General comments on writing your first formal lab report, many of which will apply to all the formal reports. Courtesy of Prof. Bourgeois.
- Read and follow the guidelines the Appendix D on Formal Reports in your lab manual. I also attached a sample report to this email to give you a visual of how to format your report.
- Even though this experiment is a formal report, you are still expected to COMPLETELY document the experiment in your notebook. Remember, your notebook should be a complete record of the experiment from introductory remarks to summary and conclusion. I taught this lab long enough to catch on that students often start writing reports as soon as they finish the lab, but you are still responsible for recording your lab work in your note. There is an order to this process: notebook first, formal report last.
- I feel I need to emphasize that you are all bound by the college's code on Intellectual Responsibility. As the manual states we do encourage discussion between partners about data and analysis. But once the discussion is done and the writing begins all communication between partner should stop, both in person and electronic. The reports you will submit represent your individual understand of the subject matter. Often when students write together, even if they do not share drafts, there is a lot of "cross talk" and it is hard to distinguish whose ideas are truly their own.
- Your reports are due Tuesday, Sept. 30th, no later than 5pm.
- Do not include long tables of data in report. In fact for this particular report you do not have to include any table as long as your data is presented in a graph.
- Do not answer questions as if you are answering a questionnaire. Instead incorporate your answers into the body of the text. The purpose of the questions are to motivate the discussion. Every question should be answered with an implicit "why?" Always answer questions from a physics point of view.
- Do not give detail instructions on using Sonic Ranger or Excel. The particulars of the software or the instrument used are not interesting to the reader. In the case of Sonic Ranger it is sufficient to explain how the sonic ranger use sound pulse to measure position of an object. You don't have to write a manual.
- Do not include the "Summary Output" page from the regression analysis in your formal report. Keep that in your notebooks. Just extract the relevant results.
- Watch your UNITS and Significant Figures!!! Programs like Excel do not understand either, so it is your job to keep track of them. The accepted convention is uncertainties almost always be rounded to one significant figure. Your best value should be rounded to the same number of decimal places as your uncertainty. Always present best value and uncertainty together.
- I will allow hand drawn diagrams of the experimental setup, but please use tools like rules, no free-hand diagrams.
- For now you can assume the sonic ranger is a precise instrument. Any uncertainties will manifest themselves in the uncertainties from regression analysis.
- When plotting average velocity vs. time make sure your points fill the whole range of the graphing window. When selecting a "good parabola" you may select one that started 2 or 3 seconds after starting the sonic ranger. It is not necessary to have a zero on your time axis.
- Some students asked whether they should include the hand draw graph from the "Preliminary Experiment" and if they should answer Q1 and Q2 in the manual based upon the hand drawn graph. Here is what I say, you do not have to include the hand drawn graph, keep that in your notebook. Instead, include the graph of position vs. time you get from the sonic ranger and answer Q1 and Q2 base on that.
- Eliminate verbiage. For example, if your reader is someone who has an equivalent background of a P16 student, then you can assume the reader knows the meaning of kinematic terms like velocity (dx/dt), average velocity (x2-x1/t2-t1) and acceleration (dv/dt). Don't spend time defining these terms. Just state the specifics of these kinematic quantities for a bouncing ball.
- Eliminate redundancies. Here is another example. If you have an equation defining velocity like v=dx/dt then it is not necessary to write a sentence "velocity is the derivative of position with respect to time...". Again, you can assume your reader has a basic knowledge of differential calculus, so it is not necessary to define a derivative.
Prof. Bourgeois will be available to field questions and check drafts via email.