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Science: Lab report

What is a science lab report.

A science lab report is a structured way of communicating the outcomes of your practical work.

The structure of a typical lab report includes the following sections:

  • Aim and Hypothesis - Why you conducted the practical work.
  • Method - How you conducted the practical work and how any data processed.
  • Results - What was the data, process or product obtained from the practical work.
  • Discussion - How your results addressed your aim and hypothesis.
  • Conclusion -  What was the overall outcome of your practical work and how do your finding relate to the larger body of scientific knowledge.

You can apply the common report writing techniques outlined below, after always checking the specific details of your assignment.

Top tips for science lab reports View

Lab report structure.

The title describes the purpose of the practical work in precise terms.

The majority of your practical work will involve measurements, observations or the creation of some object of interest. For example: The Period of a Simple Pendulum

It is clear from the above lab report title that it describes the measurement of a property called a ‘period’, and the object of interest is a ‘simple pendulum’.

Check your understanding View

The abstract provides a brief overview of the practical work, including key results and conclusions.

Keep your abstract short, i.e. about one paragraph or 250 to 500 words. It must be clear enough that the reader can understand a summary of the report without needing to read the rest of it.

In general, the abstract should answer six questions. Addressing each question only requires one to two sentences:

  • Why was the experiment conducted? (big-picture/real-world view).
  • What specific problem/research question was being addressed?
  • What methods were used to solve the problem/answer the question?
  • What results were obtained?
  • What do these results mean?
  • How do the results answer the overall question or improve our understanding of the problem?

Shorter lab reports may not require an abstract, so check your guidelines first.


The introduction is where you introduce the reader to the broader context of your practical work and then narrow down to the hypothesis, aims or research question you intend to address.

You should also succinctly explain relevant theory and discuss any relevant laws, equations or theorems.

The method section is where you describe what you actually did during the practical work. You need to describe the actions you took in a way that someone from your field has enough information to replicate the process and achieve a similar result.

You must also include any unplanned changes to the original process which occurred during the execution of the experiment. A great way to keep track of this is to use a lab notebook during the practical work to note any change you make.

Turn lab instructions into a lab report method

A common mistake students make is copying the instructions their teachers provide directly into their method section. You will generally be provided with a set of instructions to complete your practical work. These instructions are NOT written in the style of a laboratory report. A typical set of instructions usually includes:

  • How the apparatus and equipment were set up (e.g. experimental set-up), usually including a diagram.
  • A list of materials used.
  • Steps used to collect the data.
  • Any experimental difficulties encountered and how they were resolved or worked around.

Below is an example of the instructions provided to a student to carry out a first year chemistry experiment.

Lab instructions

Phrases are used here to specifically instruct the student who may be performing the technique for the first time. This is different from a lab report where you are reporting on what you did. For example, the instructions say:

  • 'use a clear pipette…'
  • 'rinse the burette…'
  • 'remember to take the reading from the centre of the meniscus…'

These are not appropriate phrases to include in the lab report.

Also note that the language of the instructions is in the present tense in bullet points. The method section of your report should instead be written in the past tense as a cohesive paragraph.

However, there are ways you can change the language of the instructions to write your method section.

Below is an example of how these lab instructions were summarised into a method in a laboratory report:

Lab report: method

25ml of HCl(aq) was pipetted into a 100ml conical flask. A burette was then filled with standardised NaOH(aq). A sheet of white paper was placed under the burette. The conical flask was placed onto the white paper and five drops of universal indicator was added to the flask. The standardised NaOH(aq) was titrated into the flask with constant swirling until there was an observable colour change.

How to change lab instructions into a lab method

How to use a passive voice in lab reports.

While most science units require that you report in the passive voice , some require the active voice . In the example below, the first person plural is used in the active voice, i.e. "we initiated". Usage of the active voice is accepted in some disciplines, but not others. Check your unit information or talk to your teacher.

While in science the passive voice is generally preferred, some disciplines may allow or prefer the active voice. Read samples of student reports below and identify which examples are written in passive voice, and which use active voice.

The results section is where you present a summary of the data collected during your experiments. This section is not just a copy of the raw data from your lab notebook. Rather, it may involve calculation, analysis and the drawing up of tables and figures to present your data.


When you take your raw data and perform some sort of mathematical operation to change it, it is good practice to show the equations you used in your analysis, as well as one worked example using each equation. Calculations that are very long or repeated multiple times are usually included in an appendix (see below).

In some disciplines, if formulae are used, it is common to number them as equations:

how to write a scientific report conclusion

Error analysis

Error analysis is a type of calculation that indicates the accuracy of your results, usually done by determining the level of uncertainty. The sources of error that you need to consider will vary between experiments and disciplines, but you will usually need to factor in both random and systematic errors.

Any analysis and calculations of the errors or uncertainties in the experiment are included in the results section unless otherwise specified. In some disciplines the analysis and uncertainty calculations are presented under their own heading. Check the requirements given in your unit information or lab manual, or ask your tutor if you are unsure where to place calculations

Tables and figures

Most numerical data are presented using tables or figures. These need to be clearly labelled following the standard conventions for captions, and titles must tell the reader precisely what data is being presented.

