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.
Some scientific research may require a survey of current research.
Include the following information when recording information:
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.
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 .
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.
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:
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.
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?)
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.
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:
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:
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…
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.”