How to write a chemistry lab report
The chemistry lab report
As part of your coursework you may receive general chemistry assignments like;
Other times, you will receive complex specified assignments such as;
- Laboratory worksheets
- Journal articles
- Chemistry lab reports
- Lab summaries
Our focus for this article is the lab reports. When you have classes in the lab and carry out experiments or observations, you need to present your findings. This way your professor will know whether you carried out the experiment correctly and whether you understood the concepts. A lab report is, therefore, a written summary of the results you have observed during an experiment.
A lab report can be written in a formal or informal chemistry lab report format. An informal lab report is often your calculations which are accompanied by a written data table of your results. It may vary depending on your professor and institution.
The constant factor is that it requires to me be neat and orderly. An informal report doesn’t require much with the format and the documentation of the experiment. It is just a brief show of your experiment results.
A formal lab report chemistry analysis is a more complete written report. There is an expected format and arrangement of the report that ought to be followed. These are;
- A formal report is usually written from a third-person perspective, using the pronouns they and them.
- Data is represented in a table whenever possible
- Begin with the formula then proceed to insert the data as you go.
- Do not assume the reader knows what you are calculating, explain everything in detail
- The report should be typed but the calculations can be well written by hand
- You are required to show all calculations and include units of measurements
- The use of diagrams and graphs is encouraged.
The general format of a chemistry lab report
Now that the experiment is completed and all necessary data has been collected, you need to write your results in a chemistry lab report. A report conveys exactly what occurred during an experiment and in the observation. It discusses the results or findings and the implication of the results.
A formal lab report follows a specific expected order. This order is inclusive of all the typical chemistry lab report components. For a report to be considered complete, these parts of the report all have to be present. Each component plays a unique and important role in the completion of the report. As you write your report, do not downplay or undermine the importance of any part. These components are;
The lab report title page is the first page of your paper. A title reflects the content of your paper. It is not wrong for the title to reveal the results of the experiment. The general format of a title page is as follows; Put down your name, your class information, and the date of submission on the upper right side of the page. If it is a group assignment, include your group mates’ names here as well. Each detail should be on its line.
The second part which is the title of your chemistry lab report should be in the middle of the page. The title should be brief and grammatically correct. Come up with a captivating title to draw people to your paper. All points after the title should be center-aligned below the title. This includes the class title, the title of the experiment, and the semester. This is however not standard for all. Ensure you check with your institution or professor to find out the required format for the title page.
Here is a lab report title example “ionic composition of drinking water influenced by pipe materials: an atomic absorption spectroscopic analysis.”
This is a one or two-paragraph summary of the experiment. It usually consists of two hundred words or less. Most people prefer to write the abstract last to capture all the details. You should explain, as precisely as possible, the purpose of the experiment, how the experiment was conducted, and the results of the experiment. If there were any conclusions from the experiment, you should include them in the abstract. Things that must be featured in your abstract are;
- What were the objectives of the experiment?
- Briefly state what was done (method)
- Briefly state what was found (results)
- Briefly state what was concluded (discussion)
In a lab report introduction, you are expected to present background information about the experiment. Mention why the topic is of interest and relevance. This is inclusive of the purpose of the experiment, already existing research related to the experiment, and why the experiment was necessary. You should include the methods used to carry out the experiment and your hypothesis. In summary, include the following;
- What is the nature of the problem you are researching
- Which researches already exists of the same experiment
- A statement of the purpose of the experiment
- A statement of the methods used to gather results
- Express your main question
- state your hypothesis
You can check online for an appropriate lab report introduction example.
A reaction equation is the symbolic representation of a chemical reaction. It contains symbols and formulae. A reaction equation is usually included in the section that contains the instructions for the experiment. You should include details of the structure and the name of all the reactants used. You should also state the product, the temperatures of the experiment, and the solvents used. If more than one reaction occurs, you should show all of them and include all the arrows.
This section details all the methods used to experiment. The description ought to be in detail such that someone else can repeat the experiment after reading your paper. If the final product is known, it is normally included at the beginning of the paragraph in bold.
