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Laboratory Reports

General Guidelines

Lab reports consist of 10 key sections.


The abstract contains three key points:

  1. What you did: includes what you measured and a very brief description of the apparatus.

  2. How you did it: includes the experimental procedures used and the type of equipment.

  3. Results obtained: includes the final numerical results describing the units of measurement and any errors.

For most Ontario Tech labs, this section should be no more than four or five sentences. For larger lab reports, such as a thesis project or general research, it should be approximately 200 words. The purpose of the abstract is to give readers a general overview of the experiment. The abstract is written last and is usually the most difficult part of the lab to write.


In this section, you explain why you are designing or completing this experiment and what you hope to accomplish.


In the theoretical section, you describe the phenomena you are investigating. It is vital to include all necessary background information such as equations used in the experiment. This section will ensure your readers have the necessary background knowledge for the experiment.

Equipment and set-up

In your own words, explain what you did in order to ensure the experiment would work properly. You may also include a labelled diagram of your apparatus in the lab manual.


A brief summary of what you did in the lab in order to obtain your data.


The "Set-Up" and "Procedure" sections should be detailed enough that another student is able to perform the lab using your report as a guide.


Include all the data you recorded during the experiment, along with the appropriate error measurement and units for every number. These can be recorded in tables that are provided in the lab manuals or can be entered in tables using Microsoft Excel or SigmaPlot.


Using the equations you noted in the "Theory" section of your lab, manipulate experimental data you collected. From these results, you will be able to draw a conclusion. Your results can be included in the "Data" section with the tables used to obtain your data. In addition, include all graphs that you created using your data and results.


Label all your graphs and tables with an appropriate name and reference number so that you can easily refer to it later.


Analyze the results and calculations of your experiment and explain graph behaviour. Compare your experimental results to theoretical (accepted) results by finding research on what is accepted. Finally, explain possible errors that must be accounted for in order to make your results more accurate.


If you do compare your data with results previously published, properly document your source(s) using the required style (e.g. APA or CSE).


Write a summary of your lab report. Restate what you did and why you did it, along with the important results you obtained from the lab. Lastly, explain why these results are important and how they compare to other theoretical data.


While it is not necessary to include every single calculation, it is important to include at least one example of every calculation you performed. These sample calculations show that you understand the proper analysis techniques. In addition, they allow future readers of your experiment to see what calculations you performed in case there is an error. The calculations can be entered in the lab along with the "Data" and "Results" or may be included on a separate page at the end of the report.


Students should always speak with their lab instructors about the specific requirements. Each instructor may have different expectations.

For more information on writing laboratory reports, take some time to review the Writing as an Engineer or Scientist website presented by PennState University.