Week Four of SSC Academics

Lab Reports 101

Photo of a student writing.

Hi Marauder,

Today’s post forced me to step outside of my comfort zone! Science is different than what I’m used to, and so too are lab reports. That being said, I know that lab reports will be very common for many of you, and I want to give you any tips that I can to help you succeed!

I asked a professor in the Department of Biology and an upper year Science student a few questions about lab reports, and this is what they said:

Dr. Lovaye Kajiura, Ph.D., Associate Professor (Department of Biology)

How should a student approach their lab reports? What is the first step?

  • It is strongly recommended that students review their lab calendar (schedule) and review the lab instructions in advance of attending their labs. It is very important that students come prepared for their labs. Students should make a plan of tasks to be completed before they arrive to their lab. If they have any questions, they should contact the lab coordinator or their lab TA for assistance in advance of the lab.

What is the most common mistake students make when submitting a lab report?

  • Students should be “time on task” in completing their lab reports. Ensure that you are properly allocating enough time to complete your lab report (avoid procrastination).┬áCommon mistake that some students may make is underestimating the time needed to write up the lab report. The report needs to be complete and should include all of the required components.

What makes a submission stand out?

  • A good lab report is well-organised, well-written, and completely answers the posed lab questions and instructions.

What makes university lab reports different from what students might have seen in high school?

  • University lab reports are longer in length and more formal in comparison to high school. Knowing the fundamentals of the scientific process will assist you with both the qualitative and quantitative components of laboratories. Students will learn a diverse array research skills in university that will prepare them for their future laboratory positions. Enjoy your lab experiences : )

Annie Wang, Life Science

How should a student approach their lab reports? What is the first step?

  • Reread your guidelines/instructions and ensure that you have a plan to follow them carefully.
  • Organise your data and construct any graphs and charts early on. This takes the most time, so it is a good idea to start early. This will also show you trends and patterns, which will lead you to what you will write about.
  • Read peer reviewed papers in the same field of research so that when you discuss your results you can refer to secondary material.
  • Have someone double check your work because your argument and points might seem clear to you but not to other people.

What is the most common mistake students make when submitting a lab report?

  • Starting too late! Lab reports can take longer than you think, so you should give yourself as much time to work on them as possible. Also, if you have any confusion or uncertainty, this will allow you to seek clarity from your professor.

What makes university lab reports different from what students might have seen in high school?

  • There is likely a more rigid structure; professors are looking for very specific things!
  • Now we might start to overthink it. Remember to follow the rubric and know that this work isn’t as daunting as you might think.

I hope this has been helpful, Marauder! One of the most important things to know–and this is true of assignments other than lab reports–is that it is important to be very mindful of instructions and ensure that you are following them. When we make assumptions instead of following directions, we run the risk of not communicating what we are expected to. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, the last in this years SSC Academics Online Series!

Sincerely,

Emily

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: DO YOU FEEL PREPARED TO APPROACH UNIVERSITY LAB REPORTS? IS THERE ANYTHING THAT WOULD HELP YOU FEEL MORE PREPARED?

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What should my lab report look like? Where should I start? What structure should I follow? Check out Lab Reports 101 for the answers to these questions!

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