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Formal Lab Reports

Formal Lab Reports

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Formal Lab Reports

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  1. Formal Lab Reports • Some personal comments • Structure First and foremost • Know what it is to plagiarize • Don’t do it !!! Disclaimer: This is not a substitute for a careful review by you of the web page that discusses writing a formal report. I merely present some additional thoughts.

  2. A few simple, and obvious, thoughts • Start early. Leave time to: • Research properly before you write. • Outline - where in the manuscript will you discuss what? • Write carefully and thoughtfully. Think of the reader. • Ponder, dwell and rewrite. • Seek and implement comments from others.

  3. A few simple, and obvious, thoughts • Write to others as you would have them write to you. • Clear. • Organized and logical. • Free of excessive jargon and acronyms specific to your local area. • Don’t click and paste. • Use a font of reasonable size. • Look at the figures. Will they be clear when reproduced? Is all the information needed to interpret them included? Avoid reliance on color – you want black and white copies to be readable as well.

  4. A few simple, and obvious, thoughts • Write your text as though it were a newspaper article. • Use paragraphs to separate and emphasize thoughts and concepts. • Begin with a summary sentence of the paragraph. This is the most important sentence of the paragraph. • Layer on more detail with each successive statement. • Each paragraph has a theme. Is the theme of that paragraph clear to any reader? • Write with maximum clarity. • Don’t use contorted text that directs the reader elsewhere (“discussed in sect. 4.3 and as will be discussed in sect. 5.8…….”). • Avoid acronyms and jargon with which some reviewers may be unfamiliar.

  5. A few simple, and obvious, thoughts • Know your audience; assume that they are knowledgeable and bright, but - • How knowledgeable are they of your local topic? • How well will they know the terminology of your local topic? • Assume that they are very busy, very tired and are prone to be impatient with an awkward presentations.

  6. A few simple, and obvious, thoughts • And the most obvious of all: • Proof read it carefully. • Proof read it • Have another who has not previously read it proof it. • Spell check it. • Grammar check it. • Follow the instructions • Read the instructions. • Follow them.

  7. Formal Lab Reports • Goals • Present the experiment, including its objectives. Why was it done? What question did you intend to answer? • Record the results to sufficient detail that the reader builds trust in your thoroughness, can reproduce your data reduction and can draw their own conclusions about the results. • Present your evaluation and conclusions from the results and give enough background and detail that others can independently evaluate and draw their own conclusions.

  8. Structure • Title Page – • Name of your experiment • Your name • Other experimentalists’ names • Course number • Section day • TA’s name • Date

  9. Structure (continued) • Abstract • No lists. Give it in a few complete sentences • A brief overview – including a review of the results and conclusions. • Remember, most readers of the article will read only the abstract.

  10. Structure (continued) • Table of contents • Introduction and background • Objectives – should be clear so that you know when they have been met. • Experimental apparatus and procedure. Is this sufficiently complete and clear that you could return and repeat this experiment 10 years from now?

  11. Structure (continued) • Results and discussion – Present results clearly and completely. The responses to the discussion questions are to be merged into this text. This is where you might compare your results with modeling results or theory. • Conclusions and recommendations – A short wrap-up of what was done, what you think about it, how it is to be used, what might be done as a continuation, what might have been done differently.

  12. Structure (continued) • References – Each entry here must be referred to in the text. • Appendices – Appendices hold the details that only a few of the readers will need. The important parts of this material should be in the report body. Don’t expect the reader to read the appendices. • Lab notebook • Sample calculations. • Other items of interest to only the most interested reader.