The primary record for every activity
is a scientist's JOURNAL. The complete investigation should
consist of at least five (5) parts. Head each part with a title:
Describe the problem as simply as possible, usually in a
single sentence. What is the experiment designed to do?
Present any definition, theory or equation needed to solve
Describe how to solve the problem by the method you used.
Do this with a series of short sentences in the imperative mode telling
what to do and for what to look. Place each
step on a new, numbered line.
Include sufficient details so that someone else could carry out the same
procedure by following your directions. All apparatus should be identified.
Diagrams often can save lots of writing! This
is the only section ever directed to a “second person.”
Describe and list observations
and data collected. Tables and graphs of data are often the best
way to present results. The nature of any calculations should be
shown with formulas and examples, but the arithmetic is not necessary.
Entries are made in the lab as the study is being conducted. To save lab
time, preliminary sections of purpose, background, procedure, and blank
tables are often written BEFORE coming to the lab. In order to work with
expensive, jointly used equipment, scientists often have to schedule and
pay for limited “time on the machine;” a class period imposes the same
time restraints as those imposed on professional scientists. Calculations,
graphs, and conclusions are typically completed after the lab period overnight
as “home work.”
V Discussion or Conclusions:
Describe how the results answer the problem posed in the
"Purpose." Suggest possible causes of suspected errors (numbers
are seldom precisely correct). Suggest further modifications or additional
experiments that could improve the experiment or solve related problems.
(You might even want to seek lab director's permission to do some of these
for extra credit or as the basis for your quarter project!)
• Journal entries are made in ink.
• Each page contains the author’s name, any partner’s
name, and the date of entries.
• The perspective of a third person
is used except for procedures.
• A single line is drawn through errors with a briefly
noted explanation nearby.
• All measurements need sufficient labels so they have
full meaning after memories fade.
• If procedural errors or inadequate data are discovered
later, additional research will be needed during the time available after
Like professional scientists, your work may be evaluated
at various times. For example, preliminary entries may occasionally
be graded BEFORE the laboratory work begins! Data may be graded during
the laboratory period. The completed investigation may be graded when time
permits as soon as a couple days after the scheduled laboratory time.
For professionals, significant laboratory work is usually described in
a formal printed report based on the information compiled in the journal.
To save you much time and effort, you will only need to compile a formal
report for a few laboratory investigations.
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