The Study Hub Blog is the home for study skills resources and support with student life for all taught students at the University of Edinburgh, from first year Undergraduates to taught Postgraduates.
 
Tips for lab reports

Tips for lab reports

We asked a few STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students at our University for top tips on writing a good lab report. This post highlights what they have told us. 

 

What do you think makes a good lab report? 

  • “A good report in my opinion has to be straightforward and not too repetitive. You also have to make sure that you link everything to the aim of the report and don’t diverge too much from it” 

Civil Engineering student 

 

What’s the best way to structure a lab report? 

  • “I think the most important thing is to be clear and concise—your results need to be reproducible, so writing down everything you’ve done clearly and without going off on tangents is essential.  

For the structure of my lab reports, I divide it into four sections:  

  1. Introduction – for any background knowledge, the aims of your experiment and all the equations you’ll be using when analysing your data.
  2. Methods – listing the equipment you used, detailing everything you did when setting up the experiment and collecting data.
  3. Data analysis and discussion – going through the process of data analysis, deriving your results, discussing what your findings mean, comparing your results to literature values, discussing any possible sources of error in your experiment.
  4. Conclusion – recapping the aims of the experiment and repeating your key findings.”

-Astrophysics student 

  • “Start by writing the header for each section and then bullet point the things you want to put in each section, e.g. statements, data, theory. You can then pad it out later. This helps avoid unnecessary information and waffling.” 

-Civil Engineering student 

  • “Sometimes you don’t need to write out full paragraphs – just complete bullet points are enough. A lot of the time you will be given guidance by your course organisers/ lecturers, which will tell you what structure to follow – pay attention to that, as it’s crucial to a good report.” 

-Civil Engineering student 

From us at Study Hub: Remember to always read all the information and guidance you have been provided with, as the structure and what exactly you have to include in your report may differ both between disciplines and between assignments. If you’re unsure of anything, ask your tutors or lecturers for clarification and guidance. 

 

Do you have any other tips or advice for writing a good lab report? 

  • “Make sure you start relatively early”  

Chemical Engineering student 

From us at Study Hub: starting early and having enough time to proofread and edit your work (even a couple of times) is a good idea no matter if you’re working on a lab report, essay or any other written assignment. 

  • “Make sure that all the information you include is accurate and be well-organised.” 

-Electrical and Electronic Engineering student 

  • “I’d recommend someone writing their first lab report to keep a lab notebook, even if it’s not required. This means that you won’t start writing your report, only to realise you don’t remember half of what you did in the lab.” 

Astrophysics student 

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