If a measurement is stated in the title, in a column of a table or on the axis of a graph and it has units associated with it, these must be included (usually in brackets).

The table below presents a series of measurements collected during an experiment. Notice the units in every column with the brackets. Some measurements such as pH or C p do not have units.

how to write a scientific report conclusion

The figure below is a graphical representation of aerodynamic measurements. Notice the axes are labelled with appropriate units and the caption at the bottom of the figure clearly describes what the figure is about.

how to write a scientific report conclusion

Figures can also be a wide variety of images. The figure below is an image taken from a type of molecular microscope. Notice the caption at the bottom of the figure clearly describing the figure and the specification of the magnification of the microscope.

how to write a scientific report conclusion

If you must use figures from another source, indicate in the citation whether you have modified it in any way to avoid collusion or plagiarism .

The discussion section is where you interpret and evaluate your results. To do this you need to summarise your key results, summarise unexpected results, and explain how your results relate to your aims, hypotheses or literature as stated at the start of the report. Here are some tips on writing discussion sections:

Identify and describe any trends or patterns you have observed. If these are numerical trends, state the values. Avoid using unspecific words such as ‘higher, lower, increased, decreased’, which can make the information vague.

Compare the experimental results with any predictions you made.

Interpret what the results mean in relation to the aims, research question(s) or hypothesis.

Describe any results which were unexpected or didn’t match your predictions.

Suggest explanations for unexpected results based on the theory and procedures of the experiment.

Evaluate how any sources of error might impact on the interpretation of your results in relation to the aims, research question(s) or hypothesis.

  • State the limitations of the study and link to literature

Clarify how the limitations of the study might affect the accuracy and precision of the answers to your aim, research question or hypothesis.

Suggest how the experiment or analysis could have been improved. A longer report may require support from the academic literature.

Explain how your results do or do not address your aim, research question or hypothesis, and indicate future directions for the research.

The discussion example below is from a first-year Biology unit. The aim of this experiment was to identify decomposition rates of leaf breakdown to establish rates of energy transfer.

Drag each description of each component of the Discussion section to its example. Notice the order in which the components make up a coherent Discussion section.

Students often make the mistake of thinking a conclusion section is identical to a discussion section.

The conclusion section is where you summarise your report. A conclusion is usually one paragraph or 200 to 300 words. In this way a conclusion is very similar to an abstract, but with more emphasis on the results and discussion.

A conclusion never introduces any new ideas or results. Rather, it provides a concise summary of those which have already been presented in the report. When writing a conclusion you should:

  • briefly restate the purpose of the experiment (i.e. the question it was seeking to answer)
  • identify the main findings (i.e. the answer to the research question)
  • note the main limitations that are relevant to the interpretation of the results
  • summarise what the experiment has contributed to the broader understanding of the problem.

Conclusion example with feedback

When in-text citations are incorporated into your lab report (typically in the introduction or discussion) you must always have the full references included in a separate reference list. The reference list is a separate section that comes after your conclusion (and before any appendices). Check your lab manual or unit information to determine which referencing style is preferred. Carefully follow that referencing style for your in-text references and reference list. You can find examples and information about common referencing styles in the Citing and referencing Library guide . The following is an example of a reference list based on the in-text citations used in the Introduction and Conclusion sections in this tutorial. This example has been formatted in accordance with the CSIRO referencing style .

Jones T, Smith K, Nguyen P, di Alberto P (2017) Effects of habitat overlap on population sampling. Environmental Ecology Journal 75 , 23-29. doi: 10.5432/1111.23

Tian M, Castillo TL (2016) Solar heating uptake in Australia: rates, causes and effects. Energy Efficiency Reports. Report no. 10, The Department of Sustainability and Environment, Canberra.

An appendix (plural = appendices) contains material that is too detailed to include in the main report, such as tables of raw data or detailed calculations.

Each appendix must be:

  • given a number (or letter) and title
  • referred to by number (or letter) at the relevant point in the text.

The calculated values are shown in Table 3 below. For detailed calculations, see Appendix 1.

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How to Write a Good Lab Conclusion in Science

Last Updated: June 4, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Bess Ruff, MA . Bess Ruff is a Geography PhD student at Florida State University. She received her MA in Environmental Science and Management from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2016. She has conducted survey work for marine spatial planning projects in the Caribbean and provided research support as a graduate fellow for the Sustainable Fisheries Group. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,742,997 times.

A lab report describes an entire experiment from start to finish, outlining the procedures, reporting results, and analyzing data. The report is used to demonstrate what has been learned, and it will provide a way for other people to see your process for the experiment and understand how you arrived at your conclusions. The conclusion is an integral part of the report; this is the section that reiterates the experiment’s main findings and gives the reader an overview of the lab trial. Writing a solid conclusion to your lab report will demonstrate that you’ve effectively learned the objectives of your assignment.

Outlining Your Conclusion

Step 1 Go over your assignment.

