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  • 1. Technical Writing Science Lab Reports
  • 2. Who is interested in a lab report?
    • Workplace scientists are interested in the results of a lab test. But why?
    • They have a professional and/or financial interest in the subject being researched.
    • The research represents new knowledge, and audiences are eager to find out the results.
    • The labs often become the basis for more involved science reports submitted to major magazines, such as the “Journal of Medicine.” ……
  • 3.
    • Educators are also interested in science reports. But why?
    • Teachers often read lab reports submitted in lab classes.
    • The procedures do not represent new research but are replicated to teach scientific concepts.
    • In class, the lab report is a test to see if students have performed an experiment correctly and understood what happened.
    • Teachers are interested in more detailed explanations than workplace audiences, which are more interested in results.
    Is there something both groups have in common?
  • 4. Regardless of the audience, all readers of lab reports respect, understand, and follow the scientific method . That method calls for…
    • Precision
    • Accuracy
    • Objectivity
    • And carefully drawn conclusions based on sufficient data. Data must be presented clearly , much of it in visuals such as tables and graphs.
  • 5. STOP AND THINK!!! How do workplace/scientist audiences differ from educational audiences?
  • 6. Prewriting: Getting Started on Lab Reports
    • As you begin your lab, you should take careful, meticulous notes. These become the prewriting from which you will write your report.
    • Labs require you to keep data logged in some form of notebook, either paper or electronic.
    • Data must be accurate and precise.
    • Be sure to include all the information you need in order to complete your report.
  • 7. Recording Data
    • Try placing your notes into this format :
    • Materials used
    • Method followed
    • Results seen
    • Conclusions drawn
    It is important that you make sure that all the information you are recording is accurate and precise.
  • 8. Some other ways of using technology for taking notes:
    • Audio recording
    • Video recordings
    • Computer databases
    • Photographs
    • Whatever method of note taking you choose, make sure the data you record is accurate, organized, and clear enough for you to read later when you can no longer depend on your memory.
  • 9. A System of Consistency is Vital…
    • When you keep your own notes, it is important that you record the same type of data every time you record something. For example, if you record how tall a plant has grown under different light sources, be sure to record the height at the same time of day using the same system of measurement. A devise like a chart, can help keep your entries consistent.
  • 10. Some scientific research may require a survey of current research.
    • Include the following information when recording information:
    • The information
    • Whether the information is a direct quote or not
    • The source of the information and date
    • The subject matter of the information
  • 11. Stop and Think!!!
    • What two things are absolutely necessary when you are recording data for your lab?
  • 12. Formatting and Organizing Lab Reports Lab Reports always answer these questions:
    • What was the purpose of the lab?
    • What materials were used?
    • What was the procedure?
    • What were the results?
    • What are the conclusions?
  • 13. A typical lab report includes the following four parts….
  • 14. I. Introduction
    • ALWAYS tell the objectives/purpose of the lab, what the lab is expected to prove (hypothesis)
    • SOMETIMES gives the background of the problem under research
    • SOMETIMES tells under whose authority the lab was conducted
    • SOMETIMES is given a separate heading if the lab report is long
  • 15.
    • Materials and Procedure (also called Experimental Section, Methodology, Method)
    • ALWAYS describes and/or lists materials or instruments used
    • ALWAYS describes the procedure used, including relevant calculations
    • ALWAYS uses chronological order (through time)
  • 16. III. Results and Discussion
    • ALWAYS presents test results with relevant calculations; usually includes accompanying visuals – tables, graphs, etc.
    • ALWAYS discusses the results, explains why things happened, tells what is significant
    • USUALLY uses chronological order for results seen and cause-to-effect order for discussion of results.
  • 17. IV. Conclusions
    • ALWAYS includes a brief summary that tells how the test results, findings, and analysis meet the objectives established at the beginning of the report.
    • SOMETIMES uses chronological order; SOMETIMES uses priority order.
  • 18. Additional Sections of Lab Reports May Include the Following:
    • Theory section – Explains the scientific theory behind the lab
    • Calculations section – if the labs used involve mathematical calculations
    • Recommendation section – comes after the conclusion and used if necessary for the lab
    • Appendix section – separate section at the end of the report, that contains tables and graphs whose complexity and length disrupt the flow of the report itself.
