Guide on How to Write an APA Lab Report

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Updated Oct 06, 2021
Guide on How to Write an APA Lab Report

It is believed that science students do not need writing skills. And it is wrong. Scientists do spend a lot of time in laboratories, or at a computer. But they also record data, draw conclusions, share their research, and explain hypotheses.

This is why you will face various writing assignments during the study. For example, with a laboratory report.

This is a presentation of the original results of an experiment carried out in a laboratory setting. There are several sections according to the format (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.). So, when you have an assignment to write a laboratory report, check with the professor which style he prefers.

Most likely it will be APA, which stands for American Psychological Organization. You should meet all requirements to provide an A-grade paper, so be attentive. We’ve prepared actionable tips to help you succeed with this assignment!

Lab Report Essentials

Title Page

The title page provides basic information about your experiment. It should include:

  • A running head;
  • Page number;
  • A definition of running head;
  • Article title.

A running head and page number are located in the upper right corner. The title of the article should include an indication of the author and the organization. A running head should appear flush left in all uppercase letters.

From the very first page, you can see that formatting is not the easiest thing. It involves a lot of detail you should consider getting a good grade. Let’s delve deeper and understand the purpose of other lab report essentials.

What Should Be Your Title?

The title is a short description of the essence of your paper. Try to use no more than 10 words to describe the essence of your experiment. Example title: "Code Switching In Sequential Bilingualism:" Ideally, you should start it not with an article like "The" or "A", but with a keyword.

When thinking over the title, consider the fact that you know your paper well and understand it. But your audience is not. If you have difficulty with this step, practice coming up with different names. Brainstorming is a good strategy if you need to develop creative ideas in a short time. Set a word limit and identify key ones that you should use.

Introduction or Purpose

Usually, the introduction is one short paragraph that explains the goals and objectives of your research.

The first thing you should do when preparing an introduction is to write a hypothesis. It should be one sentence. Explain why you decided to conduct this experiment, you consider it important and significant.

You can also add background information, a short description of the laboratory experiment, a summary of the results and conclusions.

5 Steps to Write the Introduction Section

  1. Briefly introduce your topic and define the key terms you will be using.
  2. Explain the theoretical background to an audience that is not as well-versed as you.
  3. Summarize previous research from this field. What purpose did they have? Who participated in this experiment? What results have been found? What do they mean? Do they correspond to the theoretical basis?
  4. Explain the importance of your experiment. It may be filling a gap in the literature or helping to break down limitations imposed by previous research.
  5. Determine your goals and hypothesis. Readers should get a thorough understanding of what you plan to research. Also prepare a forecast of the results and make sure it is short and clear.

Methods

Your next task is to describe the steps you took in the lab in more detail.

This section should be detailed enough. Imagine that you are creating it for people who are going to replicate your experiment. Most likely, they do not have the same knowledge as you and therefore need clear instructions. When you've prepared the Methods section, read it again and make sure it looks like a manual. Remember that some things may look understandable for you, but your audience will be confused because of the lack of information.

The Methods section consists of the next subsections:

Participants

If your research involves participants, you need to write about them. Indicate their number, as well as all demographic data important for the project. These are usually gender, age range, ethnicity, standard deviation.

In this subsection, you also need to tell about how you got the sample. It can be simple random, systematic, stratified, or cluster.

Design

The experimental design is the way you create different groups of participants. There are 3 main types of design:

  • repeated measures
  • independent groups
  • matched pairs.

You may be using the simplest method for planning the experiment and divide the participants into an experimental group and a control group. But now your task is to decide exactly how you will divide the sample between these groups. Label the independent and dependent variables, name the different levels and conditions. And also indicate what controls you’ve used. This can be control of extraneous variables, balancing, etc.

Materials

Using any materials for your research, you need to have a list of them at hand. Remember that your paper can be read by people who want to reproduce the same project.

List all materials as well as measures. For example, you can indicate the name of the questionnaire, whether it has been adapted, etc.

When preparing the report, it is not obligatory to include full replication of materials. Better take care of a reasonable level of detail. For example, you can show several questions from a questionnaire. Another aspect you need to include is reliability (e.g. alpha values) for the measure (s).

Procedure

This sub-section of the report contains all the steps that other researchers need to do to replicate your experiment.

You need to describe the procedure as accurately as possible, mentioning all the steps that you followed. Make sure you do it briefly but in detail. Skip some trivial details if they don't matter.

Developing the Procedure section, assume that the readers are unaware of the specifics of your research. This is why it is important to provide them with the right amount of data.

Use the past tense. And don't explain why you preferred this or that sampling method. Your task is to provide information, not justify it.