  • Restate : Restate the lab experiment by describing the assignment.
  • Explain : Explain the purpose of the lab experiment. What were you trying to figure out or discover? Talk briefly about the procedure you followed to complete the lab.
  • Results : Explain your results. Confirm whether or not your hypothesis was supported by the results.
  • Uncertainties : Account for uncertainties and errors. Explain, for example, if there were other circumstances beyond your control that might have impacted the experiment’s results.
  • New : Discuss new questions or discoveries that emerged from the experiment.

Step 4 Plan other sections to add.

  • Your assignment may also have specific questions that need to be answered. Make sure you answer these fully and coherently in your conclusion.

Discussing the Experiment and Hypothesis

Step 1 Introduce the experiment in your conclusion.

  • If you tried the experiment more than once, describe the reasons for doing so. Discuss changes that you made in your procedures.
  • Brainstorm ways to explain your results in more depth. Go back through your lab notes, paying particular attention to the results you observed. [5] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source

Step 3 Describe what you discovered briefly.

  • Start this section with wording such as, “The results showed that…”
  • You don’t need to give the raw data here. Just summarize the main points, calculate averages, or give a range of data to give an overall picture to the reader.
  • Make sure to explain whether or not any statistical analyses were significant, and to what degree, such as 1%, 5%, or 10%.

Step 4 Comment on whether or not your hypothesis is supported.

  • Use simple language such as, “The results supported the hypothesis,” or “The results did not support the hypothesis.”

Step 5 Link your results to your hypothesis.

Demonstrating What You Have Learned

Step 1 Describe what you learned in the lab.

  • If it’s not clear in your conclusion what you learned from the lab, start off by writing, “In this lab, I learned…” This will give the reader a heads up that you will be describing exactly what you learned.
  • Add details about what you learned and how you learned it. Adding dimension to your learning outcomes will convince your reader that you did, in fact, learn from the lab. Give specifics about how you learned that molecules will act in a particular environment, for example.
  • Describe how what you learned in the lab could be applied to a future experiment.

Step 2 Answer specific questions given in the assignment.

  • On a new line, write the question in italics. On the next line, write the answer to the question in regular text.

Step 3 Explain whether you achieved the experiment’s objectives.

  • If your experiment did not achieve the objectives, explain or speculate why not.

Wrapping Up Your Conclusion

Step 1 Describe possible errors that may have occurred.

  • If your experiment raised questions that your collected data can’t answer, discuss this here.

Step 3 Propose future experiments.

  • Describe what is new or innovative about your research.
  • This can often set you apart from your classmates, many of whom will just write up the barest of discussion and conclusion.

Step 6 Add a final statement.

Finalizing Your Lab Report

Step 1 Write in the third person.

Community Q&A

wikiHow Staff Editor

  • If you include figures or tables in your conclusion, be sure to include a brief caption or label so that the reader knows what the figures refer to. Also, discuss the figures briefly in the text of your report. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Once again, avoid using personal pronouns (I, myself, we, our group) in a lab report. The first-person point-of-view is often seen as subjective, whereas science is based on objectivity. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Ensure the language used is straightforward with specific details. Try not to drift off topic. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to write a scientific report conclusion

  • Take care with writing your lab report when working in a team setting. While the lab experiment may be a collaborative effort, your lab report is your own work. If you copy sections from someone else’s report, this will be considered plagiarism. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0

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Write an Abstract

  • ↑ https://phoenixcollege.libguides.com/LabReportWriting/introduction
  • ↑ https://www.hcs-k12.org/userfiles/354/Classes/18203/conclusionwriting.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/discipline/english/literacy/Pages/puttingittogether.aspx
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/brainstorming/
  • ↑ https://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/types-of-writing/lab-report/
  • ↑ http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/hypothes.php
  • ↑ https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/conclusion
  • ↑ https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/introduction/researchproblem
  • ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/scientific-reports/
  • ↑ https://phoenixcollege.libguides.com/LabReportWriting/labreportstyle
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/

About This Article

Bess Ruff, MA

To write a good lab conclusion in science, start with restating the lab experiment by describing the assignment. Next, explain what you were trying to discover or figure out by doing the experiment. Then, list your results and explain how they confirmed or did not confirm your hypothesis. Additionally, include any uncertainties, such as circumstances beyond your control that may have impacted the results. Finally, discuss any new questions or discoveries that emerged from the experiment. For more advice, including how to wrap up your lab report with a final statement, keep reading. Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to Write a Conclusion for a College Lab Report

How to Write a Conclusion for a College Lab Report

Writing lab reports is a crucial part of many college science courses. In a lab report, you detail your experiment from start to finish. This process involves outlining your procedures, recording your results and analyzing your data. 

The conclusion paragraph is one of the most important elements of your lab report. It is your opportunity to summarize your experiment and identify your main takeaways. A strong conclusion conveys your experiment's objectives and how they connect to your findings.

What to Include in a Lab Report Conclusion

You can follow a few steps to craft an effective lab report conclusion:

1. Restate the Experiment's Goals

Start your conclusion paragraph with one or two sentences outlining the purpose of your experiment. 

