Drawing scientific apparatus

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Key points

  • Use diagrams to show how scientific apparatus is set up.
  • Scientists must be able to read measuring instruments properly.
  • Common practical techniques that use apparatus include filtration, evaporation and distillation,

What piece of stationery should be used to draw diagrams in science?

A pencil.

Diagrams of equipment

Equipment used in science is often called . Diagrams of apparatus being used are usually drawn instead of pictures.

Diagrams should be:

  • Drawn in pencil. Lines should be firm and continuous with no gaps or shading - not sketchy like in art.
  • As large as necessary to show clearly what is being represented.
  • Labelled using separate ruled lines. One end of the line should be clearly pointing at the apparatus, and at the other end, the label is written. These labels should be spread out and the lines should not overlap each other.

An example of a diagram of scientific apparatus

An example of a diagram of scientific apparatus, illustrating filtering.

In science, what is drawn instead of a picture to show an experimental set-up?

A diagram.

Drawing apparatus

Diagrams make it clear how pieces of apparatus are linked together.

show what a piece of equipment would look like if it was cut in half and viewed from the side. In this image, a glass beaker is shown alongside a cross-section 2D diagram. It is much easier to draw than drawing a picture of the beaker.

Cross-section diagrams are used in science to help make scientific diagrams of apparatus clear and easy to understand what they show. Individual diagrams of equipment can be combined to show a practical technique.

Why are scientific diagrams drawn instead of pictures?

They are easier to draw and clearly show how equipment links together.

In science 3D pictures are simplified to 2D cross-section diagrams.

Below are the most common pieces of apparatus found in a science lab:

An illustration of six drawings of scientific apparatus: a beaker, test tube, conical flask, measuring cylinder, tripod and gauze.
An illustration of five drawings of scientific apparatus: a Bunsen burner, evaporating basin, filter funnel, condenser and round-bottom flask.

Which piece of equipment is represented by an arrow pointing upwards with the word ‘heat’ written underneath it?

A Bunsen burner.

Common practical techniques

Person doing science experiment - a hand pours liquid into a filter, with the liquid coming through the filter into a jug - part of the process of filtration.


Experiments carried out in a lab can be represented by drawing labelled diagrams. The photograph shows a practical technique known as filtration. It's used to separate a solid that doesn't dissolve in a liquid.

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What can you use on a diagram to show that something is being heated, instead of showing a Bunsen burner?

Use an arrow on a diagram to show that something is being heated.

Reading a scale

When doing an experiment in science, something usually has to be measured. These measurements are taken using different pieces of equipment such as:

  • A ruler - to measure a length or distance.
  • A measuring cylinder – to measure volumes of liquids.
  • A force meter – to measure the size of a force.

Reading the numbers from a scale first, then recording them is very important.

Look at the on the scale to work out what they mean before taking a measurement.

Some instruments like rulers have two scales on. It is important to use the correct scale. In science, centimetres or millimetres are used to measure distance on rulers, and not inches.

What is a ruler used to measure?

Length or distance.

What are the markings on a scale called?


Test your knowledge

Quiz - Select the correct scientific apparatus

Quiz - Drawing scientific apparatus

Did you know?

Throughout history body parts have been used to measure things. A ‘hand’ is an example of this and is actually still used today to measure horse height - although now it has been defined as a measurement of four inches. A ‘hand’ as a unit can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians.