An abstract is a summary of all the key points in a lab report. Although it appears at the beginning of the report, it is best written after the experiment is concluded. Since this section is required to encapsulate all the key aspects of the study, it would be incomplete if it doesn’t offer any insight on the key findings or result of the experiment.
What Does a Lab Report Abstract Include?
A lab report abstract is usually somewhere between 200–400 words and doesn’t normally exceed 500 words. It follows the same sequence as the experiment it is required to summarize. Also, it is placed at the beginning of the report just before the ‘introduction’ paragraph.
A well-written abstract efficiently recapitulates the following elements of a lab report:
- Purpose of the experiment or study: What is the need for the experiment or study?
- Hypothesis: What is the main research question and is there an outcome that can be expected from the experiment?
- Methods used: What were the approaches taken or methods used to get the outcome?
- Results or findings: What is the final outcome?
- Conclusion: What is the conclusion of the experiment? Does the outcome support the hypothesis or not?
The following is the basic structure of an abstract:
Opening statement that introduces the experiment or the study. Purpose of the experiment or the study. Methods and materials used. Assumptions made (if any). Results. Interpretation. Conclusion.
Below is a lab report abstract example:
This abstract of a photosynthesis lab report clearly summarizes all aspects of the experiment, including the outcome.
We tested the dialysis tubing’s permeability to glucose, starch, and iodine. Initially, glucose and starch were placed in the bag, and iodine was placed outside the bag (in the beaker). We used the iodine test to check for the presence of starch, which was positive inside the bag, and Benedict’s reagent to test for glucose, which was positive outside the bag. We, therefore, concluded that only small molecules like glucose and iodine can permeate through the bag; starch is too large.
Types of Abstracts Used in Lab Reports
There are four different types of abstract used in lab reports:
1. Informative Abstract
As the name suggests, an informative abstract is a brief summary of the experiment performed, methods used, results derived, and conclusion. This type of abstract provides an expansive outline of the entire research or experiment.
2. Descriptive Abstract
Like an informative abstract, a descriptive abstract summarizes the entire lab report into a short paragraph. This type of abstract gives readers an overview of the experiment; it includes the methods used but doesn’t state the results obtained, assumptions made, final conclusion, or recommendations. A descriptive abstract is simply an introduction to the experiment.
3. Critical Abstract
A critical abstract not only provides a detailed summary of the experiment, but it also includes an evaluation of the outcome of the experiment. This type of abstract includes a statement on the reliability of the result of the experiment and also compares the results with those of other experiments conducted on the same subject. A critical abstract is longer than other forms of abstracts because it often includes a brief analysis of the experimental results.
4. Highlight Abstract
A highlight abstract is not as commonly used as other types of abstracts. It simply highlights the purpose of the experiment, leaving out the results and other key information about the study, with an intent to grab the attention of the readers.
Tips to Write an Abstract in a Lab Report
An abstract is an essential part of any scientific article or journal as it states the objective of a study. While writing an abstract, it’s important to remember that a lab report—like a college admission essay, research paper, or any other assignment—must adhere to certain writing guidelines stated in a college’s writing style guide.
Besides the standard guidelines, below are some additional tips to help write a great lab report abstract.
An abstract should:
- Be concise, coherent, and comprehensive at the same time. This means, it should summarize the entire report without exceeding the maximum word limit.
- Not contain citations or references.
- Follow proper punctuation rules. For example, all statistical information should be within parentheses.
- Not include additional information that is irrelevant to the experiment or the study.
- Be informative and engaging, giving readers an idea of what the experiment is about.
- Be written in third person, in the past tense.
- Not reference any outside body of work or studies.
- Follow formal writing rules.
- Be free from acronyms and abbreviations.
- Be concluded by stating the inference made from the outcome of the experiment.
Since the abstract gives the readers an insight into what the rest of the report is about, it should not only be comprehensive but also comprehensible. Following the approach and tips laid out in this article can help in getting both these aspects right.