HOW TO WRITE UP A FORMAL LAB – Instructions and Sample
Note: This is an oversimplified example, designed to just communicate the basic idea. Your lab write-ups will be more detailed and will included drawings as well.
When creating an entry for your Main Lesson Book that is required to be in ‘Lab Write-Up Format’ you will need to include the following aspects:
- Introduction (purpose, original observations/question, and hypothesis if applicable)
- Observations and Data
PLEASE NOTE: All ‘FORMAL Lab Write-Up’ entries MUST BE TYPED.
- Usually the title is given in class, otherwise make one up that succinctly describes the experiment.
EX. Banana Slip Experiment
- State in a sentence or two the overall purpose of the experiment. Include any background information that would help someone to understand the context surrounding the experiment.
- The question to answer is: “Why are you doing this particular experiment?” and “What are the primary phenomena you are trying to explore?” Document any original observations that give rise to these questions.
- State your hypothesis (if applicable) that you are trying to test. Sometimes you don’t have an explicit hypothesis and you are just performing a particular procedure to ‘see what happens’.
EX. This experiment is designed to test whether or not a passer-by will slip on some banana peels placed on a slick tile floor.
- List all materials used, and any pertinent information about the materials as well.
- The question here is: “What are the things involved in the experiment?”
EX. 1 long hallway with 90° turn. Tiled.
5 banana peels, fresh
1 unsuspecting passer-by
- Explain how the materials are set up in relation to each other, and what you did with the materials so that any other reasonably intelligent person could fully re-create your experiment. Include a drawing of the setup. DO NOT tell “what happened” when you performed the experiment, just explain how it was set up and the steps needed to run the experiment. “What happened” goes in section 3, observations.
- The question is: “How are the materials set up in relation to each other?” and “What did you actually do with the materials?”
EX. The banana peels were placed in the middle of the tiled floor just around the corner of the hallway, making sure to keep as much of the inside of the peel in contact with the ground as possible. I then waited until an unsuspecting passer-by walked down the hallway and made contact with the banana peels, and observed what happened.
- Observations and Data
- State exactly “what happened” when the experiment was performed. Tell only what you observed with your senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, etc). DO NOT speculate on “why” something occurred, simply state the facts as they were observed. If you have direct technical data (measurements), please record the data in a table that is clearly labeled. Include drawings (with labels) and graphs (with labels) if they help communicate the facts.
EX. At 5:02pm a passer-by started walking down the hall. The person turned the corner and stepped on one of the banana peels. The person slipped a little but quickly regained balance, and immediately noticed me observing nearby. The person approached and glared at me, then walked off. The banana peels left sticky trails on the tile where they had been stepped on.
- Here is where you can “interpret” and explain your results. Include any ideas on why you observed what you did, and any ways you could improve the experiment by noting sources of error. In particular, include any unexpected, unusual, or important aspects, as well as reasons why your hypothesis was or was not accurate. This section will be based primarily on in-class discussion carried out on the following day, and you should include much of the in-class discussion in your own lab write-up.
EX. The person slipped a little because when trying to move forward while stepping on the banana peels, they could not gain much traction. This happened because the banana peels reduced the friction between the peel and the floor, so that instead of remaining in one place, the peel slid across the floor in a direction opposite to the direction in which the person was trying to move. Because the person had two legs, it was possible for the person to stabilize himself with his other leg. Additionally, the person seemed to suspect that I had purposefully placed the peels there, and gave me a dirty look. I think I could have made the slip-factor increase if I had let the peels sit for a few days, to get more mushy. I could also use many more peels, perhaps getting the person to step on one with each foot. One source of error was that the walking speed of the person could not be controlled. I suspect that the faster they walk, the more likely it is that they will slip.
- Here is where you sum up the major conclusion of the whole lab in one or two sentences. In other words, state here the most important thing that we learned.
EX. The banana peels did not make the person fall, but the banana peel did cause some slipping to occur.