How to Write a Psychology Lab Report

Writing a psychology lab report may be a daunting task for any student. However, the process will enable you to become both a better writer and psychologist. Writing lab reports is a key component to how psychologists impact the world and everyday life with the knowledge they have gained. This article will teach you how to write the typical undergraduate lab report that would be expected from BSc psychology students.


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    Write a title. This title must concisely explain what the study is about. As a general rule, include the variables you were manipulating.
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    Write a small abstract. This should contain information about the aims of the study and why it was conducted, what was done and how, what you found and what the results showed (but don’t include variables here) and what conclusions can be drawn.
    • Remember not to include the abstract in your reports, but centre it and put it in italics, to set it apart from your introduction.
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    Write your introduction. Set the scene for your study and give your reader enough background and debate, so that they can fully understand why your current study needed to be conducted.
    • Discuss other studies in the area and what is already known, whilst explaining the rationale for the current study and how the previous research led you to this particular question.
    • Explain what you aimed to achieve with your study in a way which is logical from previous research findings. Don’t state your hypotheses, just explain what you expect to find or whether the study is exploratory.
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    Write your method. Your method should be subdivided into: design, participants, materials/ apparatus, procedure and results.
    • Design: The design needed to explain the experimental design of your study.
      • So, a within-participants design is when your participants are exposed to all of the experimental conditions.
      • A between-participants design is when your participants are divided into different groups to be exposed to the experimental conditions.
      • A mixed design uses both.
      • You should also state each independent variable and the different levels of that variable if there are any. Also state what was measured (i.e. your dependent variable(s)). A more experienced researcher can avoid using terms such as “independent variable” and “dependent variable.” Outlined controls used but remember not to mention your method of analysis yet.
    • Participants: In the participants section, state the number of participants who took part in the study. Numbers from one to nine should be written in words but any numbers above nine can be expressed in numerals. However, if you begin a sentence with a number, it should be expressed in words whatever the number.
      • Mention how many males and females took part and give the mean age(s) and age range of your participant group(s). If you did not collect this data you can say that age and gender was not noted.
      • If you have more than one experimental group, then you should say how many participants were in each condition.
      • Mention how the participants were recruited (e.g. opportunity sample) and how consent was given (e.g. they were told that by submitting a questionnaire it was a form of consent).
    • Materials: In the Materials section, describe all the equipment that was used in your study including stimuli. To write this concisely, tell the reader what they would need to replicate the experiment and nothing more. Questionnaires and other paper material should be appropriately referenced.
      • It should be written in full sentences, not bullet points.
      • Example materials would be computers and software, questionnaires, stimuli (e.g. if words/ images are used give a reference to the appendices where the reader can learn more about them), stopwatches, items/ furniture, coding/ response sheet and for observations you should clearly define your behaviours.
      • Don’t mention analysis here or state anything too obvious. For example, you don’t need to say participants used pens to complete a questionnaire.
    • Procedure: In the procedure section you should explain what was done, when and to whom. Examples are: where the study took place, whether it was conducted individually or in groups, what instructions were given to the participants, what the participants were asked to do (in chronological order), whether there was a time limit, whether there were any practice trials and whether the study was conducted in silence.
    • Results: In the results section, you can finally explain what was done with the data you collected and what the number you have calculated mean.
      • First describe your raw data, the data you originally tested.
      • Then give the reader a reference to the appendix where they can read more about it. Also include a means and standard deviation table for each group or condition.
      • Give these tables an appropriate and descriptive title.
      • Report the values consistently; most values are reported to two decimal places so make sure you stick to that throughout your report.
      • Report the types of analysis that was conducted (e.g. an independent t-test, a one- way ANOVA). You can also say if it was a one- tailed or two- tailed test.
      • Underneath these analyses, report the test statistic (e.g. t(17)- 3.90, p= 0.44) and whether the p value was significant or not. You should report exact values unless the result is .000, in which case you should write p<.001. p values have to be written to three decimal places whereas your other values should be written to two decimal places.
      • Remember, to report the results in full sentences.
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    Write your discussion. This section needs to discuss the findings of your study in relation to the studies mentioned in your introduction. Consider how your findings fill any gaps in our knowledge and what implications they have for real life.
    • Begin by briefly reminding the reader what the aim of the study was. Then provide a statement of the results in “real” terms, suitable for a layperson.
    • Discuss each of your findings in relation to the studies mentioned in your introduction. Do they agree with previous research or suggest something different?
    • Be careful when discussing non- significant results. If the p value was close to significance, then you can say it suggested a non- significant trend. But it is also sensible to reserve judgement and suggest future research that may clarify this issue.
    • Inconsistencies between your findings and previous research could be due to a number of factors, such as a different method of measurements, differences in personality of participants and differences in instructions. Think about factors that might have affected one group more than another which could have exaggerated or minimised differences between groups.
    • Suggest ideas for how future research in your topic area might be conducted which may add to knowledge. Think about what your results mean for real-life and if they could be applied to everyday situations.
    • Provide a conclusion; it only needs to be a few sentences and should state simply what can be concluded from the results of your study. Do not include number/ values, tables/ figures and unnecessary criticism of your work. You do not need to say how non-significant results are due to a low number of participants.
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    Always include a reference section. It is helpful to note your references as you go along writing your report. It should only include sources which you have directly consulted whilst writing your lab report and cited in the text of your report. If you have gained knowledge or ideas from a source, you need to mention acknowledge this in the text.
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    Include appendices. Each appendices should be numbered and titled. You need to make sure appendices are attached in the order that they appear in the report. Examples include stimuli used, instructions given to participants, questionnaires, response sheets, raw SPSS data files and SPSS output used for statistical analysis.


  • Write as concisely as possible. Imagine you’re an actual psychologist trying to get the attention of a reader to teach them the importance of your findings. They are going to want to read as little as they can whilst still gaining a good understanding of what your study was about. Also, a lecturer marking your work is not going to want to read through nonsense filler and waffle!
  • Your abstract in a sense should be a mini-lab report and should only generally inform your reader about your study. It is sometimes helpful to write the abstract last once you know all the ins and outs of your lab report.
  • Look at your university's formatting templates and referencing guides. British universities tend to apply rules from the American Psychological Association for their formatting.
  • Write down your references as you go along. It’s a pain trying to look them all up at the end of writing.
  • Look at the example 2:1 lab report provided via a link at the bottom of the page. It is set up with the correct font, margins, formatting and heading styles based on APA-6 guidelines. You can just delete the text and start writing. You could also have a go at evaluating the report yourself based on the criteria written above. Is there anything written that was not relevant? Could some points have been written more concisely?


  • At university, you will often conduct lab experiments with the same lecturer who is responsible for marking your lab report. If they give you any advice about writing the report, listen carefully to what they have to say. Sometimes, individual markers have their own little quirks as to what they want you to write. For example, one lecturer might have a problem with you writing “males/females” if you are talking about human participants but not animals and would instead like you to write “men/women.” However, another lecturer may not be bothered about this at all!

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