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F2: Lab report organization

The most updated lab writing instructional modules are available:

Learning Objectives

After completing this module, the students should be able to bridge from the typical freshman composition course essay’s organization (Introduction, Body, and Conclusion) to the engineering lab report’s typical organization: Introduction-Method-Results-Discussion-Conclusion (IMRDC).

How Does the Engineering Lab Report’s Organization Differ From the Typical Freshman Composition Essay’s Organization?

Typical freshman composition essays are organized in three parts: the introduction (establishes context), the body (findings), and the conclusion (the significance of the findings). Engineering lab reports are organized the same way, but the lab report’s body has three parts: methods, results, and discussion, as shown in the following table.

Typical research paper in humanities and composition courses Typical engineering lab report
Introduction Gets the reader’s attention and provides a specific and debatable thesis statement. Introduction Explains the lab topic and the objectives of
the lab with relevant technical background.
Body Proves the thesis and move along a compelling trajectory from the introduction to the conclusion.
Details the experimentation methods used in
the lab.
Presents the lab data clearly and concisely
using tables and graphs as needed.
Analyzes, interprets and evaluates the lab
Conclusion Summarizes the argument and explains the significance of the argument. Conclusion Summarizes the key findings and their disciplinary significance to meet the lab objectives.

What is the Content and Organization of a Typical Engineering Lab Report?

No one report format fits all possible labs, but the most typical organization of engineering lab reports is Introduction-Method-Results-Discussion-Conclusion (IMRDC). In reports for lab experiments, which have more than one part, the methods-results-discussion sections may be repeated as necessary.

  1. Introduction:

    States the objective of the report (what) and motivation (why) of the lab. States the lab’s hypothesis, assumptions, and constraints, if any. Introduces relevant technical background, scientific theories, and engineering principles.

  2. Methods(Experimental Procedure):

    Provides a detailed description of what was done during the lab. Lists materials, instruments, and software (if any) used. Diagrams and/or photographs of the experimental setup can be included. Cites the lab manual or handout and other sources that describe the methods. After reading this section, the reader should be able to completely reproduce the experiment to verify the results. Details (list of equipment, etc.) may be in the body or as an attachment depending upon desired conciseness of the report.

  3. Results

    Reports the lab’s results. The lab data (raw, processed, and/or analyzed) should be presented in meaningful tables and/or graphs (refer to Module F-4: Data Analysis 1).

  4. Discussion:

    Interprets and contextualizes the lab results. If discrepancies exist, then possible reasons should be discussed. Possible sources of erroneous or unexpected may be discussed. Makes logical appeals using the data shown in the results(referring specifically to each table and figure by number) to lead the audience to the conclusion. (refer to Module F-4: Data Analysis 1).

  5. Conclusion

    Briefly recaps the lab topic and objectives. Does not present new data. Provides a summary of and draws conclusions from the key findings made from the results and discussion sections. Descriptions of the key findings need to be a direct response to the lab objectives. May suggest improvements to the lab and further investigation/future work (refer to Module I-2: Conclusion Writing).

Can Additional Sections be Added to the Organization of the Engineering Lab Report?

Yes, instructors may ask the students to include any of the following additional sections in the report:

  • Title page:

    The lab title or topic, student name or team, date of report, etc.

  • Abstract or Executive Summary:

    One paragraph including lab topic to the conclusion.

  • References:

    The publication details all sources cited in the text, allowing the audience to locate sources quickly and easily. Often, the instructor specifies a preferred reference format, e.g. APA, ASCE, ASME, or IEEE.

  • Attachments/Appendices:

    Attach raw data or other information when they cannot be included in the main body, etc.