As you mention the reactants, it is important to include the quantity used in parenthesis. Include the measurements and their value in moles. Use a passive voice to describe the methodology and remember it should not be in the first or second person. Explain your analysis on the following;
- what type of scientific procedure did you use
- what subjects, equipment, and materials did you use
- Explain your procedure and methodology for the experiment
- Describe statistical tests and show all mathematical equations
This section of your chemistry lab report includes findings and the data you have collected from the experiment. After the experimental write-up, present the results in this order;
- Amount of final product in grams
- Name of the final product
- The melting point of the final product and its literature value
- The Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy data
- Infrared spectroscopy data
A good result section should include;
- All results found including ones that don’t support the hypothesis
- Statements made should be supported by the results presented.
The results provided are analyzed in the discussion to explain what the data is talking about. All attained values need to be interpreted to determine what is implied by your hypothesis about the purpose of the experiment.
You should also include details on how the experiment can be improved. State any hiccups within the experiment that could have affected the results. List other experiments that can be done to further your findings. Explain the significance of your results. The key points to include in your discussion are;
- Summarize the important results and findings
- Describe patterns, relationships, and principles of each result
- Explain how your results relate to your expectations
- Explain all contradictions, agreements, and exceptions and how to resolve them
- Give theoretical implications of your study, what bigger picture does it cover?
This is similar to the abstract. Briefly describe the information you have laid out in your paper. Talk about the purpose of the experiment and its success. Do not discuss new concepts in the conclusion. Just highlight the key points of your paper for emphasis. To better understand the composition of a conclusion, you can look at a chemistry lab report conclusion example.
These are any other questions you were given by your professor. In this section, you provide the chemistry lab report answers to the given questions. Tackle all questions concerning the experiment results and not your expectations. Your answers in this section should match your discussion in the paper.
At the end of your chemistry lab report, include a reference list for all the published works, books, and journals you have quoted in your paper. Do this by the citation style expected.
Remember to cite the laboratory manual that you used as well. Because this is a chemistry report, the advised reference style would be the American Chemical Society (ACS) reference style. There are guidelines given for these references for chemistry lab reports including;
- The reference list should be compiled at the end of the paper under its topic titled “reference”
- Separate your reference entries using horizontal lines after each
- Your references should be numbered according to the order they appear in the rest of your paper
- Do not forget to double space this section as well
- If you cite the same published work more than once within the text, it still appears once in the reference list
Key editorial issues that will make your lab report stand out
It is easier to achieve these if you have a chemistry lab report template to refer to as you work on your chemistry lab report.
- Your entire report should be written in the past tense, third person, and in the passive voice
- The font size should be reasonable, font size 12 is usually the most recommended
- Your font should be easily readable and official, avoid fonts that are decorative or look like calligraphy
- Use double-spacing when writing your paper even in tables and titles
- Use at least 1-inch margins on all sides of your paper
- Ensure that your pages are numbered, pick a numbering format, top right or bottom center, and keep it consistent
- If an element or symbol comes at the beginning of a sentence or in titles, use its full name and not the symbol
- Proofread the paper multiple times and edit grammatical and structural errors
- You are advised to have someone else read the paper so that they can help you point out the errors
- As you edit, confirm that all your work is consistent and employs uniformity, ensure your fonts are similar, your language is consistent and your work has a good flow
- Assume that the reader is your peer and not a professor, explain everything as if the reader is a regular student and not an expert in chemistry
- Avoid monotony and repetition, use clever ways to start your sentence don’t use the same objective words too many times in your paper
- You should paraphrase other authors when citing their work instead of quoting in a practical science paper, there is no need to directly quote a writer
- Remember to define the technical terms you use in your paper, there will be several uncommon words in your paper, hence the need to define them
- Define abbreviations as well so that the reader is fully aware of what you are talking about in your chemistry lab report
- Ensure your paper follows the format laid out in this article, consult with your professor to know if there are more sections required for your paper
Final remarks on writing chemistry lab reports
As you advance in your education, your assignments are bound to get more complicated and tougher, Chemistry is not an exception. Learning how to write a chemistry lab report may be extremely tasking and exhausting. It is however not impossible.
If you can manage to follow the steps presented above and use the format, you are in a good place with your report.
Do not worry, you can still get the grades you have worked hard for. Remember, practice makes perfect. Keep working on your report writing skills and you will become an expert at it. In case there are parts you are not sure about, have a look at a chemistry lab report sample to help you out.