Writing an Organic Chemistry Lab Report Components of a Laboratory Notebook The following components should be contained f

Writing an Organic Chemistry Lab Report

Components of a Laboratory Notebook

The following components should be contained for each experiment, along with any additional material required by your instructor.

  • Title and date
  • Introduction (purpose, reaction)
  • Physical data (including calculations)
  • Procedure outline
  • Data and observations
  • Discussion of results (conclusions)



Title and Date 

Give the title of the experiment and the date on which it is done.


In a sentence or two, state the purpose of the experiment. If the experiment is a preparative experiment, the introduction also includes the balanced equation for the reaction.

In organic chem, there are different types of experiments: technique and preparative. A technique experiment is one in which you are performing a technique for the first time and studying its details, for example, distillation and extraction. A preparative experiment is one in which a compound is synthesized from other reagents.

Physical Data 

List the molecular weight, melting point, boiling point, density, solubility, and hazards of all pertinent chemicals used in the experiment. You can find this information in the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.  (We have this book at school, and a CD-ROM version as well.)  Or, you can find the information on the Internet (see: Hazard and Physical Data for Compounds page).  Chemfinder.com is an excellent site to find this data. The physical data are most conveniently presented in tabular form, although in a preparative experiment you may put the amounts of reactants and products under the balanced equations for the reaction.

Calculate the amounts of reactants (or compounds to be purified) in moles and grams or mL (as applicable). In a preparative experiment, calculate the limiting reagent and the theoretical yield of the product. Be sure to include your calculations for these values. 


Briefly summarize the procedure to be followed, preferably either as an outline or as a flow chart. You do not need to write out the procedure in complete sentences and do not copy directly from the Lab Manual. All you need is a brief but complete listing of what you plan to do in the lab. The first time you do a technique, such as distillation, include in the procedure section a description of how to assemble the apparatus and how to conduct the distillation. In later experiments, it will be sufficient to state only that the liquid was distilled.

Data and Observations

Your observations of the experiment as it progresses is important, new information. Write these observations (color changes, appearance of crystals, formation of an emulsion, boiling temperatures, test results, etc.) in your notebook as you do the experiment. Also record the weights of reagents and products and tare weights in this section.

In general, you do not need to re-write the Procedure section in these observations, instead, you may state that “the procedure was carried out as planned” or “the procedure was carried out as planned except . . . .” At times, however, you may have to write the procedure out partially. For instance, if you state “the solution turned green,” you will have to write out enough of the procedure so that your instructor will know at what step in the reaction the solution turned green. As a guideline, consider that from the procedure and data and observations sections, any chemist should be able to duplicate your experiment. With this in mind, be thorough but include only pertinent information.

Discussion of Results

This is the section in which you interpret the data obtained in the previous section. For instance, indicate the amount of purified compound that you obtained and how the purity and identity of the compound was assessed. In a preparative experiment, state the percent yield. Include and discuss instrument printouts, such as GC traces and IR spectra (if you have them). In this section, you can state whether or not the procedure was a good method for making the desired compound; if not, try to make suggestions to improve the method for future experimenters.  Be sure to include a discussion of possible sources of error, and how that error would affect the overall yield.

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