Lab report writing tips

howdy my name is Pete England and I’m the engineering communication instructor for the Zachary department of civil engineering this video is a quick list of tips for writing an engineering lab report this video only covers one method for writing a lab report naturally there are others but I think this method will help engineering students get started quickly then after you practice some you can come up with your own method so what we’re going to do is we’re going to use questions you can see I’ve got a pretty standard lab report outline here introduction methods results discussion and conclusion what we’re going to do is invent a series of questions that goes under each one of those headings to get us started writing so that we can then fill out the rest of the lab report in other words instead of sitting around wondering what goes in an industry introduction we’ll come up with a series of questions that help us fill it out before I get started I want to talk about something that people ask him about all the time I frequently get asked about narrative voice in lab reports in other words first person third person and second person etc narrative voice is excuse me a serious issue in lab reports scientists and engineers frequently eliminate all references to themselves in lab reports but it’s a practice that varies from company to company an agency agency most of the professional lab reports I’ve seen were written without using I we you you’re they or them in other words most of the lab reports I’ve seen are written largely without pronouns of course the best policy is to look at old lab reports or to talk to your boss or your instructor if you’re still struggling to get the lab report written just remember that narrative point of view is is way less important than just getting with the lab report written besides you can always go back and make any changes that you need to make okay so let’s talk about the introduction the purpose of your introduction is to bring a fellow engineer up to speed as quickly as possible so the first question you answer is what did you do well you performed an experiment to produce some fangs how is that experience experiment performed and what’s important about it go through and answer these font these questions one at a time and be as direct and blunt as possible so we’ll start with what did you do why did you do it in other words what’s the purpose of the test how did you test it this can be quick it could be one sentence did you use a conventional oven or microwave did you use linear wave theory or something else the next question that you answer is why did you test it that way again your being as brief as possible chances are that most of the lab reports you write in college can be introduced in one maybe even just two paragraphs so for the methods section we’re going to start off nice and easy what equipment did you use here’s a tip you may just want to list your equipment in a bulleted or a numbered list the next question that you answer is what did you do so you provide an order of events for the lab experiment the order of events should be more than just a bulleted list though it should be as simple and direct as possible be sure to include any variations or events that may have impacted your data here’s a tip I strongly encourage you to take notes during the lab experiment if you have a handout telling you what to do use that for taking notes or use your camera phone to take pictures to remind you of what you were doing and when you were doing it when you’re done sit down and write it up at your earliest convenience one of the most common problems when writing lab reports is that people forget what they did and therefore their methods section is actually an inaccurate version of events here’s another tip it’s pretty standard to use passive voice in the methods section passive voice means putting the focus on the action rather than who performs the action so instead of I heated the sample you would write the sample was heated so for the results section you start with a question what did you find what relevant data did you produce you’ll want to ask your instructor to be sure but chances are you can probably present a great deal of this data using tables and charts if so be sure to label your tables and charts in the discussion section you start with the question what is the most important data in the results and why is that data important are there any limits to your data what do we now know and what do we not know based on your results so remember the purpose of the discussion section is to tell the reader what’s important about the results since facts don’t actually speak for themselves you’ll have to speak for the facts a good tip for writing the discussion section is to think about trying to explain the experimental results to an engineering friend whose area of expertise is nonetheless different from yours your friend is a knowledgeable engineer but isn’t familiar with the concepts of what you’ve done and why they’re important so you explain your results to her for the conclusion you start with the question what’s the next step is more experimentation required how can all this information be used the purpose of the conclusion is to let the reader know what comes next or what can be done now that you’ve completed the experiment and analyze the results so remember a conclusion is a lot like a sum it’s more than one thing added together if you find yourself repeating results without providing some insight into how they can be applied to a real-world solution then just think about your engineering friend who’s an expert just not your kind of expert she wants to know what you can do with all this information so explain it to her as usual if you have any questions and comments content meet at Peter England at TAMU edu thanks and gig them