Lab Report Format

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Overview

After performing a lab, you will write a lab report. Writing the lab report is an exercise that should help you in several ways. It will help you make sure you understand what you did in lab, and teach the basics of scientific and technical report writing.

Your audience is mixed. You are writing for your instructor, TA, and writing consultant.

When writing for a group whose technical expertise varies, you must prepare a document that is simple enough for the non-technical reader, but not so simple that it bores the reader familiar with the subject matter. This is tricky, but you will develop the skills to accomplish this over the course of the semester.

Some reports will be written by each student individually. Others will be written by the lab group as a team. Because a group report represents all members of the team, and all members receive the same grade for the report, each group member should know what the report says and be able to discuss it.

Writing lab reports for EG will help you prepare for other kinds of report writing you will encounter during your academic career and beyond. By repeating the process over and over, you will have the opportunity to incorporate your writing consultant's corrections and suggestions into each succeeding report. By the time you get to Lab 10, you will be an expert!

Submit On Time

Lab reports are due midnight on the day before your next lab. If you have a lab on Tuesday, then your report is due online the following Monday at 11:59PM. On-time submission is essential. If reports are not submitted at the time due, they are late.

Late Reports

The TA and WC will deduct twenty points for each week the report is late. A late report will be accepted by the TA and WC up to two weeks after its due date. An automatic ZERO will be received after that 2-week period. There will be no exceptions.

Submit Electronic Copy

Students are required to hand in lab reports electronically via the EG Web site: eg.poly.edu. The TA grading committee grade will be based on the technical content of the report.

The writing consultant's grade will be based on logical report structure (following the outline provided), and correct use of standard English (paragraph and sentence structure, grammar and spelling.)

Formatting

Lab reports are to be written in a professional manner. To ensure this, students must adhere to the following formatting guidelines when authoring reports:

  • Only professional fonts may be used. (i.e., Arial, Times New Roman, Cambria, Calibri)
  • Reports must be written in 12-point font, and be double-spaced.
  • Bulleted and numbered lists are not acceptable.

The Components of a Lab Report

Your lab report should be one Word document or file and not a combination of different files. The report will contain the following sections:

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Procedures
  • Data/Observations
  • Discussion/Conclusions

The Structure of Lab Reports

A Laboratory Report has the following parts:

  1. Title Page (REQUIRED)
    • Lab number and title, course name and section, your name, your group member's name(s), date of experiment, and the due date.
  2. Abstract (5 Points)
    • What was/were the experimental objective(s) of the lab? What did you do?
    • What were the results of the lab? What did you find out? What is its significance? What does it mean?
    • Usually one paragraph long.
  3. Introduction (20 Points)
    • What was the background (or context) of the experiment?
    • What were the specifications for the experiment?
    • Competition rules and restrictions, if applicable.
    • Include any formulas you will use here.
    • Describe any special equipment/software used.
    • What scientific principles were used?
    • NEVER JUST COPY material from the manual.
  4. Procedures (15 Points)
    • Always begin with materials. What materials were used?
    • What steps were performed in the lab, in detail? How were they done?
    • Any modifications made for any/all trials.
    • No numbered lists, past tense please.
  5. Data/Observations (30 Points)
    • What were the measurements or the outcome of the experiment?
    • Describe the results verbally.
    • Include tables, graphs, and figures where appropriate.
    • Label all tables, graphs, and figures.
  6. Discussion/Conclusions (30 Points)
    • What worked and did not work? Explain any experimental difficulties.
    • Include a sample calculation of any formulas used (i.e., competition ratios).
    • Link the discussion to your objectives.
    • What improvements (if any) can be made to the product or design?
    • Can you suggest future work?

Writing Consultants look for:

  1. Organization and Format:
    • Is the information separated into the appropriate sections?
    • Do the sections work together?
    • Is the information in each section sufficient for its purpose?
    • Abstract: experimental objective, result
    • Introduction: context, specifications, concepts, applications, formulas
    • Procedure: materials, essential steps
    • Data/Observations: visuals graphs, charts; verbal discussion of results
    • Discussion/Conclusions: analysis of results, improvements
    • Are tables, diagrams, and graphics used to illustrate the report? Are they labeled and clearly presented in the proper section, and are their important features explained in the text?
  2. Professional, Logical, and Objective Writing Style:
    • Is the experiment described with precision? Are the appropriate scientific terms used?
    • Has the writer employed a professional writing style (no "empty" phrases, contractions, "you," slang, or jargon)?
    • Are sentences constructed to emphasize the action taken, rather than the person taking the action (avoid first-person pronouns)?
    • Has the writer organized the information appropriately into paragraphs with transitions to indicate the paragraph's relationship to the whole?
    • Does the visual format of the report help to communicate the information professionally? Is the report proofread and presented neatly?
    • Were secondary sources consulted, incorporated into the text, and cited properly?
  3. Correctly Written English
    • Is the report written in complete sentences?
    • Is the word order within each sentence consistent with standard English?
    • Are singular and plural forms used correctly (agreement)?
    • Has the writer chosen the right words for his/her meaning, and spelled them correctly?
    • Has the writer chosen the correct verb tense and used it consistently?
    • Are the sentences punctuated correctly?
    • Are articles (a, an, the) used correctly?

Sample lab reports are available for your reference on the Main Page.

In Your Own Words

Lab reports must be original and unique to the individual or the group handing in the report. Simply stated, the lab report is to be written in your own words. There are two major reasons for this:

  1. Educational: You will develop the skills and knowledge you need only if you do your own work. If you hand in passages copied directly from the manual or another student's paper, or downloaded from a web site, you will not learn what you need to know. Keep in mind that the author(s) of a report are expected to be able to explain the meaning of text and graphics that appear in the report.
  2. Ethical: Claiming someone else's text, data or graphics as your own is called plagiarism and is a form of fraud. In academic or professional settings, this can have very serious consequences. (See NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering's Code of Conduct for further information.)

Correct Use of Sources

At times, you will use a source outside your own experience — for example, to give background information in the Introduction section. At these times, put the information in your own words (paraphrase), and cite your source. If you need to use a direct quotation, then indicate the quotation with quotation marks in addition to citing the source.

(See the EG1003 Online Manual for more information.)

Help with Lab Reports

Your section's Writing Consultant and your TA are available to help with any questions or problems you have. Use the comments and corrections made on your reports to improve your writing skills from week to week. Take advantage of the Writing Center (JAB 373), where trained writing consultants, are available to help you with correctly written English and with the specific requirements of lab reports. This help is available free of charge to all NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering students.

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