People always wish they could be better at something. Maybe you wish you could be a better gamer. Maybe you wish you could be a better snowboarder.
Did you ever wish you could write a better lab report? Probably not—at least not until you had to actually write one, right?
In any case, if you’re looking for some help writing a better lab report, here are five easy tips to get you started.
5 Easy Tips for a Better Lab Report
Even if you technically already know how to write a scientific report, there are always a few more tricks you can use to make your writing stronger.
If you’re not quite sure what should be included in a lab report, make sure to also check out How to Write a Science Lab Report That Gets Results.
Tip #1: Plan ahead
Writing a strong lab report doesn’t start with writing the actual report. You need to have a solid plan before you begin writing. Without good planning, you’ll struggle to get good results. That means a not-so-great experiment and an even less great grade. (Neither of which you want.)
Here are two tips to help you plan:
- Understand the current literature. If you think you have an original idea for an experiment, do some research to see if someone else has already conducted the same experiment. Why repeat the study if it’s already been done? On the other hand, if you think that there are gaps in the research, maybe you can add to the current thinking by presenting something new.
- Set up your experiment carefully. In order to get proper results, you need an accurate study. Measure meticulously. Systematically set up tests. You can’t afford to have inaccurate data.
Tip #2: Take detailed notes
If you take detailed notes, you’ll be able to review them at the end of the experiment and write a more concise lab report. In order to stay organized, you should have a dedicated notebook to record your observations.
In other words, don’t try to take notes on the back of a take-out menu.
Also, don’t wait until after you’ve completed the experiment to try to write down information. Take notes as you conduct the experiment. That way you won’t forget anything.
Two more note-taking tips:
- Write in ink. Even though it’s tempting to use a pencil so you can erase if necessary, write in ink. If you use pencil, it’s too easy to accidentally erase important details, and the print can easily smudge and become illegible.
- Write legibly. It’s seem obvious, but you need to write clearly so that you can read your notes in order to write your lab report. Others may need to read your lab notebook too, so make sure they can read what you write. After all, you wouldn’t want to report that the fabric caught fire after 44 seconds of exposure to heat when it actually took only 14 seconds.
Tip #3: Know when to use tables and graphs
A good rule of thumb when including tables or graphs in your lab report is to only use them when they are absolutely necessary. If you can state the information in your own words (and state it in a few sentences), don’t include the data in a table.
If you feel the data is best expressed in a table or graph, follow these quick guidelines:
- Number and title your table or graph for easy reference.
- Include units of measurement, such as hours, liters, meters, etc.
- Make sure numbers are lined up accurately.
Remember, you don’t always need to include data in a table or graph. You may decide that information is better explained in a photo, drawing, map, or flow chart.
Tip #4: Write concisely
When completing a lab report, don’t try to include more information just to take up space. The goal is to write concisely and accurately, not to write a flowery, descriptive narrative.
Also, just because you’re writing about science—and we all know that science has a lot of complicated words that most of us don’t quite understand—don’t use big words just to try to make yourself sound smart.
Concise writing takes your audience into account. It also means readers will have a better understanding of your report. They’ll be more likely to actually want to read it too.
Here’s an example of a wordy lab report sentence:
The french fries were neatly placed on the green plate, and they were then left there for exactly 24 hours.
Even though details are important, you should only include relevant details. Unless placing fries neatly and using a green plate are important parts of the experiment, there’s no need to include this information in the report.
Here’s a concisely written lab report sentence:
The french fries were placed on the plate and left for 24 hours.
This sentence uses concise wording that contains only details relevant to the experiment.
Tip #5: Learn from others
Lots of professionals have written lab reports, so there’s no need to go into writing your own lab report without looking at what others have already done (and done well).
Check out these examples to help inspire your expert report:
- Example #1 (from North Carolina State University)
- Example #2 (also from North Carolina State University)
- Example #3 (from Ohio University)
As you review the examples, you’ll notice they all follow the same basic structure (even though they may contain slightly different components).
Notice also that the length of each report varies. Length will depend on several variables, including the complexity of the study and, of course, your professor’s course-specific requirements.
Here are a few more example lab reports for good measure.
Final Thoughts on the Lab Report
Experiments are meant to be carried out in a controlled environment. Details are planned, organized, and executed with precision.
Make sure that you follow the same meticulous planning when you write your lab report. Pay attention to detail. Check (and double-check) your calculations, figures, and wording.
And if you’re looking for a (writing) lab partner to help you with the finer details of your report, an expert Kibin editor is always available is help!