FORMAL LABORATORY REPORT FORMAT
In this course, you will be asked to submit three formal laboratory reports. The format described below is recommended, because it has proven to be an effective way to present experimental results, and it is widely used in scientific and Engineering journals. It is important to keep in mind that your goal is to present the information as clearly, completely, and also as concisely as possible. If you choose not to use this format, you should have a good reason.
As always, you should write in complete sentences only, and you should use care to avoid grammatical errors. I recommend the use of the passive voice, as it is more formal and more widely used in my field, though it will not affect your grade if you do not choose to take this recommendation.
The format for the formal laboratory report consists of 9 sections. Each group will submit a single report, using this format, for each experiment indicated with a dagger on the syllabus.
1. Title Page
This page should include the department and number of the class, the date, and the names of the students who performed the lab and wrote the report.
The abstract is a very concise summary of the experiment and the results obtained. It is usually a single paragraph (just a few sentences) long, though in some cases, it may be somewhat longer.
The introduction serves to set up the reader for the rest of the report. It includes background information, as well as a description of how this work fits into the broader/wider contexts of the class, field, discipline, etc. It sometimes includes a description of the principles that underlie the experiment, but the details of the work usually fit better into later sections.
This section is used to present and/or derive any equations that will be needed to understand the experiment or perform the data analysis.
In this section, the details of the way the experiment was performed, how the equipment was configured, the way the data was collected, etc., are described. In Engineering 11, students have permission to refer to the lab handout if it is included as an Appendix to the report. There is no need to simply restate what is already written in the handout, but it is important to include deviations from the suggested methods. It is important to use the appropriate citations when referring to handouts or other materials.
Include both results, as well as sample calculations when appropriate.
• Make sure results are clearly labeled and set off from the text somehow (eg, in a table or graph), and not simply imbedded in the text.
• Think carefully about whether the information is better presented in a table, a graph, or both. (It is not usually necessary to present the same information in both a graph and a table, though it can occasionally be helpful.)
• Show experimental and theoretical results side by side for easy comparison, e.g. in the same table or graph. In tables, include the percentage deviations of the experimental results from the theoretical predictions. This is important!
This section is used to demonstrate the significance of the results, and to explain why they are or are not consistent with those that would be expected from theory and analysis.
• Discuss the significance, or meaning, of the results.
• Discuss discrepancies between theoretical and experimental results, and their likely causes.
• Discuss any difficulties encountered in performing the laboratory.
• Suggest changes that could be used to improve the lab. These may be included in the labs for future generations.
8. Conclusions and Future Work
The purpose of this section is to wrap up the lab and summarize what was reported. It is also a place to make suggestions for future improvements.
The purpose of this section is to acknowledge any collaboration or help that was received during the experiments or writing of the report.
Appendices can be used as sections for very detailed or lengthy sections of information. Information placed in an Appendix is usually supplementary to, or supportive of the discussion in the body of the report, but I usually not the most critical to the main points being made in the report.
• Be sure that each table and graph is labeled with a title, numbered, and referenced in the text. Do not include tables or graphs unless there is at least a sentence or two (and often there is much more than this) in the text so that the reader knows why the information has been included and what it has to do with the discussion at that place in the report.
• Be sure that each table and graph has a caption.