Writing in the Science Class: Lab Conclusions

Author: Kristen Hillert, Secondary Science Specialist


Conclusions are a powerful way to assess students’ mastery of the objectives of lab investigations.  But how do you teach students to write conclusions?  Here, science teachers can learn from our colleagues in the English department.

Although scientific writing is a unique style with a set of rules different from the writing students traditionally do in English classes, strategies used to teach writing work across genres.  Before asking students to turn in their first lab report, try one of these strategies and see if the writing of your students improves.

  • Mentor text. Show students examples of what a “good” lab conclusion looks like.
  • For younger students, this might mean writing a few examples yourself or sharing student conclusions from the previous years.
  • Older students should see real examples of conclusions from peer reviewed journal articles.
  • Students could do a gallery walk around the room reading the sample mentor texts and making observations about what they all have in common.
  • Finally, students use their observations about the structure of a strong conclusion to guide their own writing.
    • Sentence Stems. Help students know how to start the conclusion by suggesting sentence stems they can use.
    • _________ was used to _________ in this lab.
    • The data shows the relationship between _________ and _________ is _________because_________.
    • The evidence for _________ was that _________.
      • Class Examples.  Type up conclusions written by your own students (be sure to keep them anonymous!) and share them with the students to evaluate.
      • Mix examples of strong and weak conclusions (no more 10 total).
      • Review the examples one at a time.
      • Have students identify the strength(s)/weakness(es) of each conclusion.
      • Have students work together to generalize their comments and form them into a checklist they can use to evaluate their own conclusions before submitting them to you.

Lab investigations are an important part of science throughout all grade levels.  The conclusion is the part of the lab report that allows students to assimilate the information gained from the hands on-experiences with the theory of the content.  Empowering students to fully express all they have learned through the investigation will not only improve their understanding of the content as they work through all the ideas as they write them out, but it also provides you, the teacher, an excellent form of evaluation of mastery.

To learn more about how to incorporate writing into your science class, check out the TRC Modules: Writing in Science in Project Share.  They’re free and a great resource for creative ideas of teaching through writing!

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