  • 19. Stop and Think!!!
    • What basic questions do all lab reports answer?
    • Why do some lab reports have more headings that others?
  • 20. Composing the Lab Report A few more important things to remember…
  • 21. Inductive and Deductive Reasoning
    • Scientific exploration explores physical phenomena according to basic inductive and deductive reasoning called the scientific method. The scientific method is responsible for the structure of the lab report.
  • 22. An example helps us understand “inductive reasoning…”
    • Suppose your mother receives roses for Mother’s Day, and you start sneezing. The next day you send you boyfriend roses. While you’re at his house, you start sneezing. Later, you walk by the neighbor’s roses growing on a trellis and sneeze. What are you to infer from all this? It seems obvious: roses make you sneeze.
    • Reasoning from the particular (I sneeze every time I am around a rose) to the general (the conclusion: Roses make me sneeze) is called inductive reasoning .
  • 23. An example helps us understand “deductive reasoning…”
    • If this experience makes you give your mother a box of candy, not roses, next Mother’s Day, then you are using deductive reasoning: reasoning from the general (conclusion: I think roses make me sneeze) to the particular (If I send my mother roses, they will make me sneeze; so I will give her candy.)
    • The details of inductive reasoning become the evidence on which a conclusion is based. The details are pieces of a puzzle that scientists put together to make a complete picture. Once the picture is complete, the puzzle is examined to ensure it really is the picture the puzzle pieces were intended to create. In the same way, once scientists draw a tentative conclusion, they use deductive reasoning to test that conclusion to make sure it is valid. The tentative conclusion becomes the hypothesis test in other experiments.
  • 24. When Testing a Hypothesis…
    • Experiments are the controlled observations of what occurs naturally. After a series of experiments, an experimenter may see a pattern emerging. Scientists try to explain the pattern with a hypothesis , a tentative explanation that helps organize knowledge and predict other events.
    • To illustrate how a hypothesis is tested, let’s go back to the sneezing. Supposed you’ve reached a tentative conclusion that roses make you sneeze, but you want to make sure. Turn this conclusion into a hypothesis: Roses make you sneeze. Then, test the hypothesis:
  • 25.
    • Place different varieties of roses under your nose and breathe deeply. Note whether you sneeze or not. Let’s say you don’t. Conclusion: Roses don’t make you sneeze! Question: What did make you sneeze?
        • Try another hypothesis. The cologne, which you haven’t worn since Mother’s Day, made you sneeze. Place the cologne under your nose. You still don’t sneeze. Conclusion: The cologne doesn’t make you sneeze.
    3. Try another hypothesis: Maybe all the roses had the same pesticide on them. Find out what pesticide the florist uses. Find out the pesticides your neighbors use. Place it under your nose. Bingo! It makes you sneeze.
  • 26. Results vs. Conclusions…
    • Experiments require writers to observe results and to draw conclusions from those observations. Observable results, however, are different from the conclusions drawn.
    • A result is simply what happened; a conclusion goes beyond what happened. A conclusion requires a scientist to draw an inference, to make a point about the results .
    • For example, Paul Broca measured women’s brains in the mid-1800’s. When he observed that they weighed an average of 181 grams less than a man’s brain, he wrongly concluded that smaller brains meant women were less intelligent than men. His observation, the result of his measurements, was correct. The brains did weigh less. But less weight doesn’t lead to the conclusion that women are not as smart. (Interesting note: What would he have concluded if he had known Einstein’s brain weighed nearly ½ pound less than the average man’s brain?)
  • 27. Objectivity…
    • Objectivity is an important concept in scientific thinking. Objectivity means that the conclusion reached is based on facts and not a whim or bias. It also means that another experimenter can follow the same procedure and come out with the same results.
    • Objective knowledge is different from subjective knowledge. Subjective knowledge, based on personal opinion, is difficult to measure and can vary from one person to another.
