University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota: Department of Mechanical Engineering

ME 4331: Informal Lab Report

Guidelines for Informal Lab Report

The informal report does not require information on the background and the theory of the experiment. Descriptions of the required components in outline form follow:

Title Page

The title page should clearly display:

Main Body of the Report

The report should consist of four sections: (1) Objectives, (2) Methods, (3) Results and Discussion and (4) Conclusions and Recommendations. Each section must be clearly identified with a heading.Write each section in a logical, coherent manner using complete sentences.


Identify the main objective(s) of the experiment. You should be able to cover this section in one brief paragraph, i.e. two or three well-written sentences. You may paraphrase statements found in the lab manual and handouts but do not copy them.

Experimental Methods (not more than 2-3 pages)

Write about the general strategy used to obtain the data. Identify the equipment and the data collection technique you used. A schematic of the experiment is almost always necessary. Describe your procedures in such detail so that the knowledgeable reader could reproduce your experiment or analyze potential flaws. Schematics and tables may be merged with the text or placed at the end of the section. If relevant, a photograph of the experimental apparatus can be included. The intent of this section is to:

Results and Discussion

Prepare graphs and tables that best display the results of the experiment and discuss them. Indicate trends, analyze and discuss why they occur and explain any significant features or differences from expected results. Be as specific and quantitative as you are able. Avoid the use of catch-all phrases such as "human error." Always comment on "wild" data points. Graphs and tables may be merged in the text or placed at the end of the section; either way, they must be numbered and referenced in the text. More detailed information on graphs is given below.

Conclusions / Summary

Present the conclusions you draw from the results. All conclusions should be clearly stated and supported with evidence. Cite specific results and observations from the experiment and tie them to your conclusions. Summarize reasons for any disagreement between your results and the expected results. Recommend ways to correct problems that may have led to discrepancies or bad data points.

Graphs, Tables and Figures

These may appear in the Methods or Results sections but are graded separately. Graphs and tables should be clear and logical. They should be free-standing and carefully labeled, such that the reader can understand them without referring to the text. Hence, you must choose figure captions and table titles carefully. In an informal report, you may use graph titles if you wish, but you must still number the figures and include complete captions. Note that "x vs y" or anything similar is rarely appropriate - captions and titles should be descriptive of the experiment. Each graph should be properly scaled and drawn using standard data symbols and curve drawing techniques. An example is given below; additional details and examples can be found in the document describing formal reports. You may merge the figures into the text or place them at the end of the respective sections. If you do the latter, the order of appearance of the graphs, tables and figures should parallel the order of the discussion. The text should reference the appropriate figures and tables by number rather than by title.

Example graph:

Good Figure

Figure 1 Relationship between jet vector angle and surface pressure


The following appendices should be included in each of the informal laboratory reports:

Include the following:

  1. A label identifying the calculation.
  2. Statement of the equation in symbolic form.
  3. Identification of variables (include units).
  4. Sufficient description that the readers can follow your work.
  5. Substitution of one set of numbers.
  6. Carry the units and USE THEM!!!
  7. Present with the appropriate number of significant figures.

An example is shown below:

Heat Transfer Coefficient Calculations -

h = q/(Ts - To )
h = heat transfer coefficient (W/m2°C)
q = heat flux (W/m2)
Ts = surface temperature (°C)
To = ambient temperature (°C)
Using numbers from the first data point:
h = (100)/(60-20) = 2.5 W/m2°C

Do not include computations for every data point. This gets messy and is hard to follow. Submission of a spreadsheet will not fulfill the requirements for this section. If a computer program is a significant part of the pre-lab effort, a program listing should be included as an appendix.

Additional Notes:

Reports will be graded largely on their ability to clearly communicate results and important conclusions to the reader. It is important that you use proper English, spelling, logic and style. You should proofread your report as well as spell-check it - errors such as "Diesel fuel infection" and "Untied States" are amusing but not impressive.