Simplified formal reports: The order of the report sections should be title, introduction, procedure, results, sample calculations (if needed), discussion, conclusion, bibliography, and attachment (if needed). A typical simplified formal lab report will be approximately 3-4 double spaced pages (~800-1200 words). Simplified formal reports must be typed including the results section and data tables. See Lab Report section at the end of each experiment in the lab manual for specific requirements.
It is important to keep the following in mind:
The purpose of the lab report is to communicate to others the results and conclusions you obtained in performing an experiment. You should explain why the experiment was performed, how it was performed, what results were obtained, how the results were analyzed, and what conclusions were reached.
These guidelines are based on the 3rd edition of the “ACS Style Guide”, which is available at the SCSU library or the following link: http://pubs.acs.org/isbn/9780841239999.
The items highlighted below are of particular importance in Simplified Formal and Formal reports:
General: Reports must be typed and double spaced. Start with a title page. Number every page in the top-right corner. Always use significant figures in data obtained in the lab and in calculations. Remember to reference sources for all paraphrased literature information you include in your report. Use a superscript number to identify the citation. If a statement is copied exactly as it is found in the source, the statement should be placed in quotation marks. Not doing so, is considered plagiarism. Even with proper citation, only a small percentage (<5%) of the lab report should be copied “as is” from a source since you are expected to learn writing through this exercise. Names of chemicals are not capitalized. Pay attention to grammar, spelling, style, and word usage. Bold or underline section titles. Avoid using words such as I, we, you, etc that personalize the experiment. Don’t start a sentence with a number unless it is written out (two instead of 2 is acceptable) because the period may be confused with a decimal point. Some common abbreviations include g (grams), mg (milligrams), mL (milliliters), and L (liters). Leave a space between the number and unit (i.e., 20.5 mL). Write concisely and proofread your report before handing it in!
Title: Should reflect the report’s content, and should be both brief and specific.
Results: Include all relevant data collected such as amounts of chemicals (pure, impure, reactants, and products) used. Don’t give weights of flasks or beakers used to weigh them. Organize data in tables or figures when necessary. Tables and figures should be numbered and include a descriptive heading (i.e. Table 1 – Results from Part A: Melting Point from Each Sample). There are other examples in the lab manual. Always calculate Rf values when TLC is used.
Sample Calculations: Show one sample calculation of % yield, % recovery, Rf and any other significant calculation. Use significant figures. This section is not required if there are no calculations.
Discussion: This is the most important section of the report. The purpose of the discussion is to interpret and compare the results. Discuss every piece of data collected. Always comment on compound appearance (unknowns and products). Comment on purity every time you take a mp or other technique that gives an assessment of purity. Whenever possible compare your results with literature data. Include the literature value as well as the source. Discuss sources of error. Be specific on the cause of the error. Mathematical error is not an acceptable answer. Discuss all spectral data (IR, NMR) in detail correlating every peak to a structural unit. For 1H NMR, discuss splitting pattern, integration, and chemical shift. For IR, assign every major peak to a functional group (OH, C=O, etc). Discuss retention times and peak area for GC data. Discuss TLC data (purity, separation, extent of reaction, id of spots). Please see the report section at the end of each experiment in the lab manual for specific items that must be discussed for each experiment.
Conclusion: This is a concluding statement (4-5 sentences) that summarizes the key results and errors. Comment on the success or failure of the experiment based on the goals of the experiment. Did you accomplish your goals? Be objective; point out the features and limitations of the work. Relate your results to current knowledge in the field and to your original purpose in undertaking the project: Was the experiment successful or not? Suggest further study or possible improvements to the experiment if warranted.
References: Cite any source using consecutively numbered footnotes. The citation should be placed at the end of the report. Include a complete reference: All authors or editors, title of journal or book (italics), publisher (if it is a book), year (bold if in journal), volume (italics if in journal), and inclusive pages:
Demko, Z.; Sharpless, K. B. Journal of Organic Chemistry, 2001, 66, 7945-7950.
Coca, A.; Karatjas, A. Laboratory Manual for CHE 260 Organic Chemistry I, 2nd ed., W. H. Freeman and Company: New York, NY, 2012.
Brown, H. C. Boranes in Organic Chemistry; Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 1972.
http://www.sigmaaldrich.com (accessed April 14, 2011).