In the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concentrations, it is important for those pursuing these fields to understand and analyze lab reports because they will one day write their own. This analysis will explore and compare the style, effectiveness, and elements of two reports: Ontogenetic Color Change and Mating Cues in Largus californicus and Temperature and Pressure Measurements of an Ideal Gas That is Heated in a Closed Container.
The first report discusses an experiment done on Largus californicus, a type of plant insect, and tests if color changes affect mating. The writer includes a descriptive title that is specific with keywords. This is excellent for readers because it clearly tells the reader the content that will be discussed in the report. If this report were online, then the reader may easily find it because of the keywords the author uses. Next, the writer includes an abstract to describe all of the important topics of the report. The author does an exceptional job in summarizing the report in a concise manner, enabling the reader to quickly understand the experiment that was performed. The null hypothesis is also included to let the reader know what the experiment will be testing. After that, the writer provides an introduction to the experiment, to which the writer has done a wonderful job on. The introduction begins with background information on ontogenetic color change and provides references to support the statements. By introducing this portion of the report with background information, the writer can change the introduction’s flow from general to specific, allowing the reader to fully comprehend the subject at hand. Now that the reader has a complete understanding of the report, the writer then writes the “Materials and Methods,” which surprisingly was not consistent with the professionalism prior to the section. The writer does include all of the control variables including the location of the experiment, the time of the experiment, and the female insect used for all three treatments; however, the writer failed to be specific when it came to the materials. In the second sentence, the writer writes, “Bugs were collected from the Reserve on the morning of the testing day.” The writer was not specific to the life stage of the insect, nor their type. This will heavily impact the experiment if these factors were not considered. Sure, it can be assumed that the writer thinks the reader knows the characteristics of the bugs given from the information in the introduction and the abstract, but the writer can not be lazy. Specificity is key to writing a professional lab report. The writer also failed to demonstrate this fundamental component when it came to the methods as well. When describing the procedure, the writer writes, “Each male was introduced one ata time into the box at the point farthest from the female. He was removed when he mounted the female or after an arbitrarily chosen time of 270 seconds had elapsed, whicher came first.” This ambiguity can provoke a lot of questions in the audience’s mind: how many males were put in the box at once? Will a fight not break out amongst them? Were the insect’s condition considered? Why 270 seconds? What if the males were injured, near death bed, tired, hungry, or unable to mate? These questions can quickly turn heads and lower the report’s credibility, but it must be considered that the experiment is not perfect so not all variables can be controlled for a perfect experiment. Even though the lack a perfect scenario is understandable, the overall uncertainties do not make up for this section’s flaws. In the next section, however, the writer does a decent job in writing the results. The author provides accurate data from the experiment with no explanation. The author also refers to tables and graphs as reference to the data collected, but the tables and graphs should go in the results section and not the back. Finally, the author ends the report with a discussion section and a references section. The discussion is well written by explaining the results from the previous section and suggesting new hypotheses for possible factors that may affect mating. This shows that the author acknowledges that the experiment is not perfect and more data is needed to completely understand the bug’s mating behavior. The references are clear and listed in alphabetical order. Though this report has several mistakes, readers can still have a general understanding of the experiment. The article will be good for those researching mating behavior amongst bugs in the Largus californicus family. Overall, this lab report was decent, but it could have been better if the writer were not lazy and proofreaded the report.
The second lab report discusses the relationship between temperature and pressure of an ideal gas in a closed container. The title is clear for readers to understand the topic of the report. Next, the author writes the introduction. It does not include background information, but it is concise and to the point, making the section very easy to read; however, the writer has made a major mistake: writing the ideal gas equation incorrectly. At first, the equation may come off as a typo when the “m” in pV=mRT is accidentally typed instead of “n,” but the author actually wrote the equation wrong and assumed that mass is part of the ideal gas equation. This one mistake immediately diminishes the author’s professionalism and may even stop the audience from continuing with the report. Even if the reader can tolerate this mistake, the reader will only be disappointed by the next section: the procedure. The list of methods are concise and understandable, making the section seem promising at first; however, the author forgot to include a list of materials. The section only briefly mentions the materials used, but it would be better if the author included a list for readers to see. The gas used in the experiment is not specified, the function and definition of a pressure transducer is not explained, and a thermometer is not even mentioned for an experiment about temperature. The reader should have disregarded the report by now, but if they were nice enough to continue, then they will only be met with more displeasure. The next section of the report is “Results and Discussion.” It is clever to combine observations/results and their accompanied explanations, but it is immediately assumed that the author is lazy. In this section, the writer refers to the table and graphs in the end of the report and compares the experiment’s results of a type of gas with its ideal results. Putting the table and graphs at the end is fine, but again, the author makes another mistake. This time, the writer does not explain the experiment findings when part of the section is labelled “Discussion.” There is no clarification for the linear relationship between the temperature and pressure of the gas. The experiment’s purpose is to test if the ideal gas equation holds for pV=nRT, but there is no reference to the equation to show that P, pressure, is proportional to T, temperature, in the equation. At this point, the reader should have stopped reading and discarded the report. Because the report is embedded with multiple errors, the reader can only hope that the conclusion will make up for the author’s poor writing. The conclusion at the end of the report is not the best, but it does serve its purpose: providing a summary of the lab and acknowledging human error. The unpleasant part of this section is the lack of suggestions to improve the experiment. It is also fairly short, so it is not enough to completely summarize the experiment findings. The report concludes with an appendix, consisting of the equations used and the table and graph that the results referred to. The author of this article only does a good job in presenting the data in graphs and tables and explaining the purpose of the experiment, but does poorly in explaining the procedure and providing the correct information. The report also consists of poor grammar and spelling.
When comparing these two reports, it is easy to say that the first report was written better than the second. Both authors were informative and provided sufficient data for their experiments, but the second author makes many mistakes in the report. The first author provides background information in the introduction to transition from general to specific, but the second author does not give insight on the topic, leaving the reader slightly confused. Also, both reports were not entirely specific, resulting in a lack of credibility in their work. Both authors also included tables and graphs in the back of the report. It is not a big problem, but it would be better if they were in the results section so that the readers can access them easily. When comparing the elements of both articles, they were both missing a few elements from a complete lab report; however, this is understandable for the second report because it closely resembles a school report done on a simple experiment. In the first report, the author does not include a conclusion, meaning that the author does not admit any possible errors that may have resulted from the experiment, nor does the author suggest possible improvements to the experiment. The second report is missing an abstract, a materials section, and references section. Sure, the second report is simple and does not require an abstract, but it should at least have a materials section and possibly a reference section for it to be complete.
After reading these two articles, the audience has learned plenty from the two authors’ mistakes. Reports should be reread and peer reviewed before publishing. This can help catch mistakes like having the wrong equation written or misspelling a word. Peer review also provides immediate feedback from what an actual reader may say. This can help with being specific with explanations or procedures. Having analyzed the two reports, the reader will know not to make the same errors and should produce a much better report in the future.