How To Write A Lab Report
Grades & Rubrics
This document is a guide to help you write a lab report to pass in. There
are two other pages of which you should keep track: there is a General
Lab Rubric, which is a description of what you should include for a "4"
or a "3" etc; and for most labs there is also a "score sheet." The scoring
sheet is specific for each lab.
At present, our school grades on
an A-B-C-D-F scale, with hints of a 1-2-3-4 "Standards" system to come.
For now, I will grade each of the sections listed below on a 1-4 scale (4 is
best); the lab grade will be the percentage of possible points earned.
Since each lab report will have a different combination of these sections, each
lab will have a different number of possible points to earn. This policy
will change if/when MHS reports on a 1-4 absolute scale instead of the usual
For more specific details about grading
in your class, see your own Room Management Plan [Chemistry][AP
A Lab Report should be a document that tells the reader what was done in an
experiment or activity, and what was discovered. It should be written
so that the reader can duplicate the activity and results if they so desire.
Some labs will be performed from handouts or lab manuals, while in others you
will devise your own procedure. This is supposed to be a general
guide so you can write a clear lab report from any class activity in any science
class. Remember that the main goal is to show the reader what was done
in the order it was done. Some of the details will be different
from teacher to teacher, so make sure you ask and take notes!
And finally, every lab has
several dates attached to it: the day we did it in class, the day it is due, the
day the re-writes are due (usually the Friday after I pass it back to you), and
the day I officially "lose interest" and will not accept the lab (usually the
Friday after the re-writes are due). It is up to you to pay attention
in class to know when these dates are coming.
- Title Section
- This should be the first thing the reader sees when they look at your report.
It should include your name, the name of anyone you actually worked with (write
"no partner" if you worked alone), the date the lab is due, the
class and period, and of course the title of the lab. Some teachers
may want you to include their name too, so make sure you ask. If there
is a handout for the lab, it may include most of this information already,
so you may not need to make a separate section or page. If the teacher
does not limit the number of pages to turn in, a separate title page is always
- This section should be short, and should tell the reader why the experiment
was performed. Do not describe the procedure or repeat the introduction
section of any handouts - this section should be short! This section
may actually be unnecessary if it is included on the lab handout, and you
are allowed to include the handout.
Activities that are designed to prove
a point, determine a value, or identify an unknown will have a stated purpose.
It should be short: one or two sentences stating the goal of the activity.
Activities designed to answer a question
should have a hypothesis. This is an "If...Then..." statement that can
be proven or disproven. For example: "If the balloons are filled
with oxygen, then they will cause a glowing match to reignite."
Did I mention this section should
- Procedure -
A concise numbered list of instructions describing what you actually did -
not what you meant to do. If this is on your lab handout
you may not need to re-write it, but you should note any changes you made.
Also, if you performed a procedure from a lab manual, don't re-write the steps,
just tell the reader exactly where they can find the procedure.
- Data & Observations
- Data is any information you read directly off a tool or instrument (like
temperature, but not like change in temperature). This should
always be in table form. Make sure every single number has a description,
a value, and a label (this can be condensed if you have many similar pieces
of data by labeling a column heading such as "Length (m)").
Make sure you read your instruments correctly. There should not be any
information that isn't data, and there shouldn't be anything missing.
Data should be presented in the order it was obtained. Spend time making
sure this section is clear and easy to read. For additional hints check
out the document "How To Record And Present Data."
- Graph(s) - Sometimes
it is easier to show information or perform calculations on a graph than a
list of numbers. In some cases, a graph will be shown but not
the data it came from (keep the data in your notebook!). A graph should
always fill the available space. The axes should be named and
labeled ("Mass in grams"). The scales should be consistent but they
don't have to be the same (you can count by 5's on the y-axis as long as you
count by 5's on the whole y-axis, and you can count by 2's on the x-axis
as long as you count by 2's on the whole x-axis). You only need
to use a range to include your data - if the temperature stays between 20
and 70 Centigrade, your graph doesn't need to go from 0 to 100. There
are more hints in the document How To Make A Good
Graph, but a good general hint is that you should use as little ink as
possible but still cover the page. For extensive further information
find the book "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" by Edward R.
Tufte (Graphics Press, CT; or Amazon.com).
- Analysis or Questions
- this part depends on the lab. You may have specific questions to answer
or calculations to perform. Most handouts or lab manuals include a few
questions or instructions after the procedure. Show these clearly and
fully answered in the order they turn up. Show all your work for calculations
(including names and labels; see below) and answer every question with full
sentences and clear explanations. Here are two sample calculations (one
addition, one multiplication):
of beaker with water
|= mass of water
|q = mDtCp
|q = (42.101 g)(5.5
|q = 230 cal
- Your lab should be
Neat - The sections must be in the correct order, one side of each
sheet, stapled in the top left corner, typed (or neatly written in dark ink),
few or no cross outs, no notebook "snow," and good general presentation.
- Your lab should also
be Prompt. There will be a one point penalty for each day the
lab report is late.
For the first several labs of the
year you will be given a specific point-by-point scoring guide describing what
should be passed in, but after that you will be expected to extract this information
from the lab handouts or your experience in the classroom. I will still
use them to correct every lab, but you will only see them for the re-writes.
If you ever have any questions, first check with your partner, then refer to
your lab handout, then finally ask me.
Purpose Lab Rubric][MHS Chem page][MHS
AP Chem page]