2. Describe the Methods Used

Briefly summarize the process you went through to complete the experiment.

3. Include and Analyze the Final Data

Describe your results and explain what they mean in the context of your experiment.

4. State Whether Your Experiment Succeeded

Explain whether your data supported your hypothesis. You should also outline any takeaways for future experiments, such as changes you would make and how you could expand the experiment.

Example of an Effective College-Level Lab Report Conclusion

Generally speaking, your lab report conclusion should be a well-developed paragraph that addresses the above points. Keep in mind that the specific length of your conclusion will vary depending on the complexity of your report.

You can use the below example as a reference while you craft your conclusion:

The goal of this experiment was to investigate the effect of stress on tomato plant growth. It compares the growth of tomato plants subjected to stress for 14 days to a control group of tomato plants not subjected to stress. The stressed tomato plants were exposed to high temperatures and received insufficient amounts of water. As the graph shows, the average height of the stressed tomato plants was 2.5 feet, and the average height of the nonstressed tomato plants was 3 feet. The height difference supports the hypothesis that stress stunts tomato plant growth. Additional experiments could study the effects of stress over a longer period. Subjecting other crops like squash or corn to the same experiment could also provide valuable information.

Get Help With Your Lab Report Today

The expert science tutors at 24HourAnswers are here to help with your lab report.  Request homework help  or  schedule a live, online tutoring session  today.

how to write a scientific report conclusion

How to Write a Conclusion for a Lab Report?

Many people lack writing experience in order to perform some written tasks. This especially applies to those who major in some sciences like chemistry, physics, biology or similar – they just have a different set of mind. The problem arises when these people attend a university. It is not a secret that a large number of academic papers are essential components of the educational process, which means that there is no way one can avoid writing papers for college. And even a bigger problem arises when a student has to perform such a complex task as a laboratory project, which requires not only in-depth comprehension of a specific topic and subject in general but also some good writing skills and experience. That’s when many students face issues.

Luckily, there are no things that a person couldn’t master with a bit of persistence, practice, time, and lots of motivation, which means that even if you have encounter problems with this task, there is still a way to handle it and we will tell you how! However, if you feel like you need someone to write my lab report , professional help is always available. You can hire a site that writes essays for you. They will help you with any coursework help you need. Read further to know how to master this by yourself. However, if you feel like you need someone to write my lab report, professional help is always available. You can hire a writer on the site that writes essays for you . They will help you with any coursework help you need. Read further to know how to master this by yourself.

What Is A Lab Report?

The purpose of a lab report is to describe in detail an entire experiment from start to finish. This involves writing out procedures, reporting results and analyzing your data. A lab report is a good indicator of your understanding of an experiment and what you have learned from it; therefore, it is highly important that it is performed to the highest standard. Here  are some good examples.

Lab work conclusion is an indispensable part of a report: it restates the experiment’s main findings and provides the reader with an overview of the work you have done. Just like a good conclusion for a research paper  by writing a strong conclusion to a lab project you will convey to the reader that you have the learned the objectives of your assignment and feel comfortable enough to repeat it, if necessary.

Lab Report Conclusion Outline

There are four easy steps to do. They will enable you to create a lab report conclusion outline. Go through your assignment once again and make sure that you have covered all the necessary parts of your experiment and documented them. This way you will be able to address them easily in your conclusion. If you haven’t already made a list of experiment objectives, do it at this stage.

Return to your introduction to make sure your conclusion of a lab report is consistent with it – it may also help you formulate what you are going to state there.

Having done that use the RERUN method. It should help you map out all the necessary elements of a conclusion. RERUN stands for:

  • Restate (describe an assignment);
  • Explain (explain your purpose and briefly describe a procedure);
  • Results (explain and confirm whether the hypothesis was supported by them);
  • Uncertainties (account for uncertainties and errors beyond control);
  • New (questions or discoveries that emerged from your experiment).

Apart from using RERUN method, check if there is anything you have learned from the experiment? Relate the research to the subject and other concepts you have learned in class and make sure you have addressed all questions in your assignment. If you need any help with your thesis, you can hire someone to write my thesis . Our experts can help you with your academic writing needs. You can check out our service and buy a research proposal too. Some more information can be found here .

Lab Report Conclusion Example

There is not a single foolproof way of writing a conclusion in lab report. There are many approaches that can point you in the right direction. Feel free to use this lab report writing guide . Alternatively, take a look at this example of a lab report conclusion for the following experiment:

Experiment goal: To create the best environment for fish in the aquarium

The aim is to work out a relationship between the water’s temperature and the amount of oxygen dissolved in it (to find the optimal temperature to provide more oxygen for fish in the water). An experiment is set up. Ice and a hot plate are used to alter temperature of water. The amount of dissolved oxygen present in the sample of water is then measured (using a chemical set).

Hypothesis : Oxygen levels decrease as the temperature water is increased. Conclusion paragraph : The purpose of this experiment was to measure the effect of altering water temperature on the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water. The graph shows such results. The coldest temperature water contained most oxygen in it – about 6.3 mg / L at 10°C; the warmest temperature water contained least oxygen in it – about 4.9 mg/L at 30°C. The trend seems to be linear – as the temperature is increased, the amount of available oxygen decreases. This data supports the original hypothesis. In this work, it was difficult to maintain a stable temperature long enough to test it accurately (the water rapidly warmed up as one went through the oxygen testing procedure). Perhaps future tests could be done more quickly to prevent temperature changes and minimize error. Future experiments could test for other factors that can affect oxygen levels in water. The assumption is that adding plants to the aquarium could affect oxygen levels (when they photosynthesize).

This above example is a basic high school trial. But pay heed to how all necessary information regarding the experiment is neatly presented. It is done in such a way that the reader gets a clear understanding of the concept even without reading the rest of the lab report and without being a scientist. This  resource includes another sample lab report.

Just a few final tips left to share with you: write your paper in the third person, avoid using “I” or “we”. Once you have completed your work, read through it again checking for any inconsistencies. Make sure you don’t contradict yourself and your conclusion reiterates what you have learned from the experiment – show you understand your topic! On your final reading proofread your writing to avoid any grammatical or spelling errors that could lower your overall grade.

We hope all above information will help you produce your perfect paper. However, you can also use a professional lab report writing service  which is guaranteed to get you a top grade in your discipline.

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  • Research paper

Writing a Research Paper Conclusion | Step-by-Step Guide

Published on October 30, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on April 13, 2023.

  • Restate the problem statement addressed in the paper
  • Summarize your overall arguments or findings
  • Suggest the key takeaways from your paper

Research paper conclusion

The content of the conclusion varies depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or constructs an argument through engagement with sources .

Table of contents

Step 1: restate the problem, step 2: sum up the paper, step 3: discuss the implications, research paper conclusion examples, frequently asked questions about research paper conclusions.

The first task of your conclusion is to remind the reader of your research problem . You will have discussed this problem in depth throughout the body, but now the point is to zoom back out from the details to the bigger picture.

While you are restating a problem you’ve already introduced, you should avoid phrasing it identically to how it appeared in the introduction . Ideally, you’ll find a novel way to circle back to the problem from the more detailed ideas discussed in the body.

For example, an argumentative paper advocating new measures to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture might restate its problem as follows:

Meanwhile, an empirical paper studying the relationship of Instagram use with body image issues might present its problem like this:

“In conclusion …”

Avoid starting your conclusion with phrases like “In conclusion” or “To conclude,” as this can come across as too obvious and make your writing seem unsophisticated. The content and placement of your conclusion should make its function clear without the need for additional signposting.

Receive feedback on language, structure, and formatting

Professional editors proofread and edit your paper by focusing on:

  • Academic style
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See an example

how to write a scientific report conclusion

Having zoomed back in on the problem, it’s time to summarize how the body of the paper went about addressing it, and what conclusions this approach led to.

Depending on the nature of your research paper, this might mean restating your thesis and arguments, or summarizing your overall findings.

Argumentative paper: Restate your thesis and arguments

In an argumentative paper, you will have presented a thesis statement in your introduction, expressing the overall claim your paper argues for. In the conclusion, you should restate the thesis and show how it has been developed through the body of the paper.

Briefly summarize the key arguments made in the body, showing how each of them contributes to proving your thesis. You may also mention any counterarguments you addressed, emphasizing why your thesis holds up against them, particularly if your argument is a controversial one.

Don’t go into the details of your evidence or present new ideas; focus on outlining in broad strokes the argument you have made.

Empirical paper: Summarize your findings

In an empirical paper, this is the time to summarize your key findings. Don’t go into great detail here (you will have presented your in-depth results and discussion already), but do clearly express the answers to the research questions you investigated.

Describe your main findings, even if they weren’t necessarily the ones you expected or hoped for, and explain the overall conclusion they led you to.

Having summed up your key arguments or findings, the conclusion ends by considering the broader implications of your research. This means expressing the key takeaways, practical or theoretical, from your paper—often in the form of a call for action or suggestions for future research.

Argumentative paper: Strong closing statement

An argumentative paper generally ends with a strong closing statement. In the case of a practical argument, make a call for action: What actions do you think should be taken by the people or organizations concerned in response to your argument?

If your topic is more theoretical and unsuitable for a call for action, your closing statement should express the significance of your argument—for example, in proposing a new understanding of a topic or laying the groundwork for future research.

Empirical paper: Future research directions

In a more empirical paper, you can close by either making recommendations for practice (for example, in clinical or policy papers), or suggesting directions for future research.

Whatever the scope of your own research, there will always be room for further investigation of related topics, and you’ll often discover new questions and problems during the research process .

Finish your paper on a forward-looking note by suggesting how you or other researchers might build on this topic in the future and address any limitations of the current paper.

Full examples of research paper conclusions are shown in the tabs below: one for an argumentative paper, the other for an empirical paper.

  • Argumentative paper
  • Empirical paper

While the role of cattle in climate change is by now common knowledge, countries like the Netherlands continually fail to confront this issue with the urgency it deserves. The evidence is clear: To create a truly futureproof agricultural sector, Dutch farmers must be incentivized to transition from livestock farming to sustainable vegetable farming. As well as dramatically lowering emissions, plant-based agriculture, if approached in the right way, can produce more food with less land, providing opportunities for nature regeneration areas that will themselves contribute to climate targets. Although this approach would have economic ramifications, from a long-term perspective, it would represent a significant step towards a more sustainable and resilient national economy. Transitioning to sustainable vegetable farming will make the Netherlands greener and healthier, setting an example for other European governments. Farmers, policymakers, and consumers must focus on the future, not just on their own short-term interests, and work to implement this transition now.

As social media becomes increasingly central to young people’s everyday lives, it is important to understand how different platforms affect their developing self-conception. By testing the effect of daily Instagram use among teenage girls, this study established that highly visual social media does indeed have a significant effect on body image concerns, with a strong correlation between the amount of time spent on the platform and participants’ self-reported dissatisfaction with their appearance. However, the strength of this effect was moderated by pre-test self-esteem ratings: Participants with higher self-esteem were less likely to experience an increase in body image concerns after using Instagram. This suggests that, while Instagram does impact body image, it is also important to consider the wider social and psychological context in which this usage occurs: Teenagers who are already predisposed to self-esteem issues may be at greater risk of experiencing negative effects. Future research into Instagram and other highly visual social media should focus on establishing a clearer picture of how self-esteem and related constructs influence young people’s experiences of these platforms. Furthermore, while this experiment measured Instagram usage in terms of time spent on the platform, observational studies are required to gain more insight into different patterns of usage—to investigate, for instance, whether active posting is associated with different effects than passive consumption of social media content.

If you’re unsure about the conclusion, it can be helpful to ask a friend or fellow student to read your conclusion and summarize the main takeaways.

  • Do they understand from your conclusion what your research was about?
  • Are they able to summarize the implications of your findings?
  • Can they answer your research question based on your conclusion?

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The conclusion of a research paper has several key elements you should make sure to include:

  • A restatement of the research problem
  • A summary of your key arguments and/or findings
  • A short discussion of the implications of your research

No, it’s not appropriate to present new arguments or evidence in the conclusion . While you might be tempted to save a striking argument for last, research papers follow a more formal structure than this.

All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the results and discussion sections if you are following a scientific structure). The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.

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How to Write a Lab Report Conclusion

When you are assigned a lengthy lab report, it is important to include a conclusion paragraph to sum up your procedures and results for your reader. A conclusion restates your goals and methods, includes any final data and notes whether you were able to successfully answer the questions posed by your experiment. If well-written, your conclusion helps the reader extract all the important points of your report while noting any of your experiment's unforeseen results.

Restate the Experiment's Goals

Begin your conclusion by restating the goals of your experiment. If you began your report with an introductory paragraph, briefly restate what you said there. Note all objectives of your experiment: What question or questions were you seeking to answer? Also include a summary of any predictions that you made for your experiment's results.

For example, let's say you performed an experiment to determine the freezing point for samples of water with different concentrations of salt. You would state that your experiment's goal was to find the relationship between salt concentration and water's freezing point. You would also include your prediction of how the salt concentration would affect the freezing point, based on your previous knowledge of chemistry.

Describe Methods Used

Provide a brief summary of the methods you used in your experiment. This should not be a comprehensive list of all items used in the experiment; the full list should be included in the "methods" section of your lab report. Note the important tools and substances in your experiment, and any methods used to obtain data. In addition to the summary of methods, include a brief explanation of why you chose those methods to obtain your data.

Include and Analyze Final Data

The heart of your lab report focuses on the data from your experiments -- including all the data you obtained along with a detailed analysis of that data. Your conclusion should not restate all the data from your experiment, only note any final data you've determined from analysis. For instance, if analyzing the data from an experiment to determine the density of formaldehyde produced an average result of 8.12 x 10^2kg/m^3, you would include only this result, and not any individual measurements from the experiment.

Your conclusion should also provide a brief explanation of what the final data from your experiment indicates. Explain any trends in your data, and note whether any irregularities in the results brought up further questions. Also report any possible sources of error in your data and your analysis.

State Whether Your Experiment Succeeded

Finally, in your conclusion, examine the data based on your goals and predictions for the experiment. State whether the results of your experiment allowed you to answer the questions that you set out in the introduction.

If you were successful, state so. If not, provide a possible explanation for why your experiment was unable to answer these questions, and suggest a method that could be used in another experiment to better answer them. Regardless of whether you were successful, state what you've learned from your experiment, and note which of your predictions for the experiment's results were true.

  • Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students: Laboratory Reports
  • UCLA Chem: Some Tips on Writing Lab Reports
  • Engineering Toolbox: Liquids - Densities

Jon Zamboni began writing professionally in 2010. He has previously written for The Spiritual Herald, an urban health care and religious issues newspaper based in New York City, and online music magazine eBurban. Zamboni has a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from Wesleyan University.

