Commonly the section heading “Introduction” is not printed because everybody knows that the introduction is the first part of a lab report or scientific paper. BUT I want you to label section “Introduction.” The introduction answers the questions: What is the problem being studied? Why was the experiment performed? Generally a little background information is given describing the problem – What is already known about the problem? The introduction to a lab report should explain the purpose of the work that was done. Objectives of the work should be spelled out and the hypothesis that was tested should be clearly stated. So in your lab report you will want to list out objectives and state the hypothesis something like this. ObjectivesHaving completed this lab, a student should be able to:1. list the main sections of a typical lab report2. describe what ideas or information should be provided in each section of a lab report3. understand how to analyze and present data in a scientific report4. appreciate the value of proper science report writingHypothesis Jackson State Anatomy& Physiology students can write good lab reports. OR, An enzyme is a protein, if we expose enzymes to extreme environments, then enzyme activity will decrease or cease.Materials and Methods As the heading suggests, the Materials and Methods section of a lab report answers the questions: What exactly did you do? How exactly did you do it? and also Where and when did you do it? The rule of thumb (ROT) here is to describe what was done in enough detail so that another scientist could repeat the experiment. Supplies and equipment need to be specified and the procedures used presented in a logical way. It is ok to list steps 1, 2, 3 . . . and that sort of thing in the methods. In this class, let us separate this into “Materials” and then “Procedures.” Simply list the materials used like so.Materials: Example• beaker• Bunsen burner• graduated cylinder• meter stick• gram scale• pH paper Procedures: Remember the ROT here. The procedures should be spelled out so that another person could repeat the experiment based just on what is written in this section. Exact amounts of chemicals used need to be stated; exact volumes of solutions, etc. The steps in the experiment need to be clearly stated so that they could be repeated in the correct order. It is ok to list out steps, in fact, that is often a good approach, especially for beginners writing lab reports. Give needed information about any subjects used as well. Sometimes a picture, diagram or sketch of some kind can be helpful. Indicate what statistical procedures were used to analyze the data.Results This is the meat of the matter, the heart and soul of your report. What do the data show? What did you find out? Recall the scientific method. An experiment may result in the collection of a significant amount of ‘raw’ data, a whole lot of numbers. Statistical procedures have to be applied to the data to summarize it and analyze it. Raw data almost never appears in a report. The summarized data is assembled into Tables and Graphs or Figures. Don’t duplicate information in tables in figures or vice versa. Each table or figure has to have a title or caption with it indicating what is in the table or what is shown in the graph. Sometimes pictures appear in reports. Tables have titles that appear at the top while Figures and Pictures have captions which appear at the bottom [don’t ask me why]. It is important to provide a written narrative to go along with and explain the tables and figures. Analyze the data first. Assemble the summarized data into tables and figures. Next arrange the table and figures in some logical order. Proceed to write the narrative as you look at the tables and figures. Explain what is in each table/figure. For example, if you were doing some experiment that involved measuring the height of persons: “Average height of experimental subjects appears in Table 1. Overall, males were 15% taller than females. The average height of the Hispanic males was significantly less than that of both the African-American and Caucasion males.” Etc. etc. It may seem a bit silly, but just say what’s in the tables and figures. Don’t provide interpretation in the Results section. Limit this section to a very straightforward, factual presentation of the summarized data, the results.Discussion [and Conclusions] The main purpose of the discussion section is for the authors to present their interpretation of what the results mean. What do the results mean to you? For class reports, clearly state if you accept or reject your initial hypothesis. Provide the logic for your decision to accept or reject. Present any other conclusions that you feel are justified from your outstanding work.We stated above that science writing should be concise, precise, and limited to the facts, not long winded, wordy, verbose prose like in a Tolkien or Tolstoy novel. However, in the discussion section a certain amount of speculation is ok. The results can be compared to those reported by other scientists. Authors may indicate why they think their results and conclusions are right and other person’s are in error [this can get to be fun at times]. In the discussion section is where just a little bit of ‘bs’ might find its way into a scientific report. Unexpected or unusual results can be explained in this section. Suggestions for how to do a better follow up experiment could be given. Applications of the experimental findings or recommendations based on the findings can be presented in this section. Literature Cited This is where the other reports or scientific papers that you used would be listed out just like when preparing a term paper. For the most part there wouldn’t be any in this class.General Tips:• for the reports in this class, don’t have a cover page like for a term paper, and don’t put reports in some silly plastic folder. Just begin like this document does.• avoid the use of pronouns – I, you, your, we. I have used more pronouns in this document than I [!] probably should have.• use the past tense for the most part.• write numbers up to ten as words; numbers greater than ten, like 42 or 139, should be written using numbers. Decimal numbers, like 1.342 are written as numbers even when less than ten.• always use the metric system.• avoid using slang.• scientific names, like Homo sapiens, should be italicized if possible. Genus is always capitalized, the species term never is.• abbreviate terms that are used often. For example, if you [ahhh!!!, a pronoun] are writing about the National Institutes of Health (NIH), put the abbreviation in parentheses after its first use in the report and then, in all the rest of the report, every time the NIH is referred too, only the abbreviation NIH need be used. The term ROT that appears above is an example of this. Cool and easy.
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