    • For example, to say that your hair makes you look sophisticated is subjective, a personal interpretation of sophistication. Not everyone, however, would agree that your hair makes you look sophisticated. To say that your hair is black, cut in a block style with strands approximately 11 inches long is an objective description. Everyone can see this description and agree on it because it’s measurable.
  • 28. Active Voice vs. Passive Voice
    • Because objectivity is important, lab reports often make use of passive voice. Passive voice uses a form of the verb “to be” plus the past participle of the verb. Use of passive voice keeps the reader focused on the process, instead of on the scientist performing that process. Science strives to be objective, and some people think that the naming of a person makes the lab report sound too subjective and personal. Note the following examples:
  • 29.
    • ACTIVE FOCUSES ON THE PERSON : Paul used the Bunn method to test the oxygen saturation in all three locations.
    • PASSIVE FOCUSES ON THE PROCESS : Oxygen saturation was tested in all three locations using the Davie method.
    Most advice from teachers encourages writers to avoid passive voice and to write in active voice. The lab report is unique : Lab reports typically rely heavily on passive voice sentences. Note two more examples:
  • 30.
    • ACTIVE VOICE : Lindsay detected tiny shifts in blood flow to parts of the brain with functional magnetic resonance imaging.
    • ACTIVE VOICE : Adam prepared a 50ml solution using distilled water in volumetric flasks.
    • PASSIVE VOICE : Tiny shifts in blood flow to parts of the brain were detected with functional magnetic resonance imaging.
    • PASSIVE VOICE : A 50ml solution was prepared using distilled water in volumetric flasks.
  • 31. A Word About Precision and Numbers
    • Precision is extremely important in a lab report. Usually it takes a number to make something precise enough to be understood in the same way by other people. Lab reports use numbers in several ways. Make sure you are using the numbers with precision and in the way your scientific field requires. Some examples include the following…
  • 32.
    • Chemical formulas Al 2 O 3 , (aluminum oxide), NaCl (sodium chloride)
    • Mathematical Formula y = ax 2 + bx + c
    • Metric Measurements centimeter, millimeter, microsecond
    • Percentages and Decimals 19.56cm 3 12.12cm 3 35.41%
    • Scientific Notation A x 10 n 3.00 x 10 8
    • Significant Figures 3.15 cm, 0.315 cm, 0.035 cm, 3.00 cm
    • Tables
  • 33. “ Word Choice ”
    • The language of the science lab report is straightforward. The purpose is to include as much data in as clear and concise a manner as possible. Here are some examples of typical sentences from different sections of various reports:
    • “ To” Verb + “ What” Phrases
    • “ To determine what differences there may be between several aquatic ecosystems, samples were taken in early November from three sites in eastern South Carolina.”
    • “ This lab is designed to identify fatty acids in internal standard, known and unknown mixtures.”
  • 34. A Word About Visual Aids
    • When doing your Lab Report, think about data that could be presented visually. If that data would help your reader understand your lab report, then use the visual aid. For lab reports consider using
    • TABLES if you results use a lot of numbers
    • SCHEMATIC if your method or results require an understanding of the circuitry (inside workings) of a mechanism
    • DIAGRAM if your method or results involve an understanding of special instruments or mechanisms
    • MAPS if you are working with an outdoor lab where places are important
    • GRAPHS if you wish to compare numerical data
    • PHOTOGRAPHS if the actual picture would help your reader understand your data
  • 35. Stop and Think!!!
    • Describe the scientific method.
    • What does objectivity mean?
    • Why are numbers important in a lab report?
    • Describe the language of the lab report.
  • 36. Editing and Revision Checklist
    • Have I answered the basic questions of the lab report: What was the purpose of the lab? What materials were used? What was the procedure? What were the results? What are the conclusions?
    • Is my data precise and accurate?
    • Have I placed that data in appropriate visuals?
    • Have I included appropriate headings?
    • Have I included appropriate visual aids?
    • Have I written the methods and results using chronological order?
    • Have I discussed and explained the results and not simply stated them?
    • Does my conclusion section provide a true conclusion and not simply restate the results?
    • Have I employed passive voice where necessary and asked about the appropriateness of active voice?
    • Did I maintain objectivity?