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Chemistry 247 + 347 + 348: Parts of a Lab Report

This guide is for Dr. Montserrat Rabago-Smith's chemistry classes


Now that you have completed an experiment and have collected all of the necessary information in your lab notebook and any supplementary data from analytical instruments, you need to write up your results in a lab report.  The purpose of writing reports you've performed is to communicate exactly what occurred in an experiment or observation and to clearly discuss the results.


The abstract is a one or two paragraph concise, yet detailed summary of the report. It should contain these four elements:

  • What the objectives of the study were (the central question);
  • Brief statement of what was done (Methods);
  • Brief statement of what was found (Results);
  • Brief statement of what was concluded (Discussion).

Often, the abstract is the last piece of the report written.


This section tells the reader why you did the experiment. Include background information that suggest why the topic is of interest and related findings. It should contain the following:

  • Descriptions of the nature of the problem and summaries of relevant research to provide context and key terms so your reader can understand the experiment.
  • A statement of the purpose, scope, and general method of investigation in your study. Express the central question you are asking.
  • Descriptions of your experiment, hypothesis(es), research questions. Explain what you are proposing for certain obervations.

Experimental (Materials and Methods)

This section should describe all experimental procedures in enough detail so that someone else could repeat the experiment. Some guidelines to follow:

  • Explain the general type of scientific procedure you used to study the problem.
  • Describe what materials, subjects, and equipment you used (Materials).
  • Explain the steps you took in your experiment and how did you proceed (Methods).
  • Mathematical equations and statistical tests should be described.


The results section should present data that you collected from your experiment and summarize the data with text, tables, and/or figures. Effective results sections include:

  • All results should be presented, including those that do not support the hypothesis.
  • Statements made in the text must be supported by the results contained in figures and tables.


The discussion section should explain to the reader the significance of the results and give a detailed account of what happened in the experiment. Evaluate what happened, based on the hypothesis and purpose of the experiment. If the results contained errors, analyze the reasons for the errors. The discussion should contain:

  • Summarize the important findings of your observations.
  • For each result, describe the patterns, principles, relationships your results show. Explain how your results relate to expectations and to references cited. Explain any agreements, contradictions, or exceptions. Describe what additional research might resolve contradictions or explain exceptions.
  • Suggest the theoretical implications of your results. Extend your findings to other situations or other species. Give the big picture: do your findings help us understand a broader topic?


A brief summary of what was done, how, the results and your conclusions of the experiment.  (Similar to the Abstract.)


A listing of published works you cited in the text of your paper listed by author or however the citation style you are using requires the citation to be listed.


Information is from Purdue University's Chemistry Lab Resources Guide

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