Fresh. Fit. Focused.: Getting the most out of lab classes


Melissa Schmitz, Asst. Opinion Editor

As a biochemistry major, I know labs all too well. Science labs, especially after freshman year, require a lot of work. There’s a prelab, which can either be an assignment to hand in or a full outline of the experiment to be done, and a post lab report that can take hours to write properly. Here I have some tips for you to streamline the whole process so as to facilitate learning and save you time.

Preparation Beforehand

If you need a reason to do some legitimate preparation, think about this: you’re more likely to finish the lab early because you actually knew what you were doing and why beforehand.  Not to mention, if you’ve gone over the material necessary to understand the purpose of the lab, it will be review during the lab rather than you scrambling to figure out what you’re doing during a critical part of the experiment.

You can start by reading through the introduction and procedure to figure out what exactly you’ll be doing. Then type up a summary in your own words. Use this as the purpose of the lab. Then start laying out the foundation of your lab report. This could be as little as marking out the sections of your report [i.e., background, procedure, deviations, results, etc.] and making tables or, if you want to be especially prepared, as much as typing up the entire background section. The latter is great if you really want to have a solid understanding of the lab before you do it, but if you’re not completely sure on the theory you can at least make a preliminary draft. If you have to make a table of reagants or the like for prelab, delegate this work among your friends to get it done faster.

During the lab

Of course you will be performing the lab during this time, but something worth noting are some procedures you should follow while in the lab. Make sure you write down all of your observations. Some professors are more strict than others, but this is good practice, especially if you’re planning to go the research route in science. While not related specifically to the report, also be sure you follow the safety percautions, such as wearing goggles and gloves. You don’t want to accidentally infect yourself with bacteria or come in contact with a strong acid.

After the lab

So you finished the 2+ hour lab. Awesome. Now you wait until the last minute to scrape up a report, right? No. The best advice I’ve heard from other science majors is to start the lab report right after you finish the lab. If you already have a solid outline, or perhaps even the background written, this is a very simple process. Even more so, if there’s anything you forgot to write down in your lab notebook, it will still be fresh since you just did it! At the very least, write up your results, fill in data tables, and insert your equations the day of. The sooner you finish your report, the more time you have to meet with your professor to get a quick proofread and make any necessary changes.

Most importantly, make sure you’re actually putting some legitimate effort into these reports. Do not BS these, because you will regret it when you get up to more involved reports. It will help you learn the material for class and pretty much guarantee you an awesome mark. Even if people have told you a professor is a “hard grader” you will very likely get an A if you just put in the effort.