When writing a lab report or scientific paper it is helpful to prepare all your data in the form of tables, figures etc before you start. You essentially write the report around these results. The first section to write is usually the materials and methods (easiest) and then the results, followed by the discussion and then lastly the intro and finally the abstract. Scientific writing is usually done in the third person and past tense. For example ….’The unknown ampicillin concentrations were determined by use of a ……’. Never write ‘I did this or I did that etc. If you are not sure read a couple of papers to see how these are written. In laying out your figures and tables you can include these within the text however putting each on a separate page is often neater and each should have a title and a legend. For graphs use text boxes in word rather than trying to do these in Excel. Always make sure columns in tables have heading and always always, always put units for number in text or in figures graphs etc. By convention the title of a figure goes below and the title for a table goes above. The title should be descriptive so not just ‘Figure 1. Graph 1’ as this says nothing, but Figure 1. ‘Standard curve of…. or ‘Figure 1. Determination of …. are appropriate. Usually the title is bold and the legend which describes the details of the figure that are not obvious is normal text. For instance the legend might say ‘dotted lines indicate control treatment, unbroken lines indicate treatment A etc’. Again, have a look at how they are done in papers. In text, referencing should be such that the information sources for statements are clearly attributable to references and should conform to the APA scheme unless otherwise specified. Sometimes when you find a prac report difficult to write (particularly the intro and discussion sections) it helps to write a bullet point plan as to what you want in them and then write the bits of each bullet point and then reword to stitch them all together.
Scientific writing is about writing very concisely so go over what you have written and see if you can get rid of superfluous words. Just delete waffle as it won’t get you marks. Write as simply as possible and make sure sentences are never too long (very common mistake with students). If they are too long split into two. Leave some time to do a laboratory report because if you think you can do them in a evening before the due date you will be sadly mistaken. Writing is a craft and it is an incredibly difficult one. It is a skill that you will get better with overtime and with practice. It does require effort.
Lastly pay attention to details. Always have a nice cover sheet with
Title of the assessment item and Item number i.e. Assessment 5Your details, name and student numberSubject name and codeDue dateFooter is always good with page numbers.
Don’t use flowery borders for tables and figures and make sure they are tidy and easily readable. If you were at work and your boss asked for a report would you send them something that wasn’t as professional as you can make it? Also make sure you deliver your assignments appropriately. If it is by EASTS generally, it is printed in black and white so if you have colour it won’t be seen. Always make a copy of your assignment and don’t alter it so that if yours gets lost somewhere you have proof that it was completed and sent. Word and pdf files have ‘dates last modified’ so if you have to resubmit the lecturer can see when the last time it was altered. Lastly pay attention to the marking criteria and where marks are assigned. No point in writing an amazing introduction in 800 words if it is worth 10/50marks and the assignment has a word limit of 1000 words.
Extra important information;
Assessment item 5: Laboratory Report
Abstract: 125 words
This should include the aims of the exercise and what you tried to do and why. It should also summarise your major findings.
Introduction: ~200 words
Introduce the exercise and why you are doing it. Refer to background literature. Useful to mention antibiotics and other antimicrobials. No need to go on about standard curves… just what you are using them for.
Materials and methods ~100words
This section should be written such that anyone who would like to repeat the experiment as you did it can do so. It doesn’t have to explain all the details but it must refer to references for the methods if written elsewhere. So you can refer to the document that was given to you describing the method. How you measured and recorded data should go in this section. If there are any changes to the published methods you refer to you must note them so someone else after you can make the same amendments to repeat your work.
Results ~ 200
The results is the section in which you display all your great tables and figures and the text should talk the reader though them and indicate what the results were. For instance “Standard curves of ampicillin concentration against zone of inhibition are presented in figure …..” Only describe your work in this section and do not refer to the work of others here.
Discussion and Conclusion ~600
Sometimes this is one section or the discussion and conclusion are sometimes separate. Have a look at some published papers and see what the differences are. This section should discuss what you found in relation to other people’s previously published work.
For example – Data shown in figure 1 suggest that the Earth is flat. Contrary to this Smith, J. et. al., (2016) suggested that the Earth is spherical etc.
The discussion can summarise the results but don’t simply repeat these. The discussion very often indicates whether the aims were achieved. It might then go on to discuss future experiments but should not be too speculative. If there are questions that have been asked this is the place to answer these and you can answer these within the text or separately with numbered points.
APA 6th format
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