Notebooks & Reports

  • You are required to have a lab notebook and to have your data written in it. Be neat and spread out. Allocate at least 20 pages per experiment. Write the following (in pen only) in your lab notebook:

    1. Your data.
    2. The procedures that you use to obtain the data.
    3. The data analysis including the necessary theory and equations directly relevant to the analysis.

    For data acquired by a computer, you may paste or staple the tables or plots of data into the notebook. The objective is to have all of the important information written down so that you or someone else can reproduce the experiment and find the essential parameters.

    This information will be your primary source for both data and troubleshooting. For this reason it is important that you record as much as possible and erase nothing, use a pen. Too much information is better than too little as you never know where discoveries lay hidden. One more reason why you might want to keep a notebook.

  • AMPAD Computation Book 4x4 quad ruled, 9-14" x 11-3/4". 75 sheets, spiral bound.

  • Your laboratory report should be as professional as possible. Look at the examples (below). A colleague of yours, new to this course, should be able to understand your experiment and carry it out based on your report. Do not write a cook book ("do this, then that"). Rather outline the physics question, the experiment design, your procedure, analysis, results and conclusions. In particular, your report should contain in essence the following sections in addition to a brief, descriptive title.

    • (5 points) Abstract: A brief summary of the experiment and the results obtained, including systematic error estimates.

    • (20 points) Introduction: States the motivation for doing the work and spells out the goal of the work to be performed. Also describes in some detail the theoretical background behind the experiment.

    • (20 points) Experimental Setup and Procedure: Clearly states why the methods used are adequate for the proposed goal of the experiment, sufficient for another student to understand what you have done.

    • (35 points, 15 points designated to error analysis)Results and Analysis: Displays the processed data that are essential to the goal of the experiment. States briefly how the original data are processed and analyzed before display. Most importantly, makes a comparison of the processed data with the theoretical expectations as outlined in the introduction. Be sure to include error analysis of the data and show error bars on graphs. Don't display the unprocessed raw data-- those should be in your lab notebook. All graphs need axes, tick marks, units and descriptive captions. See below for available software.

    • (15 points)Discussion:Answer the question: From the results obtained, have you achieved the goal set in the introduction? Explain. Do the results support the understanding of the subject within experimental uncertainties? Again, explain. Suggest possible improved experiments which could result in greater precision.

    • (5 points)Conclusion

    • Reference: Published journal articles, books, etc. relevant to this experiment, including experimental techniques, electronics, data analysis and statistics.Wikipedia is not an acceptable reference.
  • Style
  • Check out the study guide from MIT openCourseWare for additional information and an example of acceptable report style. Figures with fully descriptive captions shoud be inserted in text. Mimicking the Physical Review LaTex style in recommended and may result in a higher grade. The APS style instructions can be found here

  • Curve Fitting
  • By far the best approach is via Python and its packages. This will be of value to you in your career. In addition, two software packages are available on the computers in the 122 lab: KaleidaGraph (simple analysis, curve fitting etc.) and Igor (sophisticated analysis and curve fitting with publication quality plots and graphics). Online information regarding curve fitting can be found at the following: