Lab Report Format
Your lab report is meant to communicate what you did, how you did it, and what your results were. The report should be clearly written and focus on results. It must be as long as necessary but no longer. The basic outline for your reports is given below. If your notes are good and follow the formats outlined, the report becomes much easier to write.
The lab reports in this class must have a cover page that includes the title of the lab, date of lab, the lab section, and the name of lab partners. After the cover page, the report is divided into roughly seven parts:
A. Objectives- Two or three sentences clearly defining the goals of the lab and what you expect to show by the end of the lab.
B. Theory- Use this section to explain the theory being tested by the experiment. It should contain information that clearly defines the fundamentals principles being explored. Variables that need to be measured must be defined here. Constants or parameter values held fixed in the experiment must be identified. Equations relating the variables go in this section. Equations should be typeset using Word’s Microsoft Equation editor and math and symbol fonts.
C. Procedure – Briefly explain how you used the lab equipment, circuit elements, and schematics to reach the experimental result and satisfy the objectives. Avoid making this a list.
D. Data- The data from your experiment must be reported here in a neat and organized fashion. Tables from your lab handout should be recreated in Excel and Word and presented in your report. Tables must have borders and headings and explanatory captions. Units must be reported, e.g. voltages in volts, resistance in ohms, current in amperes, or else the numerical data are useless. Estimate the uncertainties in the measurements due to the precision of the measuring devices. Plots of computer data go here if they are going to be used for the analysis in the next section.
E. Analysis- To be useful, the data reported in part D must be plotted, averaged, or otherwise mathematically manipulated. Explain briefly what formulas you are using and explain what variables you are graphing, averaging, etc. and why. Graphs must have axis labels including units and have explanatory captions. Explicitly show any calculations and then calculate standard deviations or percent errors for your results. Answers to numerical questions asked in the lab write up should be incorporated into the analysis.
F. Conclusions- Your conclusions should address whether the goal of the lab was reached, why errors resulted, and a general evaluation of the experiment. “Human Error” is not an acceptable reason for an unsuccessful experiment. Errors occur, but you must specifically cite what error or errors made in the experiment could cause the discrepancy of the size found in your experiment. Large errors usually mean you made a procedural error or error in a calculation and these should be fixed before you write your final report.
Please notice that large data tables or long calculations not part of the main argument of the report should be placed in appendices. It is not acceptable to copy and paste multiple pages of data from Excel into a report and call it “results. Include one or at most two graphs per procedure in the report to illustrate how you found an average or slope and then summarize the resulting data in a table. If each trial run required a separate graph to find the average or slope and you must show those graphs, then save them in an appendix rather than clutter the report. Any outside sources used for equations or theory must be cited on a reference page.
NOTE: The preceding description of the lab report may seem intimidating, but it actually makes writing each lab easier. Since the format of the report is decided in advance, you can focus on the logic of the lab, the presentation of the data, and the analysis of the data instead of the structure of the report. The format of the report is a template you fill in for each experiment. A sample lab report is online on Canvas.
Lab Notes Reminder
Students should read the lab in advance and be familiar with the equipment required for the lab and how to use it. The student should make notes about any changes in the equipment or procedure on their Lab handout during lab. Notes on each lab must be kept for the duration of this class for each lab. The data written in your laboratory notes is the primary record of your work.
Keep the Lab handouts in your lab folder until the quarter is finished. If there is a question about the work done or handed in, you must be able to produce written copies of the original data and experimental notes.
Students will have 7 days to complete their lab report. Whenever you complete your report you must remember one thing: a copy of the report in Microsoft Word format must be submitted as a Turnitin Assignment on Canvas for grading. Each person in a group must write their own report and turn in a separate and complete lab report to Canvas including all data tables, figures, and calculations. There are no exceptions to this rule! Failure to submit the electronic copy of your report to Black Board by the deadlines set in class will result in a zero or a greatly diminished grade for that lab. This is covered in more detail the late work policy statement on Blackboard.
Files can only be accepted in Microsoft Office formats with extensions .doc, .docx. File names should be in the format LastName_FirstName_LabNumber with only text and number symbols in the name (illegal characters such as # cannot be used, i.e. “Lab#1.doc” is not going to work on Black Board). Here is an example of lab name convention for lab 1: Elien_Lane_LabOne
Lab data is the common property of the group, but lab reports are done by each individual. Each lab report must be in your own words and not copied from any another person or source (including your lab partner, this lab handout, or any sample lab reports). Any outside sources used such as textbooks or online sources must be cited on a reference page. Intentional violation of these rules is plagiarism. Unintentional plagiarism will result in a zero or greatly reduced grade for the first offense. Intentional plagiarism will result in a zero and a report to the school for administrative action.