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Scientific Papers

Scientific papers are for sharing your own original research work with other scientists or for reviewing the research conducted by others. As such, they are critical to the evolution of modern science, in which the work of one scientist builds upon that of others. To reach their goal, papers must aim to inform, not impress. They must be highly readable — that is, clear, accurate, and concise. They are more likely to be cited by other scientists if they are helpful rather than cryptic or self-centered.

Scientific papers typically have two audiences: first, the referees, who help the journal editor decide whether a paper is suitable for publication; and second, the journal readers themselves, who may be more or less knowledgeable about the topic addressed in the paper. To be accepted by referees and cited by readers, papers must do more than simply present a chronological account of the research work. Rather, they must convince their audience that the research presented is important, valid, and relevant to other scientists in the same field. To this end, they must emphasize both the motivation for the work and the outcome of it, and they must include just enough evidence to establish the validity of this outcome.

Papers that report experimental work are often structured chronologically in five sections: first, Introduction ; then Materials and Methods , Results , and Discussion (together, these three sections make up the paper's body); and finally, Conclusion .

  • The Introduction section clarifies the motivation for the work presented and prepares readers for the structure of the paper.
  • The Materials and Methods section provides sufficient detail for other scientists to reproduce the experiments presented in the paper. In some journals, this information is placed in an appendix, because it is not what most readers want to know first.
  • The Results and Discussion sections present and discuss the research results, respectively. They are often usefully combined into one section, however, because readers can seldom make sense of results alone without accompanying interpretation — they need to be told what the results mean.
  • The Conclusion section presents the outcome of the work by interpreting the findings at a higher level of abstraction than the Discussion and by relating these findings to the motivation stated in the Introduction .

(Papers reporting something other than experiments, such as a new method or technology, typically have different sections in their body, but they include the same Introduction and Conclusion sections as described above.)

Although the above structure reflects the progression of most research projects, effective papers typically break the chronology in at least three ways to present their content in the order in which the audience will most likely want to read it. First and foremost, they summarize the motivation for, and the outcome of, the work in an abstract, located before the Introduction . In a sense, they reveal the beginning and end of the story — briefly — before providing the full story. Second, they move the more detailed, less important parts of the body to the end of the paper in one or more appendices so that these parts do not stand in the readers' way. Finally, they structure the content in the body in theorem-proof fashion, stating first what readers must remember (for example, as the first sentence of a paragraph) and then presenting evidence to support this statement.

The introduction

  • First, provide some context to orient those readers who are less familiar with your topic and to establish the importance of your work.
  • Second, state the need for your work, as an opposition between what the scientific community currently has and what it wants.
  • Third, indicate what you have done in an effort to address the need (this is the task).
  • Finally, preview the remainder of the paper to mentally prepare readers for its structure, in the object of the document.

Context and need

At the beginning of the Introduction section, the context and need work together as a funnel: They start broad and progressively narrow down to the issue addressed in the paper. To spark interest among your audience — referees and journal readers alike — provide a compelling motivation for the work presented in your paper: The fact that a phenomenon has never been studied before is not, in and of itself, a reason to study that phenomenon.

Write the context in a way that appeals to a broad range of readers and leads into the need. Do not include context for the sake of including context: Rather, provide only what will help readers better understand the need and, especially, its importance. Consider anchoring the context in time, using phrases such as recently , in the past 10 years , or since the early 1990s . You may also want to anchor your context in space (either geographically or within a given research field).

Convey the need for the work as an opposition between actual and desired situations. Start by stating the actual situation (what we have) as a direct continuation of the context. If you feel you must explain recent achievements in much detail — say, in more than one or two paragraphs — consider moving the details to a section titled State of the art (or something similar) after the Introduction , but do provide a brief idea of the actual situation in the Introduction . Next, state the desired situation (what we want). Emphasize the contrast between the actual and desired situations with such words as but , however, or unfortunately .

One elegant way to express the desired part of the need is to combine it with the task in a single sentence. This sentence expresses first the objective, then the action undertaken to reach this objective, thus creating a strong and elegant connection between need and task. Here are three examples of such a combination:

To confirm this assumption , we studied the effects of a range of inhibitors of connexin channels . . . on . . .
To assess whether such multiple-coil sensors perform better than single-signal ones , we tested two of them — the DuoPXK and the GEMM3 — in a field where . . . To form a better view of the global distribution and infectiousness of this pathogen , we examined 1645 postmetamorphic and adult amphibians collected from 27 countries between 1984 and 2006 for the presence of . . .

Task and object

An Introduction is usually clearer and more logical when it separates what the authors have done (the task) from what the paper itself attempts or covers (the object of the document). In other words, the task clarifies your contribution as a scientist, whereas the object of the document prepares readers for the structure of the paper, thus allowing focused or selective reading.

For the task,

  • use whoever did the work (normally, you and your colleagues) as the subject of the sentence: we or perhaps the authors;
  • use a verb expressing a research action: measured , calculated , etc.;
  • set that verb in the past tense.

