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Lab Report


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Unformatted text preview: PHYSICS 120 PRINCIPLES OF PHYSICS I THE LAB REPORT Part I. Content and Format The lab report is your personal record of the experiment you performed during the lab period. Serious effort should be made to write a careful and complete report according to the format described below. But realize that the lab report needn't be a 30page thesis usually, four or five pages of text (not counting tables and figures) are sufficient to summarize purpose and procedure, report and interpret the data, and discuss the results of the experiment. The emphasis here is on effective communication: write clearly and be concise without omitting valuable information. The ultimate test of a good lab report is whether, a year from now, you yourself can flip through its pages and understand the goals, methods, and outcome of the experiment. Organization of the Lab Report Your lab report should include the following sections: 1. Title Page 2. Introduction 3. Procedure 4. Data and Data Analysis 4. Results and Discussion 6. Conclusions Each of these sections is described more fully below. Title Page: Here, you should include the title of the experiment, your name (underline it), your lab partners' names, the date you conducted the experiment and the date you submitted the report. Introduction: If you look at just about any scientific paper, the first few lines are an attempt to put the investigation into context. In particular, the authors indicate the motivation for the experiment (what question was the experiment trying to answer?) and explain why the experiment was important to do. Likewise, you should use the introduction to lay out, in a couple of sentences, the purpose of the experiment in a way that will capture the interest of the reader. A couple of stylistic notes: First, this section, and subsequent sections, should be written in past tense, since you are reporting on an activity that has already happened. Second, use active voice rather than passive voice. (Example: "We measured the length of the string using a meter stick" versus "The length of the string was measured with a meter stick.") Procedure: In this section, you should describe how you carried out your investigation. Highlight the main steps of the procedure (without going into excessive detail) and let the reader know what measuring instruments were used to obtain the data. Include a sketch of the apparatus if you think it is appropriate (diagrams can be hand drawn, though we prefer computergenerated The Lab Report page 2 drawings). If you made a series of measurements over a range of adjustable experimental parameters, or if you needed to take elaborate precautions to get good data, you should say so. Data and Data Analysis: Your experimental findings should be recorded neatly in the form of tables, graphs, or charts. Tables of data should be typed (do not insert sheets from a spreadsheet like Excel). Data must be accompanied by explanatory text. Imagine you are making a presentation at a conference and you are projecting the graphs and tables onto a screen. Surely you would not display this information without comment! As a rule, then, every data table and graph in your report should have a few words of associated text telling the reader what the figure is about. Also, if certain quantities in your data tables are derived from other data, explain how this is done and give a sample calculation. When presenting data in tables, each column of numbers must be identified with a heading which tells what the numbers mean and in what units they have been measured (example: "v = glider speed in m/s"). Put units only in the column heading. All tables and graphs should have a label (e.g., "Figure 2") and a title (e.g., "Position versus time for a falling ball"). Results and Discussion: This is the most important part of the lab report. Report your main results and discuss their significance. Link your experimental findings to the objectives described in your introduction. Did your investigation accomplish its purpose? Was the final outcome of your experiment consistent with your expectations? Have new questions been raised by your experiment? What were possible sources of error that may have skewed your results? Be sure to report what your data and analysis reveal, even if those results don't seem "right". There are real reasons since we live in a world where laboratory equipment and experimental conditions are not ideal why experimentally determined numbers and relations may come out "a little off", or even a lot off! Conclusions: In a short paragraph or two, summarize the main things you learned from your experiment and, where appropriate, make suggestions for improving the experimental procedure or for undertaking new lines of investigation. The Lab Report page 3 Part II. Grading Lab reports are to be typed (double space, please) with adequate margins. Figures and tables should be placed in the text where appropriate. The pages of the report should be stapled together. Each lab report can earn a maximum of 20 points according to the following grading scheme: Mechanics (4 points) use of proper sentence structures, punctuation, and spelling Organization (6 points) report follows suggested format paragraphs coherent and focused on theme of each section tables and graphs are properly labeled and formatted Content (10 points) report clearly identifies the purpose and results of the experiment thoughtful analysis and evaluation of data adequate treatment of methods all of the important data is included ...
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