Lab Reports: Prinicples of Structural Chemistry


*This guide for writing lab reports for Principles of Structural Chemistry, the introductory chemistry course at Coe College, was written by Sarah Brunker, a former Writing Center consultant in fulfillment of an assignment for Topics in Composition, the Writing Center staff development course. 

One of the great things about lab reports for Principles of Structural Chemistry is the availability of so many sources for gathering information. At the beginning of the year, students are handed a packet outlining the proper format for a lab report. These sheets are priceless. Keep them guarded in a Chemistry folder. There are also many internet sources that can provide essential element to a good report. F or example, if you need to know properties of solutions to identify unknowns, you can go to Steve Singleton's homepage and click on the Links section, where you will find a plethora of connections to obtain chemical properties. And these links actually work, so you don't have to search the internet trying to find MSDS (Material Safety and Data Sheet) and then realize you don't know how to navigate the site. There is also The ACS Style Guide: A Manual for Authors and Editors, which is available in the library, bookstore, and the writing center. Both Steve Singleton and Susan Noreuil encourage students to revise their lab reports before turning them in. One of their pet peeves is reading thought a lab report that obviously hasn't been carefully edited. The same basic grammar and organization rules apply to bad reports. They also don't like reading passive papers, tell the procedure you followed, not just the one outlined in the lab manual. BE precise, but not dull.

  • Why did you do certain calculations?
  • What was the purpose of writing each section?
  • Distinguish the relevant information; what did you learn?
There should be in-depth thought, not just a "cookbook approach," as Susan puts it. Make your observations apply to things outside of the lab, such as issues discussed in lecture. A table might be the most effective way of making the information clear, but give it a caption and a title, and refer to the table in the text. Make the graph consistent with the text and make sure its formatting works (e.g. the axis ratios should be correct). If a student has questions, both Steve and Susan encourage the individual to e-mail them or come in and discuss the lab with them.



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