Lab Report Guidelines

Your success in this project will be evaluated using a set of scoring rubrics. Your understanding of physics and your ability to design, conduct, and communicate the results of an experiment is the focus of the evaluation. Your final product will be a formal lab report which communicates your purpose, background understanding, procedure, findings, and conclusions. The formal lab report is thus the critical document which reflects your understanding and success. For this reason, it is important that you understand exactly what should be included in the formal lab report and how it should be put together. Directions for each step of the process have been described in the Overview for this project. The purpose of this page is to further explain the details. The lab report should include all the customary sections included in any lab report. Title Page Purpose Theoretical Background (a.k.a. These sections should be clearly titled and organized in the exact manner as shown above.

The graphic at the right depicts the organizational scheme which you should have and an approximate number of pages which each section might typically have. These pages are merely an approximation and serve to give an idea of the magnitude of the report. Title Page – includes a meaningful title for your project/report and the names of the experimenters. Some students will occassionally include a colorful graphic on this page. Purpose – a paragraph in which you describe the objective of your experimental investigation and literature search; the purpose should be clearly stated and should clearly identify the dependent and independent variables. Procedural steps should not be discussed in the purpose section. Theoretical Background (Literature Survey) – exhaustively describe the physics of your topic. Include diagrams, graphs, and other visuals which have been discussed in class or which you found in the book or other literature. Discuss the physics principles in detail, writing as though your audience was an individual who knows little about your topic. Begin by approaching the topic in rather general terms and then breaking it down into specifics.

Define terms, discuss equations and provide sample calculations to illustrate how they can be used, and present diagrams and discuss and elaborate upon their meaning. In other words, apply physics to the situation by intelligently discussing the physics principles which applies to the topic which you have selected. Take time to look back through the book, the packet, and your class notes to find physics and make an effort to apply it to the topic. Organize and introduce information which you have gathered from the literature as the result of your literature search; be sure to reference your sources wherever applicable. Be sure to answer all the Basic Research Questions which were prepared for your topic. This is a critical part of your project and should be many pages in length. There is no minimum limit on the number of pages which must be included; and there is certainly not a maximum limit. Procedure – – a step-by-step procedure which describes what you will do and how you will do it.

The procedure always ties into the purpose of the experiment; that is, the procedure describes in detail the stpes which an experimenter must take in order to accomplish the stated purpose. The procedure should be so specific and clearly stated that a stranger could repeat the experiment without knowing anything about it. If an experimental investigation includes several parts (and yours does), then the procedure should have the equivalent number of parts. Data and Graphs Section – include an organized listing of input and output data and observations; use a row-column format for data. Use whatever format makes the data most revealing of the patterns which your study reveals. If necessary, use more than one data table; this is especially important if you conducted several investigations (and you did). For example, you modified one variable several times to investigate its effect on a measurable outcome and then repeated several more trials in which you modified a second variable and measured its effect on an outcome.