Lab reports: method & materials

time to complete: 20 minutes

Let’s look at the method and materials section. It should accurately describe the steps you followed to conduct your experiment along with materials and equipment used. This section should allow other researchers to duplicate your experiment. Therefore, think of this section as telling a story; your narrative needs to be logically organised.

Remember to use tables and graphs when necessary to quickly convey complex information. Make sure that you use your tables and figures have a legend, that is words below a graph that describe or explain it.

Task 4: Before we look at the methods and materials section of a lab report, which tense do you expect to find: past simple or present? Do you think the author will use the active or the passive form? Have a think and then complete the task below.

Figure 1. Apparatus for applying load to bungee cord and measuring deflection.

Adapted from Beagles et al. (no date)

Method & materials: language

Task 5: Read the method and materials section of the lab report again and identify words/phrases that refer to

  • the materials/equipment
  • the methods
  • the procedure (order of steps)
Reveal answer
Hide answer

The apparatus was set up as shown in Figure 1. A piece of bungee cord was hung from a loading frame and a 50 g mass carrier was attached to the bottom end of the cord. A measuring scale was then attached to the loading frame, and adjusted so that the bottom edge of the mass was aligned with a zero reading on the scale

Masses were then added to the carrier in increments of 50 g and 100 g until a total of 1100 g was attached to the cord. As each mass was applied, the position of the bottom edge of the mass carrier was measured on the scale and recorded

The mass was then reduced to 250 g and the cord stretched slightly downwards and released. This allowed the cord and mass to behave as a spring-mass system, exhibiting simple harmonic motion. The time taken for four oscillations to occur was measured using a stop watch and recorded.

The apparatus was set up as shown in Figure 1. A piece of bungee cord was hung from a loading frame and a 50 g mass carrier was attached to the bottom end of the cord. A measuring scale was then attached to the loading frame, and adjusted so that the bottom edge of the mass was aligned with a zero reading on the scale

Masses were then added to the carrier in increments of 50 g and 100 g until a total of 1100 g was attached to the cord. As each mass was applied, the position of the bottom edge of the mass carrier was measured on the scale and recorded

The mass was then reduced to 250 g and the cord stretched slightly downwards and released. This allowed the cord and mass to behave as a spring-mass system, exhibiting simple harmonic motion. The time taken for four oscillations to occur was measured using a stop watch and recorded.

Highlights:

  • the materials/equipment
  • the methods
  • the procedure (order of steps)

 

Final word

As you can see, enough information has been provided to understand the figure. There is also a figure legend below it. Its purpose is to concisely describe the figure. We will do some practice writing a legend in the results section.

Figure 1. Apparatus for applying load to bungee cord and measuring deflection.