A lab report is the formal write-up of an experiment. They tend to be written for a specialist audience (University of Southampton 2002).
Lab reports can fulfil a wide range of purposes. The following table summarizes a few essential ones:
To communicate your ideas and progress
A well written report can help you to show what you have accomplished,as well as, to communicate with your team effectively
To meet academic and professional expectations
Submitting lab reports is part of your academic assessment, it will also be an invaluable tool when moving into your professional role
To assist in the scientific process
Writing lab reports will help you sharpen the necessary skills at the heart of the scientific process, such as scientific inquiry, scientific method or scientific communication to name just a few.
Task: Lab reports have several sections, and each section has its own communicative purpose. What is the purpose of each section?
As you have seen in the introductory quiz, writing a good lab report helps you engage with the scientific method. As you probably remember, the scientific method relies on proposing a hypothesis, testing your hypothesis and assessing your findings to determine whether your hypothesis was correct or not.
As you have also explored, lab reports follow a fixed format. This format is known as IMRD:
These are the key sections that you are very likely to encounter in any lab report. However, it is always worth checking your department guidelines, as some departments merge the background and rationale and aims section in the introduction. You may also be expected to write a short conclusion.