Grammar and Mechanics Workshop - UTA

Grammar and Mechanics Workshop - UTA

Writing Lab Reports Presented by the UTA English Writing Center Updated 7/22/2015 SPT Hosted by English Writing Center [email protected] A Division of the Department of English Sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts Workshop Leaders Presented By: The Writing Center Executive Staff

What is a Lab Report? First and foremost, the purpose of a lab report is to document the results of experiments in a clear and direct manner. Lab reports may sometimes be persuasive, but they primarily serve archival purposes. The work contributes to the entire field and may be referenced in future experiments. Types of Lab Reports Standard Lab a lab in which you establish

and test a hypothesis. Most common form of lab report. Descriptive Lab a lab that does not use a hypothesis; you follow a procedure and report findings. Student-Designed Lab a lab that is based on an experiment that you design. Students often begin designing their own experiments in doctoral programs, especially in the dissertation phase. Basic Organization 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

7. 8. Title Abstract Introduction Methods Results Discussion Conclusion References Lab Report 1 2

3 4 5 6 7 8 Best Practices: Abstract Abstracts offer a miniature version of the whole lab report. In other words, it boils down each of the five following sections (introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion) into roughly a one sentence summary for each section. Usually, all five sections should appear in the abstract. Best Practices: Abstract

Abstract. The theory of optimal foraging and its relation to central foraging was examined by using the beaver as a model. Beaver food choice was examined by noting the species of woody vegetation, status (chewed vs. not-chewed), distance from the water, and circumference of trees near a beaver pond in North Carolina. Beavers avoided certain species of trees and preferred trees that were close to the water. No preference for tree circumference was noted. These data suggest that beaver food choice concurs with the optimal foraging theory. Intro Method Results

Conclusio n Best Practices: Introduction In the introduction, establish a context for your lab by describing the problem. In other words, what scholarship did you read or what event occurred that raised the problem or issue? Once youve explained the problem, pose your research question(s). What do you seek to accomplish through this lab? Introduction (cont.) Next, state your hypothesis (which essentially becomes the thesis for your lab report).

Finally, rewrite the explanation for your hypothesis so that your reader understands how the reasoning behind your hypothesis is based on the scientific concept of the lab. In a sense, this answers the so what question: So what about your research? Why is it significant? How does it relate to the problem? Best Practices: Introduction In this lab, we explore the theory of optimal foraging and the theory of central place foraging using beavers as the model animal. Foraging refers to the mammalian behavior associated with searching for food. The optimal foraging theory assumes that animals feed in a way that maximizes their net rate of energy intake per unit time (Pyke

et al. 1977) The factors associated with the optimal foraging theory also apply to the central place theory. The central place theory predicts that retrieval costs increase linearly with distance of the resource from the central place (Rockwood and Hubbell 1987). Central place feeders are very selective when choosing food that is far from the central place since they have to spend time and energy hauling it back to the storage site (Schoener 1979). Establis ha context by defining the theory, concept, or

scientifi c principl e. Cite sources. Best Practices: Introduction Explain The main objective of this lab was to determine beaver (Castor canadensis) food selection based on tree species, size, and distance. Since beavers are energy maximizers (Jenkins 1980, Belovsky 1984) and central place feeders (McGinley and Whitam 1985), they make an excellent test animal for the optimal foraging theoryThe purpose of this lab was to learn about the optimal foraging theory. We wanted to know if beavers put the optimal foraging theory into action when selecting food. We hypothesized that the beavers in this study will

choose trees that are small in circumference and closest to the water The optimal foraging theory and central place theory lead us to predict that beavers, like most herbivores, will maximize their net rate of energy intake per unit time Since beavers are trying to maximize energy, we hypothesized that they will tend to select some species of trees over others on the basis of nutritional value. why research is significant (so what) and how it connects to theory being

tested State hypothese s and connect to theory. Best Practices: Methods The Methods Section is a precise chronological description of the laboratory procedure you used in the lab. Students tend to want to list this out. Dont! Write it in paragraph format, using transitions to move from one step to the next. Transitions lead your reader from one idea to the next, and include words such as: first, second, next, thirdly, and finally.

