Bluffton University

NSC111: Physics/Earth/Space
Resource page: Laboratory Reports

Laboratory reports are to be divided into four parts and each part is to be identified with the appropriate section heading.

What is the purpose of this work? What is being tested, measured, investigated? What is the "big picture"?

This should require no more than two or three concise sentences.

What was important about how you got your information? What aspects of the experiment could definitely influence the results of your work and consequently your conclusions. Use a drawing or diagram to illustrate equipment or results that are difficult to describe. In no way should you attempt to provide all of the detail about how the data was collected. You should concentrate on providing a general image in the mind of your reader of how this data was obtained and you should emphasize those aspects that were ultimately most relevant to the objectives for the work.

This might require a page - but no more and possibly somewhat less depending on the experiment.

You already have data tables and other records that have been signed at the end of lab and are attached to this report. Essentially all of the calculations that you have made will be checked in the grading of this report. SO - what you need to report in this section are those results that are directly relevant to the conclusions about the objectives for this work. These should be presented in tabular form if there are enough to warrant it. If there are only two or three values then they might be presented as a simple list. It is almost never appropriate to incorporate numerical results into text in this section of the report.

In this section you must show your reader that you understand the objectives of this work and how the data/results collected are relevant. You must then use the results to show the fundamental relationships that provide the objectives for this work. - OR - you must show that you understand the objective and show how the results just are not consistent with what was expected.

An analysis of sources of error is important. It is NEVER enough to cite "human error" as a source of problems with the data/results. It may well be the case that human limitations were the major source of the inability to get "better" results. If that is the case, say what the problem was (i.e.: "no one in our group could reliably hear the resonance condition".) It is important to be as specific as possible in identifying sources of error and it always strengthens your case when you can do a "what if" type calculation to show that your analysis really can account for the observed problem - or, in itself, is not adequate.

It is never adequate to cite "calculation errors." If there is any chance that calculation errors may be present, you had better find and eliminate them!

Reports typically can be done well in two to three pages.

You may find Dan Berger's list of common writing errors helpful.

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Copyright © 2001 by Robert W. Suter. This work may be copied without limit if its use is to be for non-profit educational purposes. Such copies may be by any method, present or future. The author requests only that this statement accompany all such copies. All rights to publication for profit are retained by the author.