Lab report consists of the following parts: introduction, methods and materials, results and discussion. This format got the name "IMRAD". However, such works can differ depending on the field of study or audience. Lab report also may include such sections as abstract, experimental procedure, references, appendices and further reading.
Each lab report should have a title page, where the researcher provides information about the name of the research, the date and his lab partners’ names. The next page is the abstract. This section contains a brief summary of the report’s essential parts: the aim of the experiment, key results, their significant and your major conclusions. The abstract must less than one page – about 200 words.
In introduction you should state the hypothesis and explain how you derived it. Here you define the subject of the report, describe it in general, outline specific objectives of the research and give adequate background. The introduction should give answers to several questions:
- Why did you conduct the research?
- What do we already know about the subject of this study?
- What special purpose does this study have?
Try to demonstrate you own understanding of the problem. Keep in mind that you should use an appropriate tense. The experiment is finished, so write about it using Past Simple. However, your equipment, your hypothesis and the report still exist, so write about them in Present Simple.
Methods and materials section contains information about all methods and materials used in the experiment. Keep in mind that you need to write as many details as it is necessary for the reader to understand the experiment, no more and no less. Do not overwhelm the auditory with excessive information. If you follow some procedures exactly described in one of your source, you should simply cite this source. Describe in details only something new, like, for example, some special equipment or material. You may also attach drawings and schemes. In general, this section should provide the following information: which materials were used during the experiment, how they were used, where the experiment took place and when the work was done.
The results section contains the generalization of all data. Here you should summarize experiment’s results in figures, tables, photographs, graphs, and etc., but should not make any implications. Data in this section must not be duplicated. For example, all tables and figures should include different data. Tables and figures should be entitled and have explanations of symbols and abbreviations that were used. They should be numbered and referred in the text by their numbers. You should make figures and tables in the way that the reader could understand information without reading the text. This section contains only general trends. You should write this section before the rest of your report.
In the discussion section you should not just rewrite the results of the experiment, but pay attention to interpretation of the data and find connections with existing knowledge. Here you may describe your suggestions for the improvement of equipment, for example. Explain your logic – what allows you to consider you hypothesis true. Suggest further experiments that will continue studying your subject and help clarifying some uncertain results. The next section is References. It must contain all sources that were used for this research.