High School Science Lab Reports: Mastering the Scientific Method

In high school, lab reports often represent a large percentage of a student's grade in science classes, such as biology, chemistry and physics. These reports can be intimidating for an inexperienced science report writer. Read on to learn more about how you can help your budding scientist with his or her lab reports.

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While there's no magic formula for writing an A-level science lab report, there is a way to ensure your child writes a quality report. Like all things in science, the secret is in the method.

The Scientific Method

The scientific method is the foundation of thinking scientifically, so it's only natural that becoming better acquainted with it will help your student write a better lab report. Here's how it works:

  • Observation
    • Qualitative or quantitative measurements and characterizations
  • Hypothesis
    • A possible explanation for the observation
  • Prediction
    • A logical deduction about future observations based on the hypothesis
  • Experiment
    • Test predictions against new observations to determine the strength of the hypothesis

The above guidelines should serve as the backbone of any good science lab report. While the teacher may already have certain portions of the method established (i.e. method of the experiment), referencing these guidelines will help to keep your child's report focused.

Writing the Lab Report

The scientific method can be broken down into a step-by-step process that makes working through a lab report much easier.

  1. Define the question
  2. Gather information and resources
  3. Form the hypothesis
  4. Plan the experiment
  5. Perform the experiment and collect data
  6. Analyze data
  7. Interpret and draw conclusions that help refine the hypothesis
  8. Communicate results

The Problem Statement

The first step in a science lab report is the question or problem statement. Your child needs to identify the problem or question that will be discussed in the report.

To start, have your child completely read through the lab instructions provided by the teacher. The problem statement should be one of the first items in the instruction sheet. The necessary information and resources should be listed on this sheet as well.

The Hypothesis

The next step is to formulate the experimental hypothesis. The experimental hypothesis is the student's explanation of the scientific relationship being investigated. The hypothesis should combine your child's own prior knowledge and the provided background information. Teachers will be able to tell if a student read or comprehended the background information based on the experimental hypothesis.

Method

Here, your student writes about the experimental design, which includes: materials, instruments, data to be collected, number of trials, dependent and independent variables, and a description of all safety concerns and how to address them.

Data

In this section, your child outlines the data collected during the experiment. Your child is often responsible for creating graphic presentations (i.e. graphs, charts or tables) to illustrate the results of the experiments. Graphs and charts make it easier for your children to interpret the results and, thus, draw conclusions from the experiment.

The Conclusion

Scientists are expected to wrap-up their lab report with a conclusion. Make sure your student's conclusion includes a statement regarding data analysis and whether or not the results support the experimental hypothesis; remember, it is not important the hypothesis was 'correct,' but that the scientific method was followed. Have your child identify any problems or errors that occurred, and how these might have effected the results.

Finally, make sure your high school science student is able to discuss how the results apply in the real world, and indicate any other experiments that may be conducted to support the conclusion given in the report.

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