Guide for Complete Lab Reports

One of the goals of this class is to fine-tune your laboratory and field sampling skills as appropriate for the handling of environmental samples. Another goal is to ensure that students learn how to present the results of their work in a research context. This doesn't mean writing extended lab reports but rather having structure and attention to relevant detail. This is a "team-taught" class by several different researchers each of who has developed their own unique style to writing and reporting that has become widely accepted in the peer-reviewed literature. You will have the opportunity during this course to explore these styles and perhaps, by the end of the course, you will have developed your own that will help you become a proficient researcher.

Listed below is the general template for how you should approach the presentation of your report. Individual lab assignments will include specific details that the tailored report should address. Please read these in advance so that you can clarify the expectations with your lecturer before you start writing your laboratory reports. The instructor will indicate if the report should be submitted in hard copy or electronically.

Instructions for writing reports

The report should be well organized, neat, and be written using succinct but effective English. Your grade will depend both on the technical content of and the quality of your work and on the quality of your writing.

The report should address the following points:

Introduction – Put your work in context. Briefly summarize the purpose of the lab with enough detail for  a reader outside the class to understand. Explain why the work is relevant. State the objectives. (10 points)

Methods – Briefly describe what you did. Do not give too much detail here unless your work departed from what we have outlined here. Do not repeat what is in the handout. (10 points)

Results – Present tabulated results from each determination as appropriate. If figures are requested or will enhance your report, ensure that they, like the tables, have numbers, titles, labels, and units which can be referred to in your text or which have sufficient detail that they can be understood if they are stand-alone. If generating and presenting your report electronically (which depends on the individual lab instructions) include all calculations and formulae in the spreadsheet cells. In both hardcopy and electronic formats explain the calculations used to generate data in tables and figures. Estimate the precision of your measurements when possible. (30 points)

Discussion – Where requested, calculate the accuracy and precision associated with your measurements describing any documentation, assumptions,  or calculation procedures used to make them. Consider the sources of the errors and what could be done to minimize them. Answer the questions specific to the lab assignment. (40 points)

Summary – What are the most important lessons you learned here that might be valuable to others and what are the implications for environmental  application? (10 points)

Your report must not exceed five typed pages (except where otherwise stated on the individual lab instructions), including all figures, tables, and appendices.

Reports that exceed the defined page limit are unacceptable and will be returned ungraded.

The report should have a separate cover page that lists your name, the date, and a title.