Lab Report Format

It is essential that students be able to express their ideas and defend their arguments with clarity, detail and subtlety. Similarly, it is important that they can read and critique the ideas and arguments of others in like manner. The creation of lab reports assists in this endeavor.

Lab reports for my ET106 Science of Sound, ET151 Circuits 1, ET152 Circuits 2, ET161 Linear Electronics, and ET262 Operational Ampifiers courses use the same format. Unless otherwise specified, all lab exercises require a non-formal write-up. All reports should be neat and legible, although official school paper is not required (nor will it get you brownie points). Standard technical writing style is expected along with proper grammar and spelling. This means that you should avoid active voice, first person, personal pronouns, and the like. For example, don't write "I set the power supply to 6 volts". Instead use "The power supply was set to 6 volts". Reports are an individual endeavor. Although it is perfectly fine to discuss your data and experimental results with your lab partner, the creation of the report itself is an individual exercise. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. A formal report should conform to the following outline (in the order given) and must be word processed/typed:

1) Cover page. Title, date, your name, partners name.

2) Objective (AKA Hypothesis). Answer the question "What are you trying to show/verify?". These are statements of the items that you are investigating in this particular exercise.

3) Conclusion. Answer the question "What was actually shown/verified?". These are concise statements of fact regarding the circuit action(s) under investigation. Make sure that you have moved from the specific lab situation to the general case. If all works well, these should match nicely with your Objective section. Under no circumstances should you reach a conclusion that is not supported by your data, even if that conclusion is stated in the text or in lecture. What matters here is what you did and your analysis of it. If there is a discrepency between your results and theory, state the discrepency, don't ignore your results.

4) Discussion (AKA Analysis). Reduce and analyze your data. Explain circuit action or concepts under investigation. Relate theoretical results to the lab results. Don't just state what happened, but comment on why and its implications. Derive your conclusions from this section. The Discussion is the penultimate part that you write.

5) Diagrams with actual/nominal values. Do not sketch these. Use a CAD program such as MultiSIM or appropriate drawing templates.

6) Equipment List. Include model and serial numbers.

7) Final Data Sheet. Include all derived and calculated data. Make sure that you include percent deviations for each theory/measurement pair. Use Percent Deviation = (Measured-Theory)/Theory * 100, and include the sign.

8) Original Data Sheet. Include actual measured values.

9) Sample Calculations. The key here is sample. Show the formulas used, values inserted, and final answers.

10) Graphs, Answers to questions at the end of the exercise, Other. All graphs must be properly titled, created using appropriate scales, and identified with labels. It is suggested that graphs be created with a plotting program or a spreadsheet. Alternately, graphs may be created manually but must be drawn using either a straight edge or a french curve (depending on the type of graph) on appropriate graph paper. You can get details on graphing here.

Any deviations from the given procedure (lab manual or handout) must be noted in the Discussion section. Non-formal reports should include items 2, 3, 4, 7 and 10. You can place the normal cover page info at the top of the first page. Although non-formal do not have to be word processed/typed, handwritten reports are not encouraged. Again, unless otherwise specified, all exercises are to use the non-formal format. You can see an example lab report here.

Make sure that you leave sufficient space in the margins and between sections for my comments. Either 1.5 or double line spacing is fine. Multi-page reports must be stapled in the upper left corner. Paper clips, fold-overs, bits of hook-up wire, etc. are not acceptable. Reports are due no later than one week following the date performed. The first half-week late creates a one letter grade loss, the second half-week causes a second letter grade loss. Reports are not acceptable beyond one week late. Below is the grading standard.

Grade of A: The report meets or exceeds the assignment particulars. The report is neat and professional in appearance, including proper spelling and syntax. The analysis is at the appropriate level and of sufficient detail. Data tables and graphical data are presented in a clear and concise manner. Problem solutions are sufficiently detailed and correct. Diagrams have a professional appearance.

Grade of B: The report is close to the ideal although it suffers from some minor drawbacks which may include some spelling or grammatical errors, analyses which may lack sufficient detail, minor omissions in tabular or graphical data, and the like. In general, the report is solid but could use refinement or tightening.

Grade of C: The report is serviceable and conveys the major ideas although it may be vague in spots. Spelling and grammatical errors may be more numerous than those found in a grade A or B report. Some gaps in data or omissions in explanations may be seen.

Grade of D: Besides typical spelling and grammatical errors, the report suffers from logical errors such as conclusions which are not supported by laboratory data. Analyses tend to be vague and possibly misleading. Graphs and diagrams are drawn in an unclear manner.

Grade of F: The report exhibits many of the following deficiencies: Excessive spelling and grammatical errors, missing sections such as graphs, tables, and analyses, blatantly incorrect analyses, wayward or incomprehensible data, problem solutions tend to be incorrect or missing, and graphical data or diagrams are presented in a shoddy manner.

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© 2012 Jim Fiore