The Laboratory Report
Your job as an engineer will often require you to interpret the results of laboratory tests. You will often be asked to deliver your results and interpretations in the form of a formal report. Through such reports, your managers, laboratory directors, and other professional colleagues will learn from what you have done, and they will form their opinions of you. You will want them to trust your judgment to design and carryout experiments, conduct tests, select the most pertinent findings and to present those findings in clear and concise language.
ChE 253M has a “substantial writing component” and one major goal of the class is to how to write a professional laboratory report. Our goal in this undertaking is to teach you how to produce a professional engineering report that would be acceptable to any manager or agency. You should leave this course with the ability to produce a report that you can be confident to submit and one that you can modify and adapt for any application.
Write the bulk of your laboratory report in the 3rd person. Use the past tense, except to describe equipment, to express facts that are always true or describe products that still exist. Avoid use of personal pronouns. The abstract of the report is to be written in active voice For a passive/active voice tutorial and a self-test, see the class web site. More writing guidelines are available on the communications on web site and in the FAQs section but the applicable formatting rules for 253M are those provided here.
The laboratory report has 10 sections:
1. Front Matter
The front matter includes a title page, a table of contents, a list of tables, and a list of figures.
The abstract is a very important part of the report and the section most commonly read. It is a condensation of the subject matter. It gives a quantitative summary of your procedure, results, and conclusions. Read more on how to write a good abstract.
The introduction answers the question: What were your goals? A good introduction also clearly states the purpose or objectives of the undertaking, summarizes the basic approach to the problem and gives an overview of the procedures. The introduction may also include pertinent information about background and previous work.
The methods section answers the questions: What was measured? How was it measured? What was the theoretical basis of the experiment?
This section briefly describes the apparatus and the procedures used to carry out the experiment. A discussion of the theory should also be included. There is no need to restate the procedure published in the laboratory handout. You are free to reference that document and simply describe any differences between that published procedure and what you actually did when you collected the data that you will report.
5. Sample Calculations
This section should answer the question: How were these data reduced and analyzed to provide answers. List the equations that represent the theoretical result and apply the analysis to a representative piece of your data. The reader will refer to this section to learn how the data were reduced and how the quantitative results were derived. This section is to represent the result of a group effort in all of your reports and it can be identical in the reports of each member of your group. With the exception of the first report, which is to be completed in its entirety as a group project, this is the end of the group effort. All subsequent sections, all graphs and figures, etc. are to be generated soley by the individual who is the author of the report.
The results section answers the questions: What data were collected? The results section is a discussion that links your data analysis to your conclusions. It develops conclusions with reference to the figures, graphs, and tables of your analysis.
The safety section answers the question: What safety issues need to be considered when carrying out this procedure. Each of the ChE 253M experiments has some unique and important safety issues that need to be considered and there are some safety issues that are common to several of the experiments.
The conclusions and recommendations section answers the questions: What were the tasks? What were the most important conclusions and recommendations developed from each task?
The results section has already stated the report’s conclusions, but they are buried in the discussion. This final section re-presents them succinctly so that they are accessible to someone reading quickly. The quantitative results should also appear in the abstract.
The text should cite all sources used, including the lab handout. References should be listed at the end of the appendix, using APA format. There are several on line applications that will generate a reference list for you. NoodleBiB (UT Library) is one example. However, these applications are not always up to date and they are not “fool proof”. Examples of correct formatting of references are provided in the “X-Files” document that you were given on the first day of class. This document is also posted on the class web site. Your assignment is to report the references in APA format. The best thing to do is go straight to the source for instructions. Listed below is a link to a website tutorial provided by the American Psychological Association
The appendices of the laboratory report generally include raw data, perhaps a fuller description of the apparatus, fuller descriptions of the procedure, derivations of theory, and any unique assignments specified by your instructor.
Laboratory Reports vary in length depending on the type of experiment that was carried out. They typically contain between 1500-3000 words of text, from the “Introduction” through the “Conclusions/Recommendations.” This is not a word “limit”; it is a guide. If your 253M report is 6000 words long, you are definitely being too verbose. Conversely, it is unlikely that you can write a professional report for the 253M experiment in less than 1000 words! The number of pages will also vary, depending on how many figures and tables you include. The final version of the laboratory report should be single-spaced.
Template for the Laboratory Report Download 2015 version
Follow the Laboratory Report template in preparing your assignment. Instructions are in square brackets [like this]. If you cut-and-paste your writing onto a template, it helps if you (1) save a copy of your work as “text only,” and (2) transfer the “text only” version to the template. This way, you avoid importing new formatting.
The ChE 253M reports must be bound prior to submission. Low cost binding service is available in the AiChE chapter office in CPE 2.706A.
Lab reports are due at 1:00 PM on the day that your team meets to do the next experiment. This means that you will have two and sometimes three weeks to write the report. To Late reports will not be accepted and will earn a grade of zero! Graded reports will be returned to you two weeks from the day they are turned in, or your next scheduled class day, whichever is later. In order to allow you to get feedback on your performance, we will make every attempt to return your first lab report early, within ten days after it is turned in.
Please turn in one bound copy of the report and send a digital copy of the report as an e-mail attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org. [Note that this is NOT the email address you should use to communicate with Prof. Willson. This address is used ONLY to collect digital copies of the reports] The file should be in the MSWord format (.docx or .doc file type). Please enter your information into the subject line of your e-mail IN THIS EXACT COMMA-SEPARATED FORMAT: Last name, first name, UT EID, Experiment #. These files will be processed by plagiarism search software