Reading time: 3 minutes - Writing a Lab Report is a bit of a journey. You figure out what you need to write about, analyse some data, find some literature, make a plan, and stick it all together.
There’s a lot to think about, and quite a few ways it can go wrong or right.
Here are three errors people make during the Process of Writing Lab Reports, and how to avoid those mistakes altogether.
The Error: No Resources
When people learn to ride a bike, they usually have training wheels or ‘stabilisers’ to help prevent them from falling off.
When you get good at riding a bike, you take the training wheels off.
This is not what you do for Lab Reports.
For Lab Reports, you need as many training wheels as possible.
Students that good grades are absolutely not doing the work from the top of their head. They have a bunch of resources that they are using religiously in order to help them write a good Lab Report.
If you don’t have at least three resources that you always use when writing Lab Reports, you’re doing it wrong.
What kind of resources might you want? Here’s a few ideas.
A list of all the formatting rules is absolutely necessary. This could be something online, like (Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)). Or it could be a reference book, such as the APA Publication Manual. There are rules for every part of a Lab Report. Don’t guess. Have this resource open and use it whilst you format each section. You’ll know you’re doing it right.
A sample paper is so useful. You can see exactly how things can be formatted. You should be playing spot-the-difference between your work and the sample paper. If something looks different, you’re doing something wrong. Want a good APA sample paper? Here you go (credit to OWL Purdue): APA Sample Paper.
The mark scheme. The best students will write to the mark scheme. They know what gets them marks, because they literally have the marking contract right in front of them. Find yours.
Google. You are privileged to have a world of information at your fingertips. Don’t know how to write up the results of a t-test in the right format? There are Youtube videos, articles, blog posts, books, eBooks, podcasts… Don’t just use your brain. Use your brain plus google!
The Error: No Plan
Lab Reports are made immeasurably harder if you just dive right in. It will show in your writing, by making it unstructured, waffly, and it will make the narrative unclear.
Have some sort of plan. We go over the writing process in a lot of detail in the eBook, but for now we’ll recommend that you write the lab report out in bullet points. Group similar bullet points into paragraphs. Make sure that each bullet point makes sense between the one before and after it. Then expand the bullet points to be full sentences and paragraphs.
If you’ve used a plan, it will show. It’s very obvious when someone is making it up as they go.
The Error: Making the Process Miserable
We know it sounds crazy, but Lab Reports can be fun.
Believe us. We love them. And we’ve helped many students love them too.
Firstly, you should see the Lab Report as a nice, structured way to get marks. There are rules to follow. There’s a Secret Recipe. Follow this Recipe and you’ll always be on your way to a good Lab Report. Go with the process, rather than against it.
Secondly, don’t be a perfectionist and aim to get it right first time.
“Write it, then get it right.”
This way the pressure is off. Have fun with it. Follow your bullet point plan and splurge some information on the page. Then revise it. And revise it.
This is so much faster than having one perfectionist attempt.
Thirdly, find yourself a nice place to work on the Lab Report, and then give yourself time to do it. If you give yourself four hours to work on something that might take three hours, you free yourself up to enjoy the process and the pressure is off. If you give yourself two hours to do something takes three hours, you’re going to find the whole thing stressful, you’ll put it off, and it will actually take more like ten hours. Procrastination is work, because it’s not actually fun.
You might like working in coffee shops, or libraries, or on the sofa, at a desk, in the park. The best place I work is on the train. Find out where you enjoy working. Get into the process. It’s fun or misery. Don’t be silly - choose fun.
Fourthly, get some good music that works for you. I have hundreds and hundreds of songs that I use when I’m writing. In fact, that’s sometimes one of the best parts of marking – I can listen to lots of new music, get into different genres, find artists and channels I’d never heard of.
We won’t give you a list of our favourites (unless you want it!). Instead, set up Spotify or Youtube or something else to play music automatically, and see where it leads.
We recommend avoiding music with words. There are many genres out there without words, go find them!
Fifthly, fake it til you make it. Don’t go into this with the mindset of “I have no idea what I’m doing, and this will go badly.” Think about the best that could happen, think about how to make that happen, and then do that. Aim high. Have some hope. Dream.
Sixthly, find some resources that make it easier! Don’t do Error 1! We’re here to help. Read the blog posts, buy the book written with you in mind, and follow our tweets on Twitter.
Lab Reports can be fun, or miserable. But you have to do them sometime. Pick the fun option! We’re right there with you.
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You’re brilliant. Have a good day,
Sam and Brad
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