How to Write a Physics Lab Report

How to Write a Physics Lab Report

Are you working on a physics experiment but don’t know how to structure it? Or are you working on a physics lab report assignment but don’t know what to do? This article guides on every detail that is important in your report. You will find it relevant when writing chemistry and biology lab reports too.

If you are writing lab reports for the first time, it may be overwhelming as there are too many details to include. Some of the details include the procedure, methods, discussion, among others. In this guide, you will learn the structure and how to improve the presentability of your report.

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Why is a physics lab report important?

Understanding the format to use when writing a physics lab report is crucial to the success and presentation of your experiment. But why is a physics lab report format important in the first place? Below are some of the reasons it is common and essential amongst academicians. Let’s break down the reasons.

1.      They help students understand the procedure

A physics lab report is similar to a recipe for a new meal that a friend has probably recommended to you. The recipe details the process that you should follow. Unlike recipes, a lab report allows the student to question the why and how of the results. A lab report helps the students understand why an experiment has certain results.

2.      Helps collect and organize data

A lab report is like an encyclopedia that contains the aim, process, results, and conclusion. It helps you collect data during the experiment and organize it.

Otherwise, the data you collect would be difficult to relate to and use in the future without a lab report. It would be a challenge for the readers of the report to figure out how you came to the results.

3.      They help organize experiments for easy sharing

A Lab report structures the processes and details the result. By using a lab report, others who aim to perform the same experiment can do so. It helps organize instructions and procedures that others can use to get to your results.

If scientists want to share their experiments with colleagues from other regions, they can simply share the lab report. It makes it easy to share the research.

Qualities of a good lab report

Before showing you how to write a lab report for physics, there are a few aspects you should observe. They ensure that your physics lab report looks presentable and readable. Below are some of the qualities to keep you in check as you draft your report. Follow them to the letter.

1.      Write or type neatly

With the technology at hand, most people prefer typing lab reports instead of handwriting. In any case, when you make a mistake, keep it clean by erasing using whitewash. Otherwise, you can draw one line through it.

2.      Drawing

A physics and biology lab report rarely lacks a graph or chart, and therefore, you’ll draw often. You should and must always draw all tables and graphs using a ruler or by using a computer.  When drawing diagrams, feel comfortable using either a pen or pencil but avoid hard-to-read colors.

3.      Conciseness

Lab reports aren’t meant to be essays and, therefore, shouldn’t contain too much detail. You should however understand that concise content doesn’t necessarily mean shallow content. The instructions and steps you take throughout the report should be clear and detailed.

4.      Organization

Lab reports should have a certain structure that you should follow. That is, as a matter of fact, the basic reason for writing this article.

You should follow the structure to ensure the reader rightfully finds their part of interest. Additionally, the report must contain all information and validate your conclusion.

The structure of a physics lab report

Whether you’re looking for a physics, biology, or chemistry lab report format, the structure is the same. The sections below shouldn’t miss in your lab report.

1.      Physics lab report cover page

The cover page is also your lab report title page and the first page of your lab report. If you are writing a physics lab report as an assignment, confirm with your teacher on what to include. Below are some of the details to include on your cover page.

  • Your name (and partner(s) in the research)
  • The title of the experiment
  • The date when you experimented.
  • The name of your instructor

The cover page helps the instructor or a colleague to identify who experimented. For example, if the experiment was to be published or placed in a library for access to the public, they can relate it with you and give you credit.

2.      Physics lab report abstract

The abstract is the first page that discusses anything about your experiment. You can also refer to this page as your lab report introduction.

It is the first page the reader accesses, but it is the last page you write. You should write it last because it summarizes the details of your report.

The abstract provides the reader with finer details about your experiment. The abstract also summarizes the results of your experiment.

The page aims to help the reader determine if the report interests them or not. If it does, the reader can go ahead and read the full report or otherwise trash it.

Here are some of the details and information that shouldn’t miss in your abstract. Although this article lists many details that you should include in your abstract, ensure it remains brief.

  • Explain finer details and the background information of the topic under experiment.
  • Mention the central question or problem your experiment addresses.
  • What other experiments revolving around the same problem have been done or found.
  • Mention the main reason for doing the research, why it is important to address these questions, and why examining the topic matters.
  • The methods you use/ used in your experiment.
  • Mention the results, arguments, and conclusions of the experiment.
  • What effect will the argument or results of the experiment have?

The abstract should be catchy and informative to the reader without them reading the entire report. Never include any references in your abstract; it is irrelevant at the stage. The abstract is what teachers, managers, or whoever matters in the success of your experiment will read, so make it count!

3.      Methods/ Procedure

Under this category, you should list the procedure and all the methods you use in the experiment. In all the sections in your lab report, you should detail this step so that someone else can follow it. When structuring your procedure, remember that the reader is completely new to the experiment.

The procedure should be readable and easy to repeat. Some of the elements worth repeating in this step include:

●       Materials

List all the materials, measures, and apparatuses that you use in the experiment. Depending on the number of items you use in the experiment, you may create a different section. Ensure that you name the materials correctly using the universally known names.

●       Diagram of the lab set up

Research shows that humans always incline towards visuals. You should therefore draw a diagram for the audience to understand the setup. Include the section to show how the final setup will look like eventually

●       Steps taken

List down the steps in an easy-to-understand way, knowing that your reader is unfamiliar with the steps. The steps should be chronological according to how you did them.

Make the steps concise and easy to understand but leaving out unnecessary details. All the details in the steps should be in past tense and should avoid justification or explanation.

For example;

If you’re experimenting to determine the relative density of a solid using upthrust and moments. Below is how you should structure the procedure of the experiment.

Apparatus

Meter rule suspended from a clamp, solid S (steel block measuring 4cm by 4cm by 4cm), Metal block W (Iron block measuring 4cm by 4cm by 4cm), water in a beaker.

Diagram

how to write a physics lab report

(Image is a screenshot)

Steps

  • Suspend the meter rule so that it balances at its center of gravity.
  • Suspend the solid S at a distance d2= 30cm, then suspend and adjust the position of W such that the rule is balanced. Check figure (a)
  • Record distance d of W from the point of suspension.
  • While maintaining the distance d2, immerse solid S completely in water, then adjust the position of W to balance the meter rule again. Check figure (b)
  • Record the new distance d1 for the metal block W.
  • Remove the beaker of water so that the solid S hangs freely in the air.
  • Increase the distance d2 in figure (a) to a new value, 35cm, and repeat the procedure above.
  • Repeat the procedure for values of d 40cm, 45cm, and 50 cm.

From the descriptions above, you will realize that much detail that distracts the reader is omitted. Additionally, the steps keep referring the reader to the diagram to ensure that they stay on track.

4.      Results/ Data

In this step, you should present the data you collect during the experiment. The data should be organized so that not to lose the reader.

Additionally, Physics is all about units, and therefore, be keen not to leave the measurements. Below are some of the important elements in this