The rough draft of the formal report is due before lab the week of November 5th. This will give me time to read them, and to give you feedback in time for you to make corrections for the final version.
What is required in the formal report? Pages 3 - 4 of last year's lab manual (the 8th and 9th pages of the PDF) are a very good guide, although since we're using the wiki and a different guiding philosophy, things will change a little. Below, I will try to complement the guidance from last year's manual. When giving feedback on your rough draft, I will let you know more specifically how you need to improve your report for the final version.
The general idea is for the student to spend time writing a polished final report for a lab. It's not supposed to be easy, but also hopefully won't be an exercise in useless frustration. In contrast to the informal lab summaries, the final report needs to be readable by someone other than the instructor, specifically one of your peers who is not familiar with Physics 307L. It needs to be a stand-alone wiki page (with links to supporting pages) that can be read by a peer (an undergraduate physics major) who isn't specifically familiar with our labs. Furthermore, it needs to be "complete," meaning all data analysis needs to be correct and complete, and if necessary, follow-up experiments need to be performed (for example, if you discover while writing that your data are seriously flawed). Here is an incomplete list of skills that we are trying to develop:
- "Scientific writing": Being able to summarize some technical work and effectively communicate to the appropriate audience.
- Ability to criticize and assess your own data.
- Ability to "crunch" data and produce high quality graphs, etc. to optimally display the results.
- Data analysis: you will be asked to correctly use many of the data analysis, error estimation, propagation, fitting, and other techniques that we are learning.
- Software skills: making graphs, implementing fitting algorithms, linking images into your wiki report, basic wiki editing to make a readable report...
This is just a general outline, different labs may require different sections...this will become clear after getting feedback on your rough draft.
- Author(s) plus contact information
- Methods and materials
- Results and Discussion
- Figures & Figure captions -- These should be embedded in the Methods and Results & Discussion sections. The figure captions need to explain as much as possible about the figure.
- Try this Google search.
- A pretty good introduction to writing scientific research papers. Ignore things about formatting on paper, obviously.
- Another, shorter, explanation.
- Last year's lab manual.
- Sample lab report from MIT OpenCourseWare
- Both this and last year's manual assume you are actually writing a printed report. We will not focus on typesetting and mimicking the format for submission to a real journal--you can learn that skill later, and hopefully by that time things will be less annoying.