When writing a formal lab report, virtually all of them follow the same structure regardless of the field of science. In particular, they include a paper title, abstract, introduction section, materials, methods, results, conclusions, and work cited. They also adhere to formatting styles such as APA, MLA, Harvard or Chicago. Note that lab reports can be typed on a computer or written out in ink, but never with a pencil.

Make sure that the reader understands when you have moved from one section to the next. To achieve this, include centered headings. First letters in headings should be capitalized (with the exception of articles “an” and “the”), short prepositions containing 3 or fewer letters, and conjunctions such as “and” and “or.” Whether you choose to write these in bold is up to you. You want your report to look professional and credible, so always check it for typos and grammar mistakes. Your paper should be written in an objective manner, without your own opinions. Do not use first person, and you should generally use past perfect tense.

Formal Lab Report Format

Now let us discuss the formal lab report further. In particular, you should be aware of the formal lab report format. The formal report format includes:

A Title. This title should be brief. It is better to use indicative titles rather than informative titles since the former focus on the main point or conclusion whereas the later merely states the topic of the report. When possible, phrase the title the way you would with the research question. For example, identify what the independent and dependent variables are. Remember that the independent variable is the variable that can be manipulated while the dependent variable is what can be measured as a response to the independent variable.

An Abstract. This part of the paper provides a brief but very important summary of your report, including an overview, the purpose, methods, findings, and conclusions. When researchers decide which reports to read, a lot of it depends on how interesting they find the abstract. So make it as informative as possible while remaining concise.

How to Write a Formal Lab Report

Now let us move on and discuss how to write a formal lab report. Like with all standard research papers, you should include an introduction, methods and results.

Introduction. The introduction provides some context and background information so that the reader has a better idea about the issue. Discuss the problem from a historical viewpoint, define important concepts related to your study, and provide a statement of purpose. Here are four major points to keep in mind:

  1. Identify the research topic in a clear manner.
  2. Find relevant material that is connected to your research and discuss the research gaps as well as how you intend to help fill it in.
  3. When discussing the methods, you would want to provide enough detail so that other researchers can replicate your study and even reach the same conclusions. Make sure to justify your choices of methods as well as discuss methods that would not be appropriate for your particular study.
  4. The results section can focus on qualitative data, quantitative data, or both. You don’t want to interpret what it means; you will want to wait to do that in the conclusion section.

After collecting data (whether it is primary - data collected by you - or secondary data - data found through other studies), you will want to make it easy for the reader to understand. You can achieve this through 5 possible options:

  1. Tables. Tables can be a good way to compare and contrast different data, especially when discussing volumes or percentages.
  2. Observations. These would be any interesting behaviors or reactions that you noticed but cannot be quantified. For instance, you could note the changes in the color of an element in response to a reaction with a chemical. Note that observations merely describe what you see, but do not explain why they happened.
  3. Basic Calculations. You can write out your formulas step-by-step in order to explain how you derived your data.
  4. Analysis. You can use software programs to plug in numbers and generate various statistics, which can help you explain to the reader what it all means.
  5. Graphs. This is usually the best option when illustrating relationship between different variables. Make sure to include some brief descriptive text to guide the reader.

Formal Lab Report Template

We will finish this article by discussing the formal lab report template as it relates to the conclusion. Note that the conclusion summarizes and discusses the experiment. A lot of inexperienced researchers struggle with this because it often requires you to use critical thinking skills in order to logically explain things, especially if the results were not what you expected. It is perfectly okay that the conclusion rehashes some of the information discussed in other sections. However, make sure to reword rather than copying and pasting sentences word-for-word. The conclusion should provide the reader with enough information that makes the point of the research clear. Thus, you should restate the purpose and methods in the study. It is also important to mention whether the outcomes were consistent with what you had predicted.

Do some data analysis in order to explain how the independent and dependent variables interacted. Make sure to discuss specific examples from the results to back up your statements. If you found some weaknesses or obvious errors in the results, you should discuss what might account for this. The best way to do this is by noting percent error or average percent deviation calculations. Also discuss what could be done next time to improve the research and avoid these problems again. There is no shame in admitting that errors occurred. Indeed, the point of the experiment is not to prove definitively that you are right. In fact, sometimes the unexpected results can lead to their own scientific breakthroughs, especially if you are doing a lab report for biology or a lab report for chemistry.

Finally, in terms of the formal lab report template for conclusion, discuss the broader implications of your research. How can you apply them to different situations in the real world? For example, if you are doing research on how to prevent the spread of diseases at a clinic, could certain methods also be used at meat packing plants? If you used different variables and in particular controlled them for other conditions, what do you might have happened? Would the results have been different? Also mention how other researchers can use your results and built upon them.

A couple of last comments. When using outside sources, you are required to cite them properly based on the formatting guidelines as specified by your professor or university. The citations should be both in-text as well as at the end of the report where you list all of the sources. When thinking about a formal report title page or formal lab report title page, it is often a good idea to wait until you have finished the entire paper since you can hint at the results.