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Laboratories and how to write a lab report

Laboratories conjure up a certain image. An image of mad scientists dancing around to the beat of lightning, of strange goings on that rewrite our understanding of science itself. This is of course the image held by those who have watched too many Hammer Horror films or have read too many 19th century novels. Modern labs are clean, precise and above all scientific places that help us to understand all sort of elements of the world that we otherwise wouldn’t have done – how germs affect us, how our bodies work and what strange items might be floating around space. That is why it can be fascinating and engaging to work in them – however, if you don’t know how to write a lab report then it can be difficult.


Writing a lab report can be tricky if you don’t know how and can be problematic if you want to pursue a career in the sciences. As they are needed from university level science onwards, it is vital that you understand the exact mechanisms of how to write one. This is why this article will tell you how to write a lab report so that you can carry on with your glittering scientific career without any pain or any problems whatsoever. We will break down the stages of writing a lab report and make sure that you can easily follow them and implement them when you need to.

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The first and most important stage of writing a lab report is not the actual writing of the lab report – it is doing the experiments that constitute what you will write about in the lab report. When conducting the experiment or experiments that you will be writing about in your lab report it is important to keep an organised log of where you are doing the experiment; when you are doing it; what the purpose of it is and what conclusions you may come to once you do it. After each stage of the experiment, it is important to write down some findings so that you can easily put these into the finished lab report. Your lab report should obviously be as detailed as specifically as possible to ensure that you get all the data you need to put into your lab report. It is vital that you don’t miss anything out that could be included as to evidence of how the experiment has gone in your report.

Organization is vital when you are writing a lab report. You must make sure that when you are writing it you don’t fail to include anything which could drastically change the outcome of the report or provide more evidence that would help one conclusion or the other. It is also important to make sure when writing your report to be as detailed as possible so that the person reading the report can understand the full weight of the experiment and can easily agree with the conclusions you have come to base upon the evidence you present in the report. If you fail to include stages in the report or don’t fully document the experiment, then you will likely lose points in a university department or be asked to do it again in a work place scenario. We shall now break down the various stages of a lab report to help you understand what to write and how.

  • Title page. This is particularly important if you are doing a lab report as part of a university degree; not all lab reports have a title page but more likely than not your instructor will ask for one. This is where your log will be most useful as, if you are writing the report a few days or even weeks later, it will be easy to refer to where the experiment took place and at what time. The title page should explain what the experiment is, include your name and the name of your lab partner, the name of your instructor and the time that the experiment took place. You should make sure to keep this as short and precise as possible as this is merely setting up what happened when and not an explanation as to why it happened or how.
  • Title. This is separate from the title page and is somewhat self-explanatory. The title is the name you give to the experiment you have conducted. It should be a short summation of what the experiment was about and what the likely results of it are – for instance your title should be something like “The impact of carbon monoxide on plant life”. This title clearly states what the experiment is and what the likely results of it will be.
  • The introduction. This section of the report should summarize what the experiment is and what you hope to gain from doing the experiment. Like an essay it is attempting to introduce the subject of discussion to the reader but unlike an essay it is not attempting to persuade the reader of a point of view. This will come later when you analyse the evidence you have found from the experiment and debate what it means and how it works in regard to other research. The introduction should be purely factual and descriptive, explaining everything about the experiment in its simplest form and outlining what the report will inform the reader. Some introductions include background to the experiment – this doesn’t mean what you were doing directly before or your life so far. This means the detail of past experiments in the field or the reason you decided to do this experiment. Not all lab reports need this type of background, but it can be useful in some instances, so it is worth noting when you come to write yours.
  • The Materials. This is a list of all the equipment you have used or all the substances that were needed when conducting the experiment. You don’t need to go into detail about the various materials that you used – you should, hopefully, be able to refer to your lab log for all the materials that you have used. To save time it, may be worth writing the materials in a list format or via the use of bulletins. This will ensure that it is clear to the reader what has been used so they can easily consume the information without other unnecessary elements being included.
  • The Data. This is one of the most important parts of your lab report. The data is a collection of all your raw findings. They are usually presented in a table as it makes it easier for the reader to consume the information. As with the introduction, the presentation of data should be purely factual and not attempt to influence or persuade the reader in any way as to what conclusions you could draw from it – that comes later in the report. It is vital that you make the data as easy to read as possible so that the person reading your work can easily consume it and move on to assess how you have dealt with the data and whether you have properly interpreted it.
  • The Results. The results section is somewhat like the section dealing with data but is more interpretative. In this part of the report you will analyse what the data means but not fully analyse it – you will imply what could be suggested but not come to any definitive conclusions. Some students find this the most difficult section of the report to do as it often requires them to walk a tightrope between being objective and not allowing personal perception to come into the writing of the data but also to be able to interpret the data in such a way that you can draw certain conclusions from it. That is why some students feel that it is better to combine the results section of the report with the analysis section so that they can easily move from the results to the analysis of the data. It depends whether you want to combine the two and either be detailed or save yourself time. Ultimately, it is up to the individual student.
  • The Analysis. This is the part where you are finally allowed to be somewhat opinionated. This doesn’t mean that you should sound off all your opinions about anything under the sun – it simply means that you can properly analyse the data you’ve collected in the experiment and discuss what conclusions you can draw from it. This is where you will either be able to prove that your theory was right or not as to conclude whether the data supports your theory or rejects it. Sometimes, it will be somewhere in the middle, supporting part of your theory but not all of it. This will allow you to be even more interpretative and perhaps improve on your theory. This section will also allow you to reflect on any mistakes that you made during the experiment – whether you used a wide enough range of techniques, whether you fully documented all stages of the experiment in enough detail and what you could do in the future to improve a similar experiment. Whilst your conclusion is the final part of your lab report this is the last section that will have the most impact.
  • Conclusion. Your conclusion should be brief but not overly short. You should summarise what has happened in the experiment, reiterate some of the points of the analysis but not copy it. It’s important that you don’t try to fill out your conclusion with too much description or over use any words that are unnecessary to concluding your lab report.

Now it is time to check your lab report so that you can make sure that it is accurate and well written. You have to make sure that your lab report is clearly understandable, has a lack of grammatical or spelling errors and is clearly understandable to the reader. You must make certain that your piece doesn’t confuse them or is in any way problematic – i.e. a lack of information regarding the process of doing the experiment.

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