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How to Write a Lab Report

February 19, 2019

Writing academic research papers is a must for every psychology degree course. Before writing a report it is necessary to conduct research on human behavior and collect necessary data. Many students face difficulties with selecting research topics for their lab reports, and often attempt to make things even more difficult than they actually are. You can always consult with your supervisor, but if possible, keep it simple by choosing a memory experiment. Also ensure your topic adheres to ethical guidelines. Keep in mind that most often the paper has to be written and formatted in APA style.

How to Write a Lab Report

The Format of Lab Report

As to the lab report format, you should write its title page, abstract, references and appendices sections on separate pages each. There are certain requirements to the formatting: students should use double-line spacing, font size 12 and include numbers of pages. Make sure your report has a thread of argument that links every sentence starting with the introduction and ending with the discussion.

Title Page

It is obvious that here, your aim is to indicate the main topic of your paper. Ensure the title page includes the IV & DV. Avoid formulating the report’s title as a question.

Abstract (should be written last)

This part of the paper has to come at the beginning of the report but should be written at the end. It must provide a brief and clear summary of the report. Make sure it is short, but avoid using a note form. Before you start writing your own abstract, it would be great to look through some journal articles for examples.

Start this section with a one-sentence summary that explains the aim and gives the rationale for the study. Then, introduce the participants and setting, describe the method used in the research work, and provide the main findings. In the last sentence, outline the “contribution to knowledge” of your study. Explain what it all means and refer to the implications of your findings.

Introduction

In this section of your paper, you have to explain where your hypothesis comes from. Make sure you are accurate regarding the way the research outlines the links to the hypothesis of your study.

It is recommended to start this section with general theory, shortly introducing the topic. Then, narrow it down to a specific theory and research. It would be enough to refer to two or three relevant studies that logically lead to your aims and hypotheses. Make sure there is a logical progression of ideas, which improves the flow of your paper. Be precise and selective. Do not include anything that seems irrelevant.

Do not turn this part into an essay. Do not include all the details in this section.

You should realize that the aims do not just appear from nowhere; the preceding literature review must logically lead to this part. Devote a separate paragraph to explain what you are about to investigate and why. It is recommended to refer to the previously cited research, which should help explain your expectations. Later you have to formally state them as the hypotheses. However, keep in mind that aims are not the same as the hypotheses. You also have to state the alternate hypothesis, which should be plain, precise and include the variables under research.

Method

So, how to write a lab report method section? First, presume the reader does not have any knowledge of what you did. Make sure he or she is able to replicate your research using exactly what you write in this part of the paper. Provide enough detail to replicate your experiment – be brief and clear. Avoid explaining or justifying in this section, just report what you did. This section should be written in past tense.

Use the following subheadings in this section of your paper:

Design
Here, your goal is to indicate the experimental design, to describe the independent variables, and to present various conditions. While writing about the dependent variables, check again whether they are put into use. Also, write about each used control method.

Participants
Indicate the target population and type of sample. Also, explain the way you received the sample. Provide such relevant details as the amount, age range, etc.

Materials
In this part, tell the reader which materials you used in your research, including computer equipment, surveys, word lists, etc. There is no necessity to describe all used materials – instead you can include a “sensible” level of detail.

Procedure
In this section of your lab report, describe in detail the procedure you followed while carrying out the research. Describe everything briefly and clearly and avoid insignificant details.

Results
Here, you should provide the descriptive statistics and the inferential one. Omit interpreting the results as this has to be included in the discussion. Your results must be presented in a precise and clear manner. You may want to use a table to display descriptive statistics so that it is easier to understand.

Avoid including any raw data. Instead, include the following information: the kind of statistical test, clarification of whether or not a considerable difference was found, the effect size, the mean diversity, and 95% confidence intervals.

Discussion
In the discussion part of your lab report, outline your findings in plain English. Avoid any statistical jargon. Relate the results you received to the hypothesis you had made earlier. Clarify whether it is supported or rejected. Then, compare the results of your research to background materials you have presented in the introduction. Explain whether your results are similar or not and discuss why.

Prove how confident the reader can be in the results. Indicate limitations if there are any. If you have found a reliable effect make sure to suggest limitations very carefully as you may be doubting your results. Unless you consider any confounding variable that is able to explain the outcome instead of the IV, leave the section out.

Offer practical ways which you think could invest to your study. Write about the implications of your findings and their significance for the way people behave in the everyday life. Provide an idea for further research. It should be something in the similar area, but not an improved version of your study. You may want to base it on the limitations of your research.

Finish this section with a statement of your findings and main points of the discussion in several sentences.

References
Here, you just have to provide a list of all sources cited in the research paper. You have to include them in the alphabetical order. Remember that the references section is not the same as a bibliography, which is a list of books used in the research. Simply put, each time you refer to a certain psychologist, you must reference the original source of the information.

If you have been using textbooks in your study, it would be easy to write the references section because the references are usually at the back of the book so that students can just copy them down. If you have been using the Internet, then you may face certain difficulties, as many websites do not provide a reference section to copy.

Also, you have to remember that references must be set out APA style. One of the simplest ways to write this section is to use Google scholar.

All you have to do is to type the name and date of the author in the search box and click on the ‘cite’ link. Then, just copy the reference to your references section of the report.

Writing a lab report is quite a complicated task, which requires much time, effort and specific knowledge. However, with the help of our guideline you will likely manage it with less difficulty. Just make sure to keep concentrated on your work and check everything carefully. Good luck!

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