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Writing a Technical Report

MS 142, Spr. ‘06

Laboratory reports are expected to be 7-10 pages long, including all figures, tables and references. The following format is recommended, but not required.

(1) Introduction

  • Give a brief overview and/or history of your topic.
  • State the motivation for studying the topic.
  • Give a brief summary of previously known results, and the objectives of your experiment.

(2) Experimental Procedure

  • Describe the procedure for obtaining data.
  • Define or describe any equipment used to carry out the experiment.
  • Write this section in past tense, using complete sentences (not a bulleted list).

(3) Theory

  • Describe procedure for evaluating data.
  • Give assumptions and/or mathematical formulae used.

(4) Experimental Results

  • Present results in graphical format if possible.
  • Use only brief tables that are easy to read.
  • Do not include lengthy tables of data. If necessary, these can be included in an appendix.

(5) Discussion/Conclusion

  • Draw conclusions that are appropriate to the motivation and that follow the prescribed theory.
  • Discuss why results obey or do not obey predicted outcomes.
  • Discuss any problems or errors.

(6) Summary

  • Summarize the results and conclusions.

(7) References

  • Acknowledge any books, journals or theses referred to in the report.
  • In particular, if a figure, statement or equation included in your report was taken from an outside source, acknowledge it!!!

NOTE: This is a sample format. Any of these sections may be omitted (except references), rearranged or combined as required to fit what was actually carried out. The most important characteristic of a good report is that it presents the work coherently and in an easily understood manner.

Other components of your report:


Tables should be numbered consecutively as they appear in the text. Each table must be explicitly discussed in the text. Each must also have a heading that briefly describes the contents of the table. An example is shown below.

Table 2. Crystal data and parameters pertaining to data collection for a-K3NdSi6O15•2H2O.

Parameter Value
Diffractometer Siemens R3m-V
Wavelength 0.71073
Crystal size 0.2 0.4 0.5 mm3
Crystal system Orthorhombic
Space group Pbam
Unit cell dimensions a = 16.008(2)
  b = 15.004(2)
  c = 7.2794(7)
No. of reflections for
cell measurement


To as great extent as possible, figures should be computer generated (not hand drawn or labeled). Figures should be numbered consecutively as they appear in the text. Each figure must be explicitly discussed in the text and have a caption that briefly describes it. An example of a descriptive figure caption is given below:

Fig. 2. Projection of the structure of a-K3NdSi6O15•2H2O along [001] showing NdO6 and SiO4 polyhedra. The darker octahedra correspond to Nd(1) and those with lighter shading to Nd(2). The polyhedral edges indicated with bold lines define a channel in the structure that extends along [001]. The dotted line indicates a likely cleavage plane in the structure.

If you do not want to bother with formatting issues, you may include tables and figures on separate pages from the text, but please do not place them all at the end of the report.


Use cgs units at all times. Be sure to quote figures only to a meaningful number of significant digits!


In order to encourage you to take this opportunity to learn deeply about the lab topics, you are required to cite two references, in addition to the course textbook, for each lab report.

Within the text of your report, you may refer to references either using numbers or using the authors’ names and year of the reference. If you use numbers, the references should appear in the reference list in the order they are referred to in the text. If you use names, the references should appear in alphabetical order, according to the authors’ names. For example:

The results presented here contradict earlier studies of alkali silicates (1).

The results presented here contradict earlier studies of alkali silicates (Johnson and Edwards, 1990).

In the reference list, use the following format (with a preceding number, if necessary).


J. Johnson and E. Edwards, J. Cryst. Growth, 131 (1990) 231-236.

(list author(s), journal title, volume, date of publication, and pages)


F. Liebau, "Structural Chemistry of Silicates: Structure, Bonding, and Classification,"
pp. 14-16. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1985.

(list author(s), book title, pages, publisher, place of publication, and date of publication)

Conference Proceedings

S. M. Haile, J. Maier, B. J. Wuensch and R. A. Laudise, in "Fast Ion Transport in Solids" (Bruno Scrosati, Editor), pp. 315-326. Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop, 1992. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Amsterdam, 1993.

(list authors(s), proceedings title, editor(s), pages, name of the workshop or conference, date of the workshop or conference, publisher, place of publication, date of publication.

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