the tabular data, but also formally introduce those tables, discuss why they have been included, and explain the unusual aspects that might confuse the reader.

References: This section lists all the sources cited in the lab report. The sources should come from trusted academic sources such as books and academic journals. The references should be properly written in the correct format such as APA, HARVARD, MLA among others. Besides, the references should be listed in alphabetical order. All the references listed in the bibliography must appear in the body of the report as in-text citation.


Adapted from

Karin Knisely. A Student Handbook for Writing in Biology. W. H. Freeman, 2009