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 procedure.
• 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 that down.
• 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.