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Electrical and Computer Engineering Lab Report Guidelines

University of Utah
Prepared by April A. Kedrowicz, Director, Center for Engineering Leadership

Lab reports1 are one of the most frequently written documents in engineering. The
purpose of lab reports is to document findings and communicate their significance. Good
lab reports represent data, demonstrate comprehension of concepts, and enable
individuals to understand and replicate the work without difficulty. The typical
components of a lab report include:

Title page
Table of Contents
Abstract or Summary
Introduction
Body
o Methods or Procedures
o Results
o Discussion
Conclusion
Recommendations
References
Appendices

Title Page The title page should include the name of the experiment in caps, the names
of all lab partners with the name of the leader underlined, and the date. All information is
centered on the page.
Abstract (Summary) The abstract is typically one paragraph (200- words) that
summarizes the purpose of the report, the methods employed, the key findings, and the
significance or major conclusions. This section should include concise statements and
contain specific information.
Introduction The introduction should include the purpose (what was tested), problem
(why was the experiment conducted), and scope (what was analyzed) of the report. In
addition, introductions can sometimes include justification of the experiments
importance. It can also refer to relevant theory and important previous studies. The goal
is to supply sufficient background for readers to understand and evaluate the experiment
and its results without having to read previous publications.
Body This section describes and demonstrates in detail the Methods, Results, and
Discussion generated by the report.
1

Lab reports in industry can take many variations including project reports, feasibility reports, or
laboratory reports intended to present experimental results.

Methods (Procedures) The methods section should include a description of the


apparatus or equipment used, and a description of the process or procedures
followed in chronological order. This section should include enough detail so that
another researcher could duplicate the experiment (graphs, diagrams, or
spreadsheets should be included). Also include any calculations used to conduct
the experiment.
Results The results are the data that the experiment yielded. Although results
should be stated in verbal form, also include tables, charts, graphs, or calculations.
Remember to label them! A clear statement drawing attention to the results will
help readers interpret any figures. Do not include all of your raw data in this
section. Extract that which is important and put the rest in an appendix.
Remember to reference any appendices as necessary. Tip: State results in clear
language and in past tense.
Discussion The discussion presents an interpretation of the data. This is the
most important part because it is here that the experimenter(s) demonstrate
understanding of the experiment and related concepts. The purpose of the
discussion section is to explain, analyze, and interpret. The significance or
meaning of the results should be communicated. Focus this section as appropriate
by: comparing expected results with actual results, analyzing experimental error,
explaining results in terms of theoretical issues, relating results to the
experimental objectives, comparing results to similar investigations, and
analyzing the strengths and limitation of the experimental design. Tip: Summarize
the degree to which the experiment achieved its goals.
Conclusion and Recommendations This section should present overall conclusions
relating to the original purpose of the study. List conclusions in order of importance and
link them to information in previous sections of the report. The conclusion should include
a statement of what is known for sure as well as any recommendations, including how
to improve performance if redesigning the product. State what actions should be taken
based on the results of the study.
References Appropriately document any textual research, fieldwork, and primary
sources (interviews, observations, surveys).
Appendices The appendices include any data, calculations, graphs, pictures, or tables
that were not included in the report. Each item should be contained in a separate
appendix. Remember, if an appendix is included, it must be referenced in the report at
least once.
*Style tips: Lab reports are written using an objective stance or third person point of
view. All major headings are in caps and centered on the page.

Checklist for lab report peer-review process:

Is the purpose clearly explained?


Is the problem clearly stated?
Is the scope of the experiment stated?
Is the apparatus or equipment clearly described?
Are the procedures detailed in chronological order?
Are the results stated in verbal form?
Are figures labeled?
Are the results properly interpreted?
Is the significance of the results clearly stated?
Does the conclusion state what is known for sure?
Are relevant recommendations included?
Are outside references properly documented?
Are appendices referenced in the report?

Information for this handout was compiled from several sources:


[1] Alred, G., Brusaw C., and Oliu, W (2003). Handbook of Technical Writing. New York: Bedford/St.
Martins.
[2] Engineering Communication Center at the University of Toronto, Technical Writing in the School of
Engineering at the University of Dayton.
[3] Finkelstein, L. (1999). Pocket Book of Technical Writing for Engineers and Scientists. New York:
McGraw-Hill.