THE LAB REPORT
The lab report is the most important part of the laboratory experience. If the results are not what you expected, the report should clearly say so, and discuss the reasons for it.
Every lab report should clearly state the 'five Ws': who did it, when was it done, where it was done, what was done, why it was done.
It should also state how it was done, what are the results, what does the report-writer (student) think of the results, and were the objectives accomplished or were they not.
Before you begin any lab exercise read through it and be sure that you understand what you expect to accomplish.Keep the objective in mind while you are doing the lab, whether it be an experiment or an exercise.
You can not expect to do well with an experiment or an exercise if you don't understand what you are doing and what you expect to learn from it.
Richard Feynman, one of the most elegant and gifted physicists of all time, said, " . . . you should report everything that you think might make (your experiment) invalid–not only what you think is right about it . . .”
Because this lab is offered to students through the distance education process, the instructor can not be there with you to explain and demonstrate the procedures firsthand. It is up to you to read and understand the background, the objectives, and the procedures alone or with another student. Physical separation of the class makes it impossible for get-togethers, but there is the chat room on WebCT and also on MyUH portal.These are for registered students only and will require agreed upon online meeting times.
Lab activities will include:
Please ask the instructor or your classmates for help with the lab if you don't understand. Lack of understanding is not an excuse if you don't seek understanding.
You may work with another student or students on the lab exercises, but you must include the names of everyone who contributed the report AND each student must submit an independent report.
Writing the report is as much of a learning processing and as the experiment itself. Good report writing skills are important in many different situations, not only in the science lab.
These guidelines should be followed for each report, even those in which the details of the lab exercise are structured with specific instructions and data tables.The same framework works for any report,. Not all sections will pertain to all reports, and some reports may require areas that are not shown here.
Think of the report and what it must contain while working through the lab exercise.
Every report should clearly convey certain information:
If you know what you are doing and why you are doing it, you will find that the labs go very smoothly. Read through the instructions for each lab before you start and be sure you understand them and the objecteves. The importance of the objectives can not be overstated. Simply stated you can't expect to do well on the lab report if you don't know why you are doing it. Why is just as important as what. You will not 'engage' the lab if you do not think of the objectives while completing it. Keep the objectives in mind at all times.
You wouldn't wash your car without thinking about removing the dirt. You wouldn't cook dinner without thinking about what you were cooking. Along the same lines why would you complete an experiment or exercise without thinking about it.
If you have questions, consult with the instructor or other students asap. Don't wait until the day the lab is due. You should allow more than one day to complete the lab and write the report. You can expect to spend as much as six hours, or even more in some cases, on each lab.This is what you would spend in the classroom laboratory every two weeks and no less is expected here.
The lab report is a way of recording the results of an experiment or observation. It should clearly describe what you did so that someone else can do the same. It tells others about your experiment.
You must try to show what the experiment was designed to investigate, how it was conducted, the data that was collected, an analysis of the data, and any conclusions that were reached.
You may safely assume that your reader is familiar with the general principles, but may not be familiar with the particular experiment you are conducting.
The report should answer the following questions, regardless of the format you choose to use:
You may wish to include other items of interest as well. Be creative, but not overly wordy. Don't try to be clever or poetic. Don't describe every movement (i.e. "I opened the door, turned on the light and walked to the table.")
The report should be typed. It should have the graphs and data tables included in the body of the report if possible. Othwise reference must be made to them if attached or sent separately.
It should include descriptions of anything that you used (outsideof the obvious such as paper and pencil). If it is a quantitative report, it should include a data table and if appropriate, a table of calculated results. You may want to send a graph as an attachment to the report. If you do, please save them in the form of a .gif, .pic, or .tif file. If you don't know how to do this let me know and I will try to help you.
Most word processing programs allow you to embed tables and graphics in the body of the document. MSWord and Appleworks will allow the inclusion of spreadsheet cells that will update when changes are made on the spreadsheet. The report can then be saved as a Microsoft Word document, an Appleworks document, as a RTF or HTML file.
Although you may not be familiar with these programs now, in today's world literacy with common office software programs is essential for virtually every position in the workplace. Don't be afraid to use them, even if you make a mistake now and then. Just save your work frequently and make a backup copy every now and then. The instructor can help and there are online instructions included with some of the exercises for preparing spreadsheets and graphs. Ask for assistance and help will be forthcoming with no guarantees of being able to fix every problem.
It is not important in which order the topics are presented, although it is a good idea to put the objectives and the conclusions at the beginning of the report as a summary or abstract rather than having the reader look through the report to find them.
The different topics may not be of the same length in each report and may be in different forms in each report. There is room for individual variation in the presentation of the information, and the topics listed at the end of this section are designed to allow you, the investigator, to answer the questions that the reader of your report might ask. You may use any format you like as long as it describes the goals, procedures, and results of the experiment clearly and unambiguously.The sample lab report is merely a template. Following it to the letter without thinking about it may cause you to do quite a bit of unnecessary work trying to discuss something that does not exist.
A brief description of what tools or equipment was used and how the data was collected is useful. This is especially so if there is anything unusual, or which departs from the instructions for whatever reason. Again use good judgement. It is not necessary to name the brand of pen used to collect the data, but a description of the ruler used to measure might be useful since that could affect the results.
The description of the method should include a sketch of the lab setup, if appropriate. The sketch may show the equipment used, or it may be used to show certain quantities which are to be collected as data or used in the calculations. In the case of observations, you should not the conditions. Was it cloudy or hazy, was the moon full, new or partial. Were you in the city with lots of ambient light or in the country. These types of notations are important because they influence the types of observations.
The clearest way to present data is in the form of a table and a graph. The instructions may suggest a convenient way to record the data. This may not be the only way to do it and you might want to invent your own.
A graph is sometimes useful as an aid in analysis of the data. Graphs are another way of showing the relationships between variables, and are often necessary to make interpretations. The graph may be prepared from the data as collected, or from calculations based on the data. The instructions for the lab exercise will suggest a format for the graph. You may draw the graph by hand or with the aid of a computer, using a spreadsheet program such as excel, or others. You may wish to include other graphs if they will add to your presentation. Graph can not normally be transmitted via email, but you can fax them.
If the instructions ask specific questions about the experiment you should copy the questions into the lab report along with your answers. It is best to answer the questions directly as a section of the report even if they are answered in the narrative of the analysis and conclusions.
Your report should also have a summary of your results which can indicate the outcome of your experiment at a glance to any interested party. What have you learned from the experiment? Was it a success or not? If not , why not.? How might you modify it for future trials? Was the hypothesis shown to be true? What other questions were raised? What are some probable sources of error?
All of these are questions which might be answered in this section. Not every report will address each of these questions, and there may be others. Each experiment is different, and requires a slightly different treatment. Part of what is to be learned from writing a report is knowing what to include and what not. Try to think about being in the audience when your report is presented. Would you like to sit through tons of uninteresting and irrelevant information, or would you rather hear a report that is concise and to the point. Put yourself in the viewpoint of the reader of the report as much as possible. The first thought in writing anything for presentation is 'audience'. Who are you writing for? Would you be interested in reading your report? Would you be able to ascertain the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, why) from the report?
The lab report should contain:
Each lab report will be graded based on the following:
1. Completeness. How well does the report describe the experiment and its results?
2. Thoroughness. Was enough data collected or calculated? Was it well analyzed?
3. Clarity. Was the problem clearly stated? Is the data clearly presented? Are the tables and calculations logically organized? Are the results clearly stated. Are the conclusions clearly presented?
4. Thoughtfulness. Does the report show that thought and care were exercised, or is it carelessly and hurriedly written? Are the conclusions based on the data? Do the analysis and conclusions show insight, or are they obvious or trivial? Does the report demonstrate engagement with the exercise and its objections or merely going through the motions of getting it done?