Data

You need to prepare a table with numerical data obtained in the laboratory and recorded during the experiment.

Again, just present the facts, there is no need to interpret their meaning at the moment.

Results

The results section usually contains descriptive and output statistics. What do you need to do:

  • indicate mean values, standard deviations, confidence intervals;
  • name the statistical text;
  • provide statistics, i.e. t-scores, p values;
  • indicate the value;
  • indicate the direction of the result.

You can choose not to report the size of the effect. Make sure you present the results concisely and clearly and do not begin to interpret them. Get rid of any raw data if you included it. As you prepare this section, keep the style requirements in mind, which you must strictly adhere to.

Discussion or Analysis

Discussion or Analysis is a very important section for your readers, therefore, it is important to grasp its essence. If the Date consists of numbers, now you need to provide the calculations that you made using these numbers. This is the place to interpret the data and determine if the hypothesis has been accepted. If you made some mistakes during the experiment, you can also describe them in this section. See if you have any ideas on how you could make this project better. Describe them here.

7 Steps to Come Up With the Discussion Section

  1. Present your findings in simple language without statistical jargon. Answer whether your hypothesis was supported or rejected.
  2. Take a look at the lab report example or ask your professor to provide you with several good samples. You’ll see how do other researchers work with their audience. Notice their style, tone of voice, wording, etc. But don’t copy other approaches because it will distract you from developing a unique paper with your fresh ideas.
  3. Go back to the original materials from the introduction and compare your results with them. If you see any similarities or differences, explain them.
  4. Think about whether you can be confident in your results. How confident are you? If any limitations can explain your result, describe them. But be very careful if your project has shown reliable results. You'd better omit these details if you find it difficult to come up with some confusing variables.
  5. List some constructive ways that you can improve your report.
  6. Are your findings important to people outside the scientific community? What are their consequences?
  7. Think about further research opportunities. Try to base them on the constraints you are facing. Or other ideas that may be of interest to your readers.

Conclusions

This is the shortest paragraph of 3-4 sentences and does not introduce any new information. Your task is to summarize the results of your experiment, to clarify once again whether the hypothesis was accepted and what significance it has for you, your readers, the scientific community, etc.

Start with restating the purpose of the lab experiment. Provide the research question and answer it. You can note the most crucial limitations without explaining them. Summarise what the project has contributed to your understanding and the field you research in general.

Figures and Graphs

Prepare a required heading to present numerical data with graphs and pictures.

Be sure to indicate the units of measurement, mark the axes on the graph. When it comes to the independent variable, place it on the x-axis. The dependent variable is always on the y-axis.

Writing the text of the report, be sure to refer to figures and graphs. Use notes like Figure 1, Graph 2, etc. Try to draw figures yourself, and if you do use figures from different sources, you should cite them regardless of the modifications you’ve made.

References

You probably used some resources when preparing your project. These can be books, magazines, research on yours, and related topics. If you have used any data, you need to make a list of references.

In this section, you arrange all sources in alphabetical order. And every time you link to any of them, you need to provide a link. When you incorporate any in-text citations in your text, you must provide a reference list with the full citations. It is not a bibliography where you just come up with a list of books you’ve used.

Why is it important to think over the References section?

If you forget about some source or indicate it incorrectly, your professor will perceive the text as plagiarism. There are different styles of citation that have their characteristics. You should check the manual to make sure you’re well aware of all of them.

This is why coming up with a lab report is so challenging. A lot of students prefer just to order a paper from a decent lab report writing service. It will save you pretty much time, effort, and nerves. Professional authors and editors are ready to help you with the assignment.

But if you’re going to overcome this challenge or at least get more information about it, read on to find out all you need to know about the format.

7 General Points about Lab Report Writing

1. Choose a Professional Approach

Your laboratory report must meet all scientific journal publication standards. Therefore, even if this is your student project, you need to approach this task as responsibly as possible.

Make sure that this is individual work, without copying from other reports or scientific articles. Do not forget to correctly cite sources to avoid being accused of plagiarism.

Find a good published lab report example chemistry as a template and inspiration. If you see that your paper does not meet these standards, think about what exactly you need to reach the flawlessness.

2. Consider the Paragraph Structure

Even if you do not publish a paper in the journal, your text will be critically reviewed by the professor or the head of the laboratory. So don't forget about such an important thing as a structure. Each paragraph should have a theme and a purpose. Start them with a sentence that reflects the topic of this paragraph.

3. Use an Active Voice

While there are no restrictions on the use of passive voice in lab reports, go for active voice.

The reason is that it reads more concise and easy to understand. You won't overload your text or confuse your readers.

4. Be Short and Clear

The principle mentioned in the previous paragraph applies not only to the voice but also to other aspects of your text. Make sure the sentences are short and the words clear. You can imagine that you’re writing for people who are not very well versed in this field. If you use any complex specialized terms, explain them.

5. Use the Past Tense

You create a report after your research is completed and conclusions are drawn. Accordingly, in such sections as Results or Methods, you need to use the past tense.

At the same time, mentioning Materials, theoretical context, etc. you should use the present tense because they still exist.

6. Don't Forget about Italics

Genus, species, and other scientific terms that are based on Latin or Greek should be written in italics. For example, Cinnamomum burmannii (Indonesian cinnamon).

7. Proofreading Is King

Don't rely on your word processor's spell checker or modern AI apps. You should personally read the lab report to catch every semantic or grammatical error. If you have other important tasks, hire a professional editor to make sure your text is flawless.

Planning to write your report, set aside enough time for proofreading so that you don't have to send the paper in a hurry.

How Do You Write a Lab Report in Apa Format?

What Is APA?

This format is the official style of the American Psychological Association. It is used by researchers in the fields of psychology, social sciences, and education. The principles of this style were first outlined in the 1929 Psychological Bulletin. Subsequently, the association developed the Publication Guidelines with more advanced guidelines. Modern students use the 7th edition, which contains the most relevant information.

Why Is APA Format Important?

There is no doubt that students and researchers working on scientific projects aim to convey information to readers. But for this, it is important to take care of a consistent format, consistent style. Experimenting with citations and other formatting details by each author will distract readers from the point.

If you haven't studied psychology or social sciences before, you could work with other styles: MLA style research paper, Chicago, etc. Newcomers to college don’t expect to find out that after having been hammered in a different formatting style in high school, many university-level classes have different academic requirements instead.

It's okay if you are experiencing some difficulties and have to constantly refer to the official guide. We want to make your life a little easier and provide some useful tips about this style.

How Does APA Style Work?

If you need to develop a paper in this style, keep two things in mind: the reference page and the quotation.

Every time you use information from sources in your paper, you need to include the author's name and date in the text. You also need to prepare a separate page with a re-list of all sources.

You can find a lot of information about different styles on the Internet and in this guide in particular. But if you have any questions, ask your professor, because you are writing a paper that should meet his or her expectations.

How to Handle In-Text Citations

Preparing to Cite A Source

Before citing an article or any other source, you need to prepare your readers. Here is a list of words you can use for this:

  • adds;
  • approves;
  • supports;
  • refutes;
  • argues;
  • notices;
  • mentions;
  • denies;
  • illustrates.

Using them, you show your awareness of the specific work of this scientist and invite readers to familiarize themselves with it. These words can be used both in the Present Simple or Past Simple tenses. Choose one of them to make the paper consistent.

Which Sources Can You Cite?

You can cite sources, regardless of whether the authors agree or disagree with your arguments. It all depends on your wording.

Here's an example of how you can use APA citation: “This interpretation is consistent with the findings of Anderson and Hilst (2003)." Or you can write "If I can confirm my hypothesis, it will refute the theory proposed by Johnson (1986)". This way you can cite different magazine articles that are relevant to your topic. As you can see, you only need to provide the name of the author and the year of publication.

You can use books, e-books, websites, journal articles, films, programs, songs. Anything that you find appropriate and can use to show the expertise, to prove or refute the hypotheses.

How to Format the Text?

General paper length

Since you are working on a scientific paper, not a fiction book, use the less is more rule. Your report may contain 4-5 pages, where you will clearly and concisely state your point of view. During proofreading, get rid of the fluff and unnecessary details to make the text better.

Margins Sizes

It is important to maintain the uniformity of margins throughout the page. Make sure that each of the four sides is the same distance from the edge of the paper. Use a margin of at least one inch. Large margins are also acceptable.

Running Heads

If you read the 7th edition of the American Psychological Association's Publication Guidelines carefully, you will learn that running heads are not required on most student papers. Writing student papers, you only need to indicate the page number in the upper right corner. The only exception is if your professor demands it.

Note that the 7th edition differs from the 6th edition in that the previous version required running heads. This is why it is important to use the most up-to-date guide.

Running heads or headings at the top of every page are required for professional articles. They consist of the title of the article and the page number.

Outlines

Outlines are what will help you define the scope of your research, establish headings and subheadings, and maintain control over the writing process.

Fortunately, there are no hard and fast rules about contours. You can define the combination of Roman numerals, numbers, upper and lower case letters that will help you create a convenient plan.

Besides studying the official guide, you can take a look at the good APA paper format example. It will give you an example of the correct design and help you avoid mistakes. Always remember that you can get qualified writing or editorial help if you need it.

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