How To Write Better Lab Reports

Nice try, really, but there were a lot of mistakes.

Hopefully you will find yourself in some of these examples, and realize that you should NOT do these silly things again. You must work hard to improve your lab reports. This first one is graded with kindness first, rather than accurately.

I point out lots of boo-boos, with sad faces, and even some X’s, but not too many -1’s. If you want high grades you’ll have to earn them from here on out. Here goes…

The cover page must be on the front (hence the name, cover page).

Your papers can NOT have frills from spiral notebooks. If you hand them in that way again, I will not take them home, I will give them back for cleaning up, and then they will be late (deduct some points for lateness).

A real title must be on the top, your name and class period must be on the cover page as well. If you READ THE RUBRIC you will see you are also supposed to write an intro sentence on the cover page, for a point.

Many of you put pages out of order. I have to read more than 90 lab reports, order helps keep me sane (and shows you are reading directions).

Many of your math problems are devoid of units. Units matter. It’s a chem class. No units means that you don’t care, or don’t know. Either or both will result in some -1’s, not good.

Many of you still do not understand Significant Figures. If I wrote SF! or SF X on your report, you probably do not yet understand the SF’s, and you will begin to lose points on that. They are important, you are expected to learn them and apply them properly all of the time.

Many of you left out the positive or negative signs for percent error. No sign means no thought, which means a -1 is right around the corner in your life. Not good again.

When you write density equals mass divided by volume, you have to do the math correctly to get mass, or volume. You can’t just multiply because you want to. Sometimes (often) you must cross multiply and then divide. DO THE MATH, don’t do what you want to.

Read the RUBRIC to remember to put things in order, and make sure you did all that you had to.

Capital Letters mean SoMeTHInG.  See how weird that word looks?  So does NE for Neon.  Except Neon is Ne.  NE is North East.  Or New England.  Or NOT EVEN CLOSE TO CORRECT.  HE is not helium, it’s wrong.  We play by a set of rules, some of which are surely annoying, but you can’t change them no matter how smart you are.  Play by the rules.  Learn them or lose points.

Your significant figures must follow through the whole problem.  If you start with 2 SF, your answer MUST have 2 SF.  If your SF change from start to end, you’re not paying attention (bad) or you don’t know (worse).

Many of you don’t use units.  What’s up with THAT?  No units means no thinking.  Then you guess at the units for an answer.  Skipping the units means that you are denying that the equal sign is the most profound and unforgiving sign in math.  No units in the front means you get no units in the answer.  If you do get units in the answer, you broke the equal sign.  Even if they happen to be the correct units.  Obey the equal sign.  Many of you put the wrong units in your answers, because you didn’t have any to work with in the math.  Don’t be lazy, do the work, write what needs to be written.  If you lose points because of units, it’s not the math, or me, it’s YOU.

A real title always comes first.  The lab has a title, use that one.  Your name, class period and your intro sentence goes on the cover page.  The cover page covers the whole lab.  Put stuff where it belongs.  I have to grade 93 lab reports, 32 times this year.  That’s 2976 lab reports in total.  I don’t have time to look for your stuff.  You have to put it where it belongs, in the order it’s supposed to be in, or else it’s wrong.

I used a lot of red ink, but took off way less points than I could have.  This is a learning experience for you.  Learn from my notes.  If you can’t read what I wrote to you, then no learning happens.  Ask me what I wrote.  If I tell you on the lab that WE SHOULD TALK, we should talk.  If you opt out, you’re not going to be learning.  If you get mad, that’s a mistake.  I hold you to very high standards, but you can work better than this.  You know it, so don’t get frustrated..  Adapt, fight back academically, study more, come in and do a lab report with me, your grade will be perfect.

If I said you forgot parts of the lab, don’t settle for an 18/25.  Redo the missing part.  An 18 stinks compared to the 23/25 you could have.  At the end of the semester your average might end up 79.2%.  Tough luck with that.  If you make up your work it might end up 79.5% which rounds to an 80% on the report card.  Statistically insignificant, but it might affect your allowance.  Never ever be lazy.  You’re worth it.  I will help you too.


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About the Author: charlie