Best Practices: Methods This study was conducted at Yates Mill Pond, a research area owned by the North Carolina State University, on October 25th, 1996. Our research area was located along the edge of the pond and was approximately 100 m in length and 28 m in width. There was no beaver activity observed beyond this width. The circumference, the species, status (chewed or not- chewed), and distance from the water were recorded for each tree in the study area. We conducted a chi-squared test to analyze the data with respect to beaver selection of certain tree species. We conducted t-tests to determine (1) if avoided trees were significantly farther from the water than selected trees, and (2) if chewed trees were significantly larger or smaller than not chewed trees. Mean tree distance from the water and mean tree circumference were also recorded. Best Practices: Results

In the opening sentences of your Results Section, summarize the main finding of this lab. Then, include any specific details that are important for understanding your main findings. You may wish to use charts, graphs, or figures for this section. Reference those visuals as necessary in your paragraphs. Finally, close the results section by clarifying any relationships or interactions among variables. Again, reference visuals as needed. Best Practices: ResultsSummariz Overall, beavers showed a preference for certain

species of trees, and their preference was based on distance from the central place. Measurements taken at the study site show that beavers avoided oaks and musclewood (Fig. 1) and show a significant food preference (x2=447.26, d.f.=9, P<.05). No avoidance or particular preference was observed for the other tree species. The mean distance of 8.42 m away from the water for not-chewed trees was significantly greater than the mean distance of 6.13 m for chewed trees (t=3.49, d.f.=268, P<.05) (Fig. 2). The tree species that were avoided were not significantly farther from the water (t=.4277, d.f.=268, P>.05) than selected trees. For the selected tree species, no significant difference in circumference was found between trees that were not chewed (mean=16.03 cm) and chewed (mean=12.80 cm) (t=1.52, d.f.=268, P>.05) (Fig. 3). e findings in the

topic sentence (first sentence). Provide exact numerical data. Reference and provide figures as needed. Best Practices: Discussion Begin your Discussion Section by writing a sentence or two stating whether or not the results from the lab procedure fully support your hypothesis, do not

support the hypothesis, or support the hypothesis but with certain exceptions. Support your claim by referencing specific data from your lab that led you to either support or reject your hypothesis. Refer to the visual representations of your data as necessary to back up your judgment about the hypothesis. Best Practices: Discussion Next, use your understanding of the scientific concept of this lab to explain why the results did or did not support your hypothesis. If the hypothesis from the Introduction was not fully supported, show how your understanding of the scientific concept has changed. Cite sources as needed. Conclude the Discussion by (1) mentioning any problems

that occurred which may account for unexpected results and/or (2) offering suggestions for improving or building upon this lab (i.e. identifying further research). Best Practices: Discussion Although beavers are described as generalized herbivores, the finding in this study related to species selection suggests that beavers are selective in their food choice. This finding agrees with our hypothesis that beavers are likely to show a preference for certain tree species. Although beaver selection of certain species of trees may be related to the nutritional value, additional information is needed to determine why beavers select some tree species over others. Other studies suggested that beavers avoid trees that have chemical defenses that make the tree unpalatable to beavers (Muller-Schawarze et al. 1994). These studies also suggested that beavers prefer trees with soft wood,

which could possibly explain the observed avoidance of musclewood and oak in our study State whether or not the findings agree with your hypothesis Note additional information needed for future studies. Place your study in conversation with other studies.

Best Practices: Discussion This lab gave us the opportunity to observe how a specific mammal selects foods that maximize energy gains in accordance with the optimal foraging theory. Although beavers adhere to the optimal foraging theory, without additional information on relative nutritional value of tree species and the time and energy costs of cutting certain tree species, no optimal diet predictions may be made. Other information is also needed about predatory risk and its role in food selection. Also, due to the large number of students taking samples in the field, there may have been errors which may have affected the accuracy and precision of

our measurements. In order to corroborate our findings, we suggest that Give specific proof on how the results connect with the theory. Note missing information or what this study cannot do. Conclude by noting potential errors and suggesting future research.

Best Practices: Conclusion The Conclusion is where you make it clear to your instructor and/or your thesis or dissertation committee what you learned in the lab experience. Your Conclusion should further answer the so what question: So what about this lab? Why is the lab significant? Why are the results significant? How does the lab further contribute to the field? Best Practices: Conclusion The purpose of this lab was to learn about the optimal foraging theory by measuring tree selection in beavers. We now know that the optimal foraging

theory allows us to predict food-seeking behavior in beavers with respect to distance from their central place and, to a certain extent, to variations in tree species. We also learned that foraging behaviors and food selection is not always straightforward. For instance, beavers selected large branches at any distance from the water even though cutting large branches may increase energy requirements. There seems to be a fine line between energy intake and energy expenditure in beavers that is not so easily predicted by any given theory. Discuss what you have learned. Answer the so what question.

Best Practices: Overall 1. Much of the writing in lab reports uses passive voice ("Two ml. were pipetted into a test tube") rather than active voice ("We pipetted 2 ml. of the solution into the test tube"). Passive voice is used to give the appearance of objectivity and avoid the use of first person (I) or second person (we). 2. Construct clear claims in your thesis sentence (i.e. hypothesis) and in your topic sentences (i.e. the first sentence of each body paragraph). 3. Use sign post phrases or transitions to move from one point to the next. The main objective is clarity. Your reader needs a precise and accurate reflection of what occurred in the lab. 4. Use appropriate references to scholarship and previous research. Remember, you are building upon the work of others. Consider your lab within the context of the

field. Common Pitfalls 1. Failure to Clarify Purpose: In the Introduction, it should be made clear the context for the lab experiment and your purpose in conducting the experiment. 2. Unclear Results: Often Introductions and Conclusions are vague because the researcher writes the lab report in order from beginning to end, before s/he understands what s/he did, why s/he did it, what s/he found, or what s/he thinks it means. o Try writing the Methods Section, Results Section, and Discussion Section first, before writing the introduction or conclusion. Dont be afraid to write each section out of order, so long as you reformat later.

Common Pitfalls 3. Confusing Analysis and Interpretation (i.e. mixing up results and discussion): Often overlap occurs because students are confused about interpretation. o o o Clearly delineate between the Results Section and the Discussion section. Each section should be autonomous and should not overlap. Results: Identifies data and points out a trend in data. Discussion: Tells the reader what the trend means or why it is significant.

Common Pitfalls 4. Lack of Analysis: Similar to number three, students often misunderstand interpretation and only present raw data in the Results and the Discussion. Instead, point out trends and explain the significance of those trends. That requires discussion and references to prior research rather than simply stating the results. 5. Redundancy: Students often state the same results in two or more sections of the lab report, though the results might be stated in different ways. o o Contain your results to the Results Section, though you will want to mention the significance of your results in the Discussion and Conclusion Sections.

Eliminate other types of redundancy by condensing and organizing your ideas and explanations. References Lab Write. North Carolina State University, 2004. Web. 8 Jul 2015. Writing Center Tutoring Visit our website at Register as a WC client for an appointment or workshop at We can help you at any stage of the writing process. We do not fix your paper; instead, we provide thoughtful feedback and facilitate discussions to help you grow and improve as a writer. Upcoming Workshops GRADUATE Workshops - Effective Charts and Graphs: Monday 21, March @ 6pm - Personal Statements: Tuesday 29, March @ 6pm - Abstracts: Monday 4, April @ 6pm GrammarShops We will also be offering weekly grammar workshops this semester covering various grammatical concepts. Check our schedule ( or calendar ( for days and times.

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