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Academic Skills Essentials: Lab reports

Laboratory reports

If you are studying a Science or Engineering unit, it is likely you will be required to write a formal laboratory (lab) report. The aim is to report on what you did, what you learned from the experiment and why the findings are important.

What is the structure of a lab report?

The structure of lab reports can vary depending on the type of lab task or scientific research investigation. However, they all usually follow a similar basic structure which includes:

  • Title – informative description of the report in under 10 words
  • Abstract – summary of the whole report
  • Introduction –An outline of the aim and scope of the report that presents the issue, background and hypotheses  (what you set out to do)
  • Method – An explanation of the way you conducted the research (how you did it)
  • Results and Analysis – A detailed description of the information gained from the research (what you found)
  • Discussion - An evaluation of the significance of the findings from the research (what it means)
  • References – Sources used in preparing your lab report
  • Appendices - Graphs, tables, charts of calculations and other information considered interesting but not essential.

Ensure you check with you lecturer or tutor about the specific requirements they have for the lab report

Graphics such as tables and diagrams are common in lab reports as they help to summarise detailed information. Diagrams and images are referred to as Figures. These are numbered and given a title below the figure. Example:

Tables are labelled in the top right hand corner above the table. Example:

Table 7.2 Control and stimulated secretion rates from cricket Malpighian tubules.1

 

Secretion rate (nL h-1)2

 

Control

Stimulated

Whole tubule

50.1

±3.1

98.6

±8.7

Distal segment

15.1

±2.5

17.5

±3.7

1 Adapted from Marshall et al. (1993) J Exp Biol 177, 1-22.

2 Values are means ± standard error of 13 observations.

The language used in lab reports is clear, concise and objective. Because of the nature of these reports, it is important to use discipline specific terminology precisely and that the information is accurate. Remember that a major purpose of lab reports is that the experiment can be replicated.

Activity

Label the following excerpts from a lab report by choosing the correct heading from the following list:

Introduction    Method    Results    Discussion    
  1. Recessive mutations are found to be more common in organisms that travel through a generation (Table 1.). In the first generation, a male Drosophila with homozygous vestigial wings and Female Drosophila with homozygous wild wings were bred to create one hundred offspring. Of those one hundred, all were heterozygous for vestigial wings but had a phenotype of wild wings (Table 1.). The ratio of males to females was also very close 52 males to 48 females (Table 1.). In the second generation there was more variance, with 53 males and 47 females with varied genes (Table 1.).
  2. Drosophila melanogaster is a common fruit fly that became a very popular experimental animal in the study of genetics (Reeve & Black, 2014). One of the most common Drosophila mutations is the changing eye colour from red to white, which is considered as a sex-linked trait as the defect only occurs on the X chromosome (Reeve & Black, 2014). The red eyed fly is considered as a ‘wild’ type and is branded with a ‘+’ symbol, whereas the white-eyed mutation is identified with ‘w’ symbol (Reeve & Black, 2014). The Drosophila Genetics Lab software enabled the ability to be able to breed flies with different genotypes to determine the inheritance of genes with each generation (Nowland, 2017).The aim of this study is to determine the inheritance of genes of each generation of Drosophila to isolate the different genotypes of genetic defects.
  3. Mutations that occurred within the Drosophila Melanogaster fruit fly species became increasingly more common with each passing generation. Vestigial wings appeared more often when the second generation of flies was bred. Since the parents for the second generation were both heterozygous, it was expected that the offspring would have a 33% in inheriting the wing mutation or be a carrier of the defect. As different genotypes were passed down to offspring from the parents, there was more variation in the genetics of the offspring.
  4. There are two different experiments that were conducted using this program, the first experiment examining the mutation for vestigial wings and the other the sex-linked mutation of white eyes (McMahon, 2017). For the first experiment, the first generation (F1 generation) female was homozygous for wild wings, whereas the male was homozygous for vestigial wings (McMahon, 2017). The F2 generation was derived from F1 in which both the male and female were heterozygous for vestigial wings (McMahon, 2017). This process was then repeated, but instead the in the F1 generation, the male was homozygous for wild wings and the female was homozygous for vestigial wings
Answers
  1. Results
  2. Introduction
  3. Discussion
  4. Method

References

Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/laboratory-scientists-research-385349/