Before you read my sample lab report, read this students lab report...they earned an A for it. Also, make sure when you read my sample while also reading the comments on this page. I have added line numbers to the report for the sake of clearly communicating about the different sections. I want to make several details very clear.
- I do not expect lab reports to take 10+ hours to complete
- Writing a good lab report is a process which takes time
- My sample is the product of many years of experience and scientific training
- My sample is something you should strive to achieve one step at a time. Pick one thing on every report to improve on from the prior report. It might be flow, anomalies, presentation, better introductions, etc.
- The student sample is there to communicate to you that your report will look very different from something I would write...that is OK!!
- My sample has many little details you probably wouldnít think about...which is the point of the report and my explanations below. As you become more proficient at physics and report writing you should try to look for anomalies. Many great scientific discoveries have been made because of serendipity and chance (said scientists noticed an anomaly, investigated, and now heís famous for his discovery).
- I have 3 goals with lab reports.
- make you better report writers
- prepare you for the senior research project
- help you to become independent, higher level thinkers.
You can download my sample report here.
Personal Reflection Statement: Remember this is a think out loud. You canít say much here which would be wrong. Remember, just thoughtful.
Abstract: Simply stated hypothesis and purpose.
Pg 2: 9-10: I have included some information here about the physics. You couldnít have known this at this point and would not be a mark against you. This provides a sample of including the physics as part of the introduction for labs where the physics is known.
Pg 2 11-14: basic description of the equation(s) used and what it(they) mean to the lab. Again, for your report you likely did not make some of these connections.
Pg 2 15-23: Explicitly connecting the lab to the class
Methods and Materials: Basic description of setup and procedure
Results: Just some summary data.
Pg 4 10-14: Just stating the facts about the results. No real analysis has begun yet. Take note in line 13 I have stated the confidence interval. Remember, most of the time I want the 95% interval so we can have a lot of confidence in the results.
Pg 4 14: Did you remember to put a percent error calculation into your report. The percent error by itself is not an indication of good or bad results. You have to view it in light of the uncertainty within the experiment. If your hypothesis is accepted, it will tell you there is room for improvement. Simply stated, you need to do a better job with your precision. What percent error is a good one? It all depends on the equipment and experimental setup. 10% could be anywhere from great to terrible...
Pg 4 16-21: Taking note of trends, relationships and anomalies within the data. Here, I am simply trying to explain the anomaly and will systematically look at a possible cause. I.e. the large uncerainty of the first 4 data points.
Pg 4 24: Another noted anomaly. There should be no y-intercept based on the linearization of the given function.
Pg 4 25: knowing the y axis represents time and the x axis represents distance, it allows me to consider how uncertainty factors into the graph. At this point there has been no instruction on uncertainty with graphs. At this point an analysis of the intercept would not be expected.
pg 4 26-31: Analysis of the y-intercept.
Pg 5 2: A fancy way of saying ď I donít know.Ē
Pg 5 4-8: Yet another anomaly. This is one reason for making regression lines with equations. I do not expect you would know to look for this yet. But it is something to consider as you become more proficient with lab reports.
Pg 5 10-15: Usually you are asked to find ways for improving a lab. I personally struggled with this question until...I discovered uncertainty. Look at your relative or percent uncertainties. If one uncertainty is much smaller than another (about 1/4 or less) then that particular variable is not really a major player in your uncertainty. So where do you improve, any variable whose uncertainty stands out as being greater than the others needs a refined measuring technique. What if they are all the same? Circumstances will indicate if there is room for improvement. Generally, the larger the uncertainty, the more room there is for improvement. If there is no need for improvement then donít force it!!
Pg 5 17: The conclusion is explicitly and clearly stated as well as areas which need more research.
Page 7: A summary of the table and any special terms or variables which need defined for the user. Some sample calculations.
Page 9: A more in depth look at the y-intercept analysis.
Common anomalies to look for:
- significant y-intercepts
- regression lines not matching a known function
- regions of data which have abnormally high uncertainty or stand out for some other reason
- differences between a theoretical curve and the actual curve (in this case they were straight lines with unequal slopes)
Common Analysis Items:
- Compare theoretical result to experimental result
- do the accepted range of values for each overlap at the 95% confidence interval?
- Percent error and what it might mean
- Room for improvement (at least in terms of the uncertainty)