Laboratory report

Instructions on writing a laboratory report

The overall purpose of the Laboratory report is to confirm that the student has understood the tasks within the laboratory course and be able to convey this learning. Ideally the report should include the elements of What, Why, Methods, Results, and Discussion. A short report of one A4 form may be the format in some experiments. In other situations a longer report is needed. The educator will decide the standard for the course, but the following is used to provide instructions for the student in how to write a lab report.

General guidelines for layout: 

  • Page number marked at the upper right corner of the page
  • Font type is Book Antiqua (sequences are presented using Courier New)
  • Font size:
    • Main headings 14 (bold), subheadings 12 (bold)
    • Text 12
    • Legend of a table/figure 10
  • Spacing:
    • Text 1.5
    • Legend of a table/figure 1
  • Margins:
    • Top-margin 2.5 cm
    • Bottom-margin 3.5 cm
    • Left margin 3.5 cm
    • Right margin 2 cm

 Contents of the report:

  • Cover page:
    • Name of the experiment
    • Name of the course
    • University
    • Group number and names of the group members
    • Your own name
    • Date
  • Abstract:
    • A short introduction to the experiment (a few sentences about the aim of the experiment, the results and the significance of the results)
  • Introduction:
    • A few sentences about the theoretical base of the experiment and the experiment in general (what was done and why)
  • Materials and methods:
    • Experiment is described in details so that it could be repeated according to these instructions.
    • Write this section with your own words and don’t just copy your laboratory notebook or the instructions that were given to you!
    • You need to mention:
      • Final concentrations of reagents in liquids (“The final concentration of ampicillin was 150 μg/ml”)
      • Manufacturers of reagents and instruments (eg. centrifuges)
      • Incubation times, centrifugation times etc.
      • Temperatures
      • Equations
      • Used software
  • Results:
    • Results are interpreted precisely.
    • Include instrument readings, gel images, calculations), etc.
    • At this point you can mention if experiment didn’t succeed but analyze the reasons for the failure in discussion section.
  • Discussion:
    • This is the major part of the report!
    • Conclusion of the experiment.
    • Interpret the results in the broader sense to the field of science or to other’s work.
    • If you had problems, try to think over what might have gone wrong.
    • Remember to discuss all results!
  • References
  • Appendix (if necessary)
    • Number all the appendixes and refer to them within the body of the text.

A few things to remember…

  • Reports are written in English or in Finnish
  • Write in passive and use standard language
  • Number all the figures and tables. Figure legends are placed on bottom of the figure and legends for tables are placed on top of the table.
  • Refer to all figures and tables within the body of the text
  • Figures and tables should be placed, as soon as possible, after they are referred forthe first time in the text.
  • Abbreviations: When concept is mentioned for the first time, write down the whole word/name and the abbreviation in parentheses (e.g. Cells were grown in Luria Bertani (LB) growth medium). After this use only the abbreviation! If you are using a lot of abbreviations, you should place a list of these before the abstract
  • Latin names of species are written in italic font style
  • Take care in making sure the following are in the report:
    • Why the experiment was performed
    • What is the aim of the experiment
    • Detailed description of all the results should be provided
    • Discussion should refer to the figures directly and with proper citations
    • Reference style should follow Boreal Environment Research standard (http://www.borenv.net/)
    • Figures and tables should be placed, as soon as possible, after they are referred for the first time in the text.