Writing a Discussion Chapter in a Lab Report: 5 Tips
A lab report one of those tasks that often confuse students, even though, of all possible academic assignments, it follows the easiest and the most predictable structure. Besides, students are not supposed to get creative here — the goal is to focus on the results. So, no matter if you’re writing chemistry, physics, or biology lab report, its structure will be the same: introduction, abstract, methods, results, and discussion.
Introduction, traditionally, is a part to briefly describe the subject and give your thesis statement. An abstract is a quick summary of the entire work, with the most important key phrases highlighted. The methods chapter describes all methodologies and scientific approaches a writer used in this particular work. Results, as the name kindly suggests, states all findings of this particular experiment.
So far, so good — it indeed looks clear and predictable. But when it comes the final section — Discussion — questions arise. Most students just don’t understand what they should be discussing. In reality, a discussion is a logical continuation of all the previous parts. Once you’re done, reread all of the sections over again and get ready to analyze them as if you were an unbiased reader, not the author of this paper.
Simply put, Discussion is a part where a writer gives a critique of his own work. Any questions that remained unsolved after the experiment, any deductions that might be argued — they all go into your discussion chapter. Still sounds tough? No worries — the following tips will guide you through this process.
Formatting a Lab Report Discussion Section
A lot of students ignore academic formatting, choosing to focus on the content instead. While contents of any paper are indeed important, adherence to academic formatting rules also plays a part in your final grade. Most lab reports are formatted in APA style, even though some universities and professors may indicate another referencing format.
So, the first step is to double-check the required format with your professor. Remember that even though your teacher may outline some major points of any referencing style, s/he probably won’t dig into every little detail. So, you will have to consult the manual, too.
Such seemingly unimportant issues as page numbers, fonts, spacing — they all matter for your final grade, and they all should follow your format’s specifications. So, by the time you start with a discussion section, you have to go through all of your work to make sure those are consistent throughout the whole paper. And, of course, make sure the formatting you’ve used matches all latest academic formatting requirements.
Your professor may or may not give you the latest manual; so, if you do not have a printed version at hand, just google the latest changes to the required format — this info is always available online, for free. As you do, you may find more useful tips on writing and structuring a discussion section for a lab report, so your time won’t be wasted anyway. Below are our suggestions — they, too, should come in handy.
Essential Tips on Writing a Discussion Chapter for a Lab Report
Avoid repetition. Even though you are not writing a fictional work, it still does not mean that your lab report should be boring. One of the safest ways to achieve that is to avoid repetition — of your findings, your data, your argumentation. No matter how important they are, stating them once or twice is usually enough. Don’t expect your reader to be less intelligent than you are and don’t dumb it down.Make sure your writing is clear. What seems obvious to you, is not always obvious for your readers. Read the report several times to make sure your logic and argumentation are comprehensive, and your writing is easy to scan. Highlight your thesis statement all through the paper. While you should avoid repetition of the major findings, you should remind your reader about the paper’s thesis now and then. When working on lengthy reports, an initial thesis might get lost in the process, so come back to it to show how your logic progresses. Don’t forget your point of view. Findings and results are important but don’t think a good lab report comes down to bare data. You have to give your evaluation of the results, so your thoughts matter as well. Especially, in the discussion section. Outline ideas for further research. A solid discussion chapter in a lab report suggests further research. So, if any questions were left answered, or if your results led to new questions, make sure to highlight those in the discussion section. Don’t repeat your results. They are important, but you have a separate section for that. In the discussion part, you can (and should) make references to your results, but you cannot restate them. Make sure you analyze what you’ve already got — and, once again, don’t feel that you have to dumb your results down. Don’t add new info in the discussion section. Here, you are analyzing your results and deductions. If you feel that you have to add more findings, add them to the Results chapter. Similar to any other academic conclusion, a discussion section should not introduce or analyze any new information.