The three examples below are well-formed tasks.

To confirm this assumption, we studied the effects of a range of inhibitors of connexin channels, such as the connexin mimetic peptides Gap26 and Gap27 and anti-peptide antibodies, on calcium signaling in cardiac cells and HeLa cells expressing connexins.
During controlled experiments, we investigated the influence of the HMP boundary conditions on liver flows.
To tackle this problem, we developed a new software verification technique called oblivious hashing, which calculates the hash values based on the actual execution of the program.

The list below provides examples of verbs that express research actions:

For the object of the document,

  • use the document itself as the subject of the sentence: this paper , this letter , etc.;
  • use a verb expressing a communication action: presents , summarizes , etc.;
  • set the verb in the present tense.

The three examples below are suitable objects of the document for the three tasks shown above, respectively.

This paper clarifies the role of CxHc on calcium oscillations in neonatal cardiac myocytes and calcium transients induced by ATP in HL-cells originated from cardiac atrium and in HeLa cells expressing connexin 43 or 26. This paper presents the flow effects induced by increasing the hepatic-artery pressure and by obstructing the vena cava inferior. This paper discusses the theory behind oblivious hashing and shows how this approach can be applied for local software tamper resistance and remote code authentication.

The list below provides examples of verbs that express communication actions:

Even the most logical structure is of little use if readers do not see and understand it as they progress through a paper. Thus, as you organize the body of your paper into sections and perhaps subsections, remember to prepare your readers for the structure ahead at all levels. You already do so for the overall structure of the body (the sections) in the object of the document at the end of the Introduction . You can similarly prepare your readers for an upcoming division into subsections by introducing a global paragraph between the heading of a section and the heading of its first subsection. This paragraph can contain any information relating to the section as a whole rather than particular subsections, but it should at least announce the subsections, whether explicitly or implicitly. An explicit preview would be phrased much like the object of the document: "This section first . . . , then . . . , and finally . . . "

Although papers can be organized into sections in many ways, those reporting experimental work typically include Materials and Methods , Results , and Discussion in their body. In any case, the paragraphs in these sections should begin with a topic sentence to prepare readers for their contents, allow selective reading, and — ideally — get a message across.

Materials and methods

Results and discussion.

When reporting and discussing your results, do not force your readers to go through everything you went through in chronological order. Instead, state the message of each paragraph upfront: Convey in the first sentence what you want readers to remember from the paragraph as a whole. Focus on what happened, not on the fact that you observed it. Then develop your message in the remainder of the paragraph, including only that information you think you need to convince your audience.

The conclusion

At the end of your Conclusion , consider including perspectives — that is, an idea of what could or should still be done in relation to the issue addressed in the paper. If you include perspectives, clarify whether you are referring to firm plans for yourself and your colleagues ("In the coming months, we will . . . ") or to an invitation to readers ("One remaining question is . . . ").

If your paper includes a well-structured Introduction and an effective abstract, you need not repeat any of the Introduction in the Conclusion . In particular, do not restate what you have done or what the paper does. Instead, focus on what you have found and, especially, on what your findings mean. Do not be afraid to write a short Conclusion section: If you can conclude in just a few sentences given the rich discussion in the body of the paper, then do so. (In other words, resist the temptation to repeat material from the Introduction just to make the Conclusio n longer under the false belief that a longer Conclusion will seem more impressive.)

The abstract

Typically, readers are primarily interested in the information presented in a paper's Introduction and Conclusion sections. Primarily, they want to know the motivation for the work presented and the outcome of this work. Then (and only then) the most specialized among them might want to know the details of the work. Thus, an effective abstract focuses on motivation and outcome; in doing so, it parallels the paper's Introduction and Conclusion .

Accordingly, you can think of an abstract as having two distinct parts — motivation and outcome — even if it is typeset as a single paragraph. For the first part, follow the same structure as the Introduction section of the paper: State the context, the need, the task, and the object of the document. For the second part, mention your findings (the what ) and, especially, your conclusion (the so what — that is, the interpretation of your findings); if appropriate, end with perspectives, as in the Conclusion section of your paper.

Although the structure of the abstract parallels the Introduction and Conclusion sections, it differs from these sections in the audience it addresses. The abstract is read by many different readers, from the most specialized to the least specialized among the target audience. In a sense, it should be the least specialized part of the paper. Any scientist reading it should be able to understand why the work was carried out and why it is important (context and need), what the authors did (task) and what the paper reports about this work (object of the document), what the authors found (findings), what these findings mean (the conclusion), and possibly what the next steps are (perspectives). In contrast, the full paper is typically read by specialists only; its Introduction and Conclusion are more detailed (that is, longer and more specialized) than the abstract.

An effective abstract stands on its own — it can be understood fully even when made available without the full paper. To this end, avoid referring to figures or the bibliography in the abstract. Also, introduce any acronyms the first time you use them in the abstract (if needed), and do so again in the full paper (see Mechanics: Using abbreviations ).

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