Writing Lab Reports: Results
Keys to the Results Section
Purpose: What did you find?
Relative size: 10-15% of total (excluding tables and figures)
Scope: Narrow: the middle of the hourglass
Verb Tense: Always use the past tense when summarizing the results of your experiment
Summarize the results of your study.
Be careful to present your results in a manner that relates to your hypotheses; the reader should be able to identify your hypotheses in your introduction and easily find their associated results. This is not a place to provide raw data – present only summarized or analyzed data.
When appropriate, use figures and/or tables to present your results in a meaningful way and imbed them within the text. Results should only be presented in one format though – either in the text, in a figure, or in a table.
For example, if you are presenting means and standard deviations in a figure, rather than repeating these same numbers in the text, refer to the per cent difference, increase, or decrease (e.g., Plant height increased by 20% with the addition of fertilizer [Figure 2]). Do not explain what a graph is showing (e.g., Figure 1 shows the mean +/- standard deviations of plant height in response to fertilizer treatment) – the readers can see that for themselves.
Describe trends and patterns; highlight interesting and anomalous data; report significant findings. This provides the reader with a more relevant context than would simple digits.
The results section should contain information specific to your study only. Therefore, it should not include any interpretation of your results (this would require a comparison with other literature): do not state whether your results supported or rejected your hypotheses; do not say what your results mean; and do not compare your results to those of other studies.
Results Section Details
Description of results: You must include a written description of your results. Include only summarized data (e.g., means, statistics, etc.) and point out trends, patterns, and interesting data. Refer to tables and figures to support your descriptions.
Figures: Graphs provide a visual representation of your results. This is the ideal way to present your findings. You must refer to each figure in the written portion of your results.
Tables: Use tables to present more complex or detailed results that do not lend themselves to figures or text. You must refer to each table in the written portion of your results.
Appendix: This is an additional section, placed at the very end of your report after your reference section, where you can include, if required, raw data and other supplementary information. You must refer to the appendices in the written portion of your results.
A good results section should…
- Describe summarized data and statistical results
- Describe trends and patterns; highlight interesting and anomalous data; report significant findings
- Include appropriate tables and figures, referred to and imbedded within the text
A good results section should NOT…
- Include raw data
- Repeat numbers from text, tables, and figures
- Interpret or explain results
- Refer to other studies