Common Problems with Lab Reports in Physics 107
Common Problems with Lab Reports in Physics 108
Please use pencil and not pen for your entire lab report.
Pt. A - Overview
- Do read the ENTIRE lab before coming to class.
- Do NOT write each step of the experiment in your
overview. Instead explain how each part of the lab will demonstrate the
physical properties you are studying. For example, if you are studying
gravity in the first lab then you should explain that you will use a spark
timer to record position and then fit the data using a computer to measure
the acceleration on the Earth's surface, etc...
- Avoid writing equations in your overview and in your
conclusion. Most of the equations used in the labs have names that you can
refer to instead.
Pt. B - Participation
- Please clean up your workstation after you finish the
lab. It would be a good idea to clean up before you start the conclusion so
that all your partners can help out. Leaving a messy lab station will
affect your participation grade (and that of everyone in your group).
- Follow the instructions so that you don't break the
equipment (or any bones for that matter). Damaging expensive equipment will
affect your participation grade.
Pt. C - Procedure
- Check to make sure your calculations and measurements
have units attached to them. Very few quantities in physics don't have
units (the only quantities in our labs without units are coefficients of
friction). Lack of units is the biggest error students make in the
- Make sure your graphs are well-labeled. The x- and
y-axes should have a quantity and the unit in which the quantity is
measured. For example, if your x-axis measures time in milliseconds, then
you should write "Time (ms)" below the x-axis. Also, please add a title
to indicate which part of the experiment is represented by your graph and be
sure to print a copy for each member of your group.
- Do try to understand and perform the experiments as a
group before asking your TA. Your TA will try to explain common problems
and basic operation of the equipment before the lab begins. After that you
can check your own work simply by looking at your percent error. Unless you
are told in the lab that it can be over 30% then you are probably correct if
you have less than 30% error.
Pt. D - Results/Discussion/Conclusion
- Do write about what you have learned. If you learned
that the constant "g" is really positive instead of negative then write
- Do NOT summarize each part of the lab. You should have
already written a summary of the lab in your overview -- we don't need to
hear it again. Do NOT write fluff just to fill up every line -- your grader
will reward you for conciseness.
- Be specific about where your errors came from. Do NOT
write "human error" and call it good. We want to know where your human
errors came from, such as eye-balling a height or your reaction time when
pressing a stopwatch button.
- In general be very specific when writing about what you
have learned, where you make approximations and errors, and your real-world
applications/observations. Statements such as "we learned a lot today
about gravity" don't tell us what you learned and therefore will
not result in your receiving full credit.