This preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.
Unformatted text preview: your thesis, along with enough background
information to explain it and a brief preview of how you intend to support it, in your
introduction. Defend your thesis in the methodology and results sections. Restate your thesis,
this time with a little more critical evaluation, in your discussion. However, keep in mind
that IMRD can be a rule or a guideline. In this class, we shall not have exactly four sections
with these titles; we shall divide the report more finely (See below.). Roughly speaking,
“Introduction” will become the Introduction and Prediction sections, “Methodology” and
“Results” will become the Procedure, Data, and Analysis sections, and “Discussion” will
become the Conclusion section: introduce and state your prediction in the Introduction and
Prediction sections; test your prediction in the Procedure, Data, and Analysis sections; and
restate and critically evaluate both your prediction and your result in your Conclusion
If you are successfully to persuade your audience, you must know something about her.
What sorts of things does she know about physics, and what sorts of things does she find
convincing? For your lab report, she is an arbitrary scientifically-literate person. She is not
quite your professor, not quite your TA, and not quite your labmates, but she is this same
sort of person. The biggest difference is that she doesn’t know what your experiment is, why
you are doing it, or what you hope to prove until you tell her. Use physics and mathematics
freely in your report, but explain your experiment and analysis in detail. Technical Style
A lab report is a technical document. This means that it is stylistically quite different from
other documents you may have written. What characterizes technical writing, at least as far 260 APPENDIX: GUIDE TO WRITING LAB REPORTS – 130x as your lab report is concerned? Here are some of the most prominent features, but for a
general idea, read the sample good lab report included in this manual.
A lab report does not entertain. When you read the sample reports, you may find them
boring; that’s OK. The science in your report should be able to stand for itself. If your report
needs to be entertaining, then its science is lacking.
A lab report is a persuasive document, but it does not express opinions. Yourprediction
should be expressed as an objective hypothesis, and your experiment and analysis should be
a disinterested effort to confirm or deny it. Your result may or may not coincide with your
prediction, and your report should support that result objectively.
A lab report is divided into sections. Each section should clearly communicate one aspect of
your experiment or analysis.
A lab report may use either the active or the passive voice. Use whichever feels natural and
accomplishes your intent, but you should be consistent.
A lab report presents much of its information with media other than prose. Tables, graphs,
diagrams, and equations frequently can communicate far more effectively than can words.
Integrate them smoothly into your report.
A lab report is quantitative. If you don’t have numbers to support what you say, you may as
well not say it at all.
Some of these points are important and sophisticated enough to merit sections of their own,
so let’s discuss them some more. Nonverbal Media
A picture is worth a thousand words. Take this old sentiment to heart when you write your
lab report, but do not limit yourself to pictures. Make your point as clearly and tersely as
possible; if a graph will do this better than words will, use a graph.
When you incorporate these media, you must do so well, in a way that serves the
fundamental purpose of clear communication. Label them “Figure 1” and “Table 2.” Give
them meaningful captions that inform the reader what information they are presenting. Give
them context in the prose of your report. They need to be functional parts of your document’s
argument, and they need to be well-integrated into the discussion.
Students sometimes think that they are graded “for the graphs,” and TAs sometimes overemphasize the importance of these media. Avoid these pitfalls by keeping in mind that the
purpose of these things is communication. If you can make your point more elegantly with
these tools, then use them. If you cannot, then stick to tried-and-true prose. Use your best
judgment. 261 APPENDIX: GUIDE TO WRITING LAB REPORTS – 130x Quantitativeness
A lab report is quantitative. Quantitativeness is the power of scientific analysis. It is objective.
It holds a special power lacking in all other forms of human endeavor: it allows us to know
precisely how well we know something. Your report is scientifically valid only insofar as it is
Give numbers for everything, and give the numerical errors in those numbers. If you find
yourself using words like “big,” “small,” “close,” “similar,” etcetera, then you are probably
not being sufficiently q...
View Full Document
This document was uploaded on 02/23/2014 for the course MANAGMENT 2201 at University of Michigan.
- Spring '14