By: Tory Dockree, Tabatha May, and Emily Meilleur-Rivers
We asked a professor in the Department of Biology and an upper-year Science student a few questions about lab reports. This is what they had to say.
Dr. Lovaye Kajiura, Ph.D., Associate Professor (Department of Biology)
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.
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). A common mistake that some students may make is underestimating the time needed to write up the lab report. The report needs to be completed and should include all of the required components.
A good lab report is well-organized, well-written, and completely answers the posed lab questions and instructions.
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 of research skills in university that will prepare them for their future laboratory positions. Enjoy your lab experiences.
Annie Wang, Life Science
- Re-read your guidelines/instructions and ensure that you have a plan to follow them carefully.
- Organize 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.
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.
- 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.
We hope this has been helpful! 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.
About Tory, Tabatha and Emily
I’m going into my third year of Arts & Science with a combination in Philosophy.
I’m going into my fourth year of Social Psychology with a minor in Sociology.
I just finished my undergrad in English and Cultural Studies with a Minor in Women’s Studies. In September, I am sticking around at Mac to start my Master’s in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory.