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Lab report guide

Writing a good science lab is fun and easy (once you get the hang of it). They are supposed to be short and factual. 

 

     First comes the nuts and bolts. You need a title (relavent and specific), name (first and last), and date (the date of writing). Some give this section a page by itself. I like it on the top right. It should look something like this:

The Black Box Lab

by Joel Gilbert

8 / 33 / 2020

 

     Next comes the "Introduction". It should explain the who, what, when, where, and why of the experiment. It should include your hypothesis statement which is simply your testable question written.  A good intro has a prediction based on your hypothesis (often in an "if --> then" statement). Here is an example:

Introduction:

Between 9 am and 10:30 am on August 33, 2020, John Doe, Susan Smith, Bob Jones, and I, working in the science room of The Riverside School, were given a sealed plastic box. We wanted to discover what was inside our box. We decided to perform experiments on the box and an identical, but empty "control" box to determine as much as we could about the object(s) inside our sealed box. Preliminary experiments (metallic sound and sparks in the microwave) led us to believe that one of the objects was metal. We knew that magnets stick to metal and hypothesized that if there was metal in the box, then a magnet would stick to it. We predicted that a magnet would attract the metal through the plastic, sealed box and stick confirming that we have metal in our box.

 

     The next section is the "Materials and Procedure". It needs to be very specific. A short, but detailed list of all the materials is followed by a detailed step by step list of instructions on how to perform the experiment as you did. It might look something like this:

Materials and Procedure:

We used a 5 mm spherical 5 mT magnet.

1. Take our sealed box in one hand and a 5 mT magnet in the other hand.

2. Without moving the box, slowly rub the magnet across the box. Be sure to touch every part of every

surface.

3. Observe any sticking or pulling feeling from the magnet.

4. Record observations.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 two more times.

6. Repeat steps 1-5 with the control box.

 

     The next sections is the "Results" section. It should be a short paragraph that simply states the objective (factual) results of your experiment. Data should be presented appropriately in graphical representations when called for (charts, graphs, diagrams, drawings, etc.). No assumptions here! An example is:

Results:

The magnet stuck to every part of the bottom of our sealed (variable) box. It did not stick anywhere to the control box. See the drawing below for where the magnet stuck:

 

 

 

     Then you write up the "Conclusions" section. This is a paragraph describing what you believe the results tell you about the experiment and why. (Was the purpose of this experiment achieved? What did we do? What happened? What does it mean?) For example:

Conclusions:

We concluded that at least one of the objects inside the unknown box was indeed metal since the magnet stuck to the unknown, but not with the control box. Additionally, we concluded that the metal object was roughly the size and shape of the bottom of the box and that it sat at the bottom since the magnet stuck everywhere along the bottom equally.

 

Lastly, you write up the "Discussion" section. This section should be a brief discussion about the experiment including any possible sources of error and how you would improve it in the future. For example:

Discussion:

We felt fairly confident in our conclusions that there was a metal object in our box because the experiment seemed straightforward and the results repeatable, but the magnet sticking on the bottom of our sealed box could be caused by a sticky substance on the outside of the box (like peanut butter) or from a magnet inside the box instead of a slab of metal. We should wash the box and repeat the experiment to test the possibility of stickiness on the bottom. To test for a magnet in the box, we should repeat the experiment with a piece of iron and see if it sticks as the magnet did. On further study, we discovered that our hypothesis was flawed. We hypothesized that a magnet would stick to any metal in the box, but we learned that only a few metals are magnetic. Knowing this now, we could redefine our conclusion to be that there is a piece of iron, nickel, or cobalt in our box. More research is needed and we believe the next step should be to be sure that the object is metal by making the corrections already mentioned and then use an X-ray machine to see the silhouette of the metal object.

 

This example is not perfect, but should give you an idea of the format and breakdown of the sections. A detailed rubric is available here, but a simplified one looks something like this:

Name, Date, Title, Format..........................................................................5

Introduction (who, what, when, where, why)...........................................15

Hypothesis statement (if-->then)................................................................5

Procedure (detailed and specific).............................................................15

Materials (detailed and specific).................................................................5

Results (objective and detailed)...............................................................15

Conclusions (logical based on the results)...............................................15

Discussion (comprehensive faultfinding and proposed solutions)...........20

Spelling, Grammar, Neatness.....................................................................5

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