Lab Reports for General Physics


You will be required to write a lab report for several of the experiments that will be done. To assist you in the writing process, the following sections are to be used. These reports are not meant to be overly long, instead their purpose is to help you develop your technical writing skills as well as demonstrate you understanding of the concepts. If you have questions with your report, or need help, there are several sources for you to seek.


Introduction
The purpose of the introduction has three parts: to describe how the physics you already know relates to this lab, set goals for the lab and predict what will happen. In the introduction, another student should be able to tell what you knew about the lab, what you expected to accomplish during the lab and what you predicted would happen in the lab. This should also include your hypothesis. The hypothesis is your best educated guess of what you expect the results of your experiment will be based on what you already know. If this is a verification-based lab, you should describe the physical principles and equations verified by the experiement.

Setup
The main point of this is not to fully explain your procedure in every little detail. Actually, that is what the point should be, but I want to make sure this does not get too long for you. What I want in this section is for you to explain what you did in enough detail so that your fellow classmates could reproduce what you did. That being the case, you do not need to repeat instructions given to the whole class but rather what you did different than everyone else. In this section, you should also include any diagrams that are needed to explain your procedure.


Data

This section should contain any data that you obtained during the lab. This should include any data tables or graphs that you need. Be aware that all graphs and tables have proper labels and units. You do not need to discuss the significance of the results, that will be done in a different section. Don't forget units and uncertainty.


Conclusion

The conclusion has two purposes. The first is to comment on how the data and results support (or not) your hypothesis. The conclusion is also the section where you demonstrate that you have indeed learned something by stating what you have learned. A good conclusion also discusses the problems with measurements made.


Grading of Lab Reports

Each lab will be graded out of 20 points with the following scale:

  • 20 Points: An excellent lab that explores extra sublties of the concepts and lab. This report does more than just take measurements and make calculations.
  • 18-19 Points: No major deficiences (errors or omissions) This report meets all the requirements.
  • 16-17 Points: At most one major deficiency
  • 14-15 Points: At most two major deficiency
  • 12-13 Points: Seriously deficient lab report
  • 11 Points or less: Entirely unacceptable lab report

Other things to know about lab reports

Tips for writing

  1. Write in scientific style. This is not a novel. Science writing strives to be clear and to the point. Sentences are short and direct. Long words from the thesaurus are not used.
  2. Be aware of the scientific definition of terms. The dictionary may say that power, force, and energy can mean the same thing. In physics, these terms have definite meanings and CAN NOT be interchanged. Make sure you know what each term means and use the proper term in the proper place.
  3. Make the report logical and easy to follow. Do not try to say the same thing in multiple ways just to make the report longer.
  4. UNITS. Make sure that anytime you give a number as a measurement (which is almost all of the numbers you will use), include the units.
  5. Spelling and grammatical errors should be reduced. All word processors have spell-checking capabilities - use them.

 

Resources: