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3/7/2017 FormatforExperimentReports

FormatforExperimentReports
HowtoEffectivelyCommunicateTechnicalInformation

Overview

Intoday'shightechsociety,mostpeopleeventuallyneedtocommunicatetechnicalinformation.Science
experimentreportsprovidepracticedevelopingsuchskills.

Components

Formalexperimentreportstypicallycontainthefollowingsections:

1.Title
2.Yournameandthenameofcontributinglabpartner(s)
3.Purpose
4.BackgroundConceptsandFormulae
5.Procedure
6.Labeleddrawingsofequipmentused
7.Resultssuchasobservations
8.Graphsanddatatables
9.ASampleCalculation
10.SourcesofErrors
11.Conclusion

Purpose

Thepurposeisaclearandshort,oftenonesentencestatement,identifyingthepurposeofthe
investigationandthereport.Labsusuallyfallintooneofthefollowingcategories:

Observationofaphenomena(example:Thepurposeofthisexperimentistoobservetheshapeof
themoontonight.)
Testingamodelorhypothesis(example:Thepurposeofthisexperimentistotestthediminished
intensityoflightasitspreadsunhinderedinalldirections.)
Findinganempiricalrelationship(example:Thepurposeofthisexperimentistofindthe
mathematicalrelationshipbetweenworkanddistance.)
Acquiringaskill(example:ThepurposeofthisexperimentistoacquiretheskillofmeasuringpH
inordertocollectpreciseH+ concentrationdata.)
Formingahypothesis(example:Thepurposeofthisexperimentistoformamodelforthe
intensityofradioactivityastimepasses.)
Usinganequationtomeasureanunknown(example:Thepurposeofthisexperimentistousethe
definitionofdensity,D=mass/volume,tofindthedensityofiron.)

Thetitleshouldnotbeaaneyecatching"teaser,"butratheracoupleprecisewordsthatcapturethe
purposeandoftentheconclusion.

Background

Thebackgrounddescribesimportantideas,concepts,orhistoricalhappeningsthatrelatetothelab.It
containsthetheinformationthatanuninformedreaderwillfindusefultounderstandandinterpretthe
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3/7/2017 FormatforExperimentReports

restofthereport.ALLinformationnotobtainedfromtheactualexperimentshould(byeitherparentheses,
footnoteorendnote)bereferencedtothesourceofinformation,includingauthor,title,publisher,copyright
date,andpage,orequivalentinformationsothatareadercouldfindandreadtheinformationfromthe
source.

Procedure

Theprocedureliststhestepsusedtodotheexperiment.Thestepsshouldbenumberedsequentially.I.e.,
labelStep1,thenStep2,etc.Eachstepstartsonanewline.Detailsshouldbesufficientsothe
readercouldrepeattheexperimentandverifyyourresults.Referringthereadertoanapparatusdiagram
canoftensignificantlyreducetheneedfortextualdescriptions.

Apparatus

Includealabeleddrawingofequipmentanditsarrangement.Thismightbearoughsketch,butitmust
beneatandtheessentialpiecesofequipmentshouldbeshownandlabeled.

Results

Resultscontainstheevidencethatsupportsyourclaimsintheconclusionandmakesthembelievable.
Withouttheevidence,areaderhaslittlereasontotakeyourreportseriously.Thebackground
informationandproceduralstepspresenthowtheevidencewasgatheredandprovidejustificationwhy
theresultsaregoodevidencesupportingyourfindings.

Tables

Almostallexperimentsinvolvemakingmeasurements,recordingnumbersandcollectingdata.Data
shouldbeorganizedinatablewithcolumnsandrows.Usethefollowingguidelines.

Columnandrowlabelsshouldidentifythepropertiesbeingmeasured.
Includetheunitsusedforthemeasurementsatthetopofthecolumnorstartofarow,ratherthan
nexttoeverynumber.
Thedatamustbeneat.Usecomputertabstoalignwordsanddecimalpoints.
Thedatamustusetheprecisionandaccuracyappropriatefortheexperimentalsetup,instruments
uses,andcareofmeasurement.Thesignificanceofyourfindingswillbebasedontheaccuracyof
yourclaimfortheresults,soalwaysbecarefulbothwhentakingdata,andwhenreportingthat
data.

Graphs

Thefollowingarerequirementsforallgraphs:

Thegraphmustbeneatusegraphpaperoragraphprintedbyasuitablegraphingprogram.Don't
useabusinessgraphingprogram(suchasExcel)unlessyoucanforceittoconstructagraphwiththe
followingcharacteristics:
Generallypatternsinscientificdataareshownbytwoorthreedimensionallineordotgraphs,not
bargraphsorpiecharts.
Includeatitleforeachgraph.Thetitleshouldtellwhatthegraphshows.
Eachaxismusthaveauniformscalethatproducesagraphthatoccupiesatleasthalfthesheetof
paper.Numberscorrespondtogridlines,notspacesbetweenthelines.Theincreaseofthescale
numbersmustbeconstantandwithoutbreaks.
Bothaxesmustbelabeledwiththepropertiesandunits[suchasTime(seconds)orMass(g)].
Thegraphmustbepreciseandaccurateforgivendatasothatreasonableconclusionscanbe
obtained.

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3/7/2017 FormatforExperimentReports

Donotconnectthedots,butinsteaddrawthebeststraightlineorsmoothcurvethatrepresentsthe
data.Rememberalldatacontainsexperimentalerrors,Thepurposeofthegraphistoshowthe
patternthatwouldhavebeenshownhadtherebeennoerrorsratherthantheerrors.
Includeacaptionforeachgraphwhichdescribesinwordstherelationshipbetweenvariables
shownonthegraph.

SampleCalculation

Itisnotnecessarytoshoweachandeverycalculationyoudo.Includeaneatandclearexampleofeach
uniquekindofcalculation.Startwithdefinitions,showsubstitutions,andsimplificationsleadingtoan
answer.

example: Tofindthearea(A),theformulausedwas
A=(r)2where(r)=radius.Forthefirstcircle,
A=(4cm)2
A=50cm2.

SourcesOfError

Listthetypeoferrorandhowitinfluencedtheresults.

examples: Errorinmeasuringprocess:Visuallycomparingobjectlengthswiththemeterstickwas
notperfect.
Errorinreactiontime:Thetimetostopthetimermaynotbethesameasforstarting
timer.

Conclusion

Thissectionshouldcontainastatementofeachofthegeneralizationsthatyouareabletodrawonthe
basisofyouranalysisofdata,andifnotobvious,anexplanationofhowyoucametoeachconclusion.
Suchconclusionsshouldpertaintothepurposestatedinthereport.(Whileconclusionsoftenmatchthe
intendedpurpose,occasionallyresultsindicateananticipatedfindingwasactuallywrong!)Alsoincludedinyour
conclusionanyequationsorproportionswhichhavebeendevelopedfromtheexperiment.

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created23June2002
latestrevision24July2005
additionallinks14January2010
byDTrapp

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