Communicating as an Engineer

General Format of a Lab Report

Some Lab Reports may be as simple as jotting down your results onto a piece of paper. Other reports are actual forms, requiring you to fill in blanks with the requested information. And still other reports are lengthy documents that include an Introduction and various other sections.

Title

A Lab Report typically includes a title clearly identifying the lab. A title should be descriptive and accurate, but not wordy, verbose or too terse. And, of course, you should always include your name and the date on a title page, as well as any other information identifying the lab.

Abstract

The abstract is a brief summary of the report. It typically ranges from 50 to 150 words, depending on the report’s length. Abstracts can be organized in a number of ways. A typical organizational pattern presents the objective of the experiment, briefly lists the procedures that were followed, and briefly reports the key findings. Depending on the importance of the findings, some abstracts report the results first.

Equipment

Readers may expect, and require, a list of all the equipment used in a test. This list includes the equipment's name, as well as the equipment's number. Listing your equipment ensures that you use the same piece of equipment throughout a test.

Check with your instructor to determine whether or not this information should be included and where. You may need to provide a separate "Equipment" heading or include this information within the "Procedures."

Procedures

Here is where you document everything you did during a test or experiment. In a way, this section is like a recipe because you present the exact steps you followed. In fact, someone should be able to read your procedures section and imitate the test or experiment exactly. More than likely, you’ll also incorporate graphics here to help describe exactly what procedures you followed.

Results

In this section, you report the test's outcome(s). Here, tell your readers what the test measured with exact data. You might also include calculations or equations. This section may or may not include data interpretations. Some readers expect interpretations, or conclusions, to be a separate heading. Check with your instructor for what to include in your results.

Conclusions

In the conclusions, you comment on the outcomes of a test. Here, you might also speculate about the implications of the results or even about the methods used to obtain the results. Some readers may not expect conclusions. For example, engineers reading a report may interpret, or make conclusions, about the results themselves. Typically, as a student, however, you may need to interpret, or make recommendations about, the results for your readers.

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Introduction