Format for Experiment Reports

How to Effectively Communicate Technical Information



In today's high tech society, most people eventually need to communicate technical information.  Science experiment reports provide practice developing such skills.


Formal experiment reports typically contain the following sections:

  1. Title
  2. Your name and the name of contributing lab partner(s)
  3. Purpose
  4. Background Concepts and Formulae
  5. Procedure
  6. Labeled drawings of equipment used
  7. Results such as observations
  8. Graphs and data tables
  9. A Sample Calculation
  10. Sources of Errors
  11. Conclusion

The purpose is a clear and short, often one sentence statement, identifying the purpose of the investigation and the report.  Labs usually fall into one of the following categories:

The title should not be a an eye catching "teaser," but rather a couple precise words that capture the purpose and often the conclusion.


The background describes important ideas, concepts, or historical happenings that relate to the lab.  It contains the the information that an uninformed reader will find useful to understand and interpret the rest of the report.  ALL information not obtained from the actual experiment should (by either parentheses, footnote or endnote) be referenced to the source of information, including author, title, publisher, copyright date, and page, or equivalent information so that a reader could find and read the information from the source.


The procedure lists the steps used to do the experiment.  The steps should be numbered sequentially.  I.e., label Step 1, then Step 2, etc.  Each step starts on a new line.  Details should be sufficient so the reader could repeat the experiment and verify your results.  Referring the reader to an apparatus diagram can often significantly reduce the need for textual descriptions.


Include a labeled drawing of equipment and its arrangement.  This might be a rough sketch, but it must be neat and the essential pieces of equipment should be shown and labeled.


Results contains the evidence that supports your claims in the conclusion and makes them believable.  Without the evidence, a reader has little reason to take your report seriously.  The background information and procedural steps present how the evidence was gathered and provide justification why the results are good evidence supporting your findings.


Almost all experiments involve making measurements, recording numbers and collecting data.  Data should be organized in a table with columns and rows.  Use the following guidelines.


The following are requirements for all graphs:

Sample Calculation

It is not necessary to show each and every calculation you do.  Include a neat and clear example of each unique kind of calculation.  Start with definitions, show substitutions, and simplifications leading to an answer.

example: To find the area (A), the formula used was
A = π (r)2 where (r) = radius.  For the first circle,
A = π (4 cm)2
A = 50 cm2.

Sources Of Error

List the type of error and how it influenced the results.

examples: Error in measuring process:  Visually comparing object lengths with the meter stick was not perfect.
Error in reaction time:  The time to stop the timer may not be the same as for starting timer.


This section should contain a statement of each of the generalizations that you are able to draw on the basis of your analysis of data, and if not obvious, an explanation of how you came to each conclusion.  Such conclusions should pertain to the purpose stated in the report.  (While conclusions often match the intended purpose, occasionally results indicate an anticipated finding was actually wrong!)  Also included in your conclusion any equations or proportions which have been developed from the experiment.


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created 23 June 2002
latest revision 24 July 2005
additional links 14 January 2010
by D Trapp
Mac made