It is important to write your lab reports correctly for any number of reasons. For one, it is the only way for other people to have a sense of what you have done and how you did it. Secondly, correct grammar and syntax will make your experiments clearer to examine and critique of background data such as laboratory reports and worksheets for exposure records should be kept for less than 1 year. Lastly, wrong grammar and syntax can potentially lead to being marked down with a zero on science fairs or having your experiments rejected by journals, which will only serve as an impediment in achieving these goals.
1. Grammar and Formatting
Your grammar and formatting should be very similar to that of a scientific paper. In fact, if you are writing your lab report on a word processor such as Word, you can set it up for the scientific format so that the margins and line spacing are correct. Proper grammar is crucial to clearly communicate your ideas. You may find that there is some variation in rules of grammar from school to school or from teacher to teacher on how your teachers have taught you grammatical principles up until this point. I strongly recommend that you keep the following principles in mind when composing your lab reports:
• Use sentences, not paragraphs
Although they are more difficult to read and analyze, if you write a lab report as a paragraph, it will be much easier for the teacher to mix things up and make your work seem much less coherent than it actually is. Your teacher will probably put a lot of time into reading each sentence of your report so that every word is correct before moving on to the next sentence. If you leave these kinds of errors in your report, this makes difficult readability problems appear all over.
• Use proper verb tenses and punctuation
This is one of the most important aspects of writing a scientific paper. You will have a hard time explaining what you did if your sentences are not grammatically correct. When we read academic papers in our classes, on the other hand, we often find ourselves checking all of these points.
I recommend that you do not use contractions when writing your lab reports out so that you do not run into any difficulties with the grammar rules that I just listed to avoid confusion and errors in spelling. Do not be concerned about using contractions such as “can’t” or “didn’t” because they are only used very rarely among students or scientists in general.
• Use semicolons and commas
When you describe the experiments you did in your lab report, it is important to be precise when using these punctuation marks. For example, if you are describing how you spiked your samples with different colored dyes to see how they would affect the number of bacteria isolated in a plate, it is helpful to describe which strain of bacteria was tested. Therefore, I recommend that you include information such as strain name or species abbreviation and not just a single number like “Amp” or “WT” so that your teacher can more easily understand what exactly is being described.
2. When to Use Quotation Marks
You should use quotation marks for any sentences that you have taken from a reference source. If, for example, you are reviewing the protocol of an experiment and quoting it directly, it is important that you put quotes around that sentence. This will show readers exactly what text is from your reference source and what text is your own writing. If you are describing a sentence that combines both your own ideas with text from a reference source, you should place quotation marks around the entire sentence rather than just the few words in your own writing.
3. When to Use Italics
Italicize any terms or words that are italicized or bolded in a reference source such as scientific journals or textbooks. If your teacher has already defined a term, then you do not need to define it again. However, if it is not a commonly used word or a scientific term like “eugenics”, then you may have to explain what the role of that term is in the context of your report.
4. Where to Place Spelling Errors
I recommend that you leave spelling errors in your report and point them out to your teacher during the editing phase of writing it. This way, you can avoid having your teacher mark up your paper with dozens of misspelled words. We will go into more detail about how spelling errors should be handled later on in this article.
5. Formatting of Numbers
If you are using a scientific software like Excel, then numbers that are too large for the number lines (e.g. greater than 1,000 or less than 0) should be formatted with a plus sign or minus sign and not rounded to the nearest integer when printing the paper. If you are using a scientific word processor such as Word, you will have more control over formatting your numbers and they can be placed in more precise points on the number line.
6. Lab Reports: How Indentation Should Be Used
One of the most important parts of writing a lab report is indentation, which is essentially where your sentences begin. You should start each sentence on a new line and move it to the right an extra space so that it has some space between it and the sentence before it. This makes the sentences easier to read, especially if you are using a template so that they are the same length.
If you write a long paragraph, you may need to indent both that paragraph and the first paragraph of your report. The reason for this is that we want to make your report very easy to read from top to bottom rather than in big blocks. You may also want to indent between your methods and results sections so that there is less confusion about where one section ends and where another begins.
While writing a lab report is not difficult, it is important that you have the right setup in order to do it properly. Make sure to observe the rules of grammar when writing your lab report and make sure to leave your spelling errors in so that they will be pointed out by your teacher during the editing phase. You may also want to format numbers with a plus sign or minus sign so that they line up with the number line on your computer screen or printer when you print out your lab report.