The format of each lab report is structured similarly to professional publications (see Research Archives) and must include the following sections:
- procedural steps
- results / table
These sections are explained here broadly in terms of fulfilling the the minimum requriments of the lab report (70% grade). Going beyond these expectations would increase the grade (80% to 100%).
In preparation for the lab, the experiment’s goal is paraphrased from the Laboratory Guideline Notes. The predictions are prepared at home given the limited laboratory time. It is pasted into the lab notebook before discussion time. The schematics (half page minimum) shows a detailed diagram of the entire setup used for the experiment. It must include all knobs and connections, so that someone else could replicate the experiment easily. Details, such as the four connection ports of the multimeter or the specific rows on the breadboard, should be included. Additionally, add variabls that you use in the measurement. An example is II for current, R1R1 for resistance. The current II could be measured at any point, so it is important for the reader to know what location you are referring to.
The procedural steps include an account of your experimental approach and also observations along the way. Use full sentences and neat writing. Units need to be included in the table, and columns clearly marked. It is important that the column names ΔVΔV, II, dd, are clearly explained in the schematic or elsewhere. Use a ruler (provided) for drawing a table and also a graph. The dependent variable is along the x-axis; it is the quantity that you can vary as an experimentalist. The axes require labels and units. Data points are added accurately (use ruler) or print the graph created on a computer using the network printer in the lab (set the printer to 1-page printing, so that paper is not wasted.)
Reserve about 20 minutes to write your summary and reflection at the end of the lab. The summary is one paragraph and answers the questions set forth in the “goals” section. Describe the underlying physics principle. Use quantitative answers and include uncertainties, find the main result and only include that. Briefly discuss the implications and comparisons with the predictions, include numbers, whenever possible. The reflection is also one paragraph. It is a personal point-of-view towards the experiment and includes improvements, enhancements that you would suggest, if redoing the experiment. The reflective paragraph provides the reader with more insight about how the experiment was run and possible problems that were encountered.
Include time stamps, whenever possible. Add observations that you make along the way.
In addition to these minimum requirements, the lab reports should be enhanced. Enhancements include transparent calculations of the uncertainty, discussion of the predictions, improvements to the design of the experiment, more precise measurements, depth to the tasks, technical abilities to make accurate measurements, additional measurements to confirm your method, relations between parameters, and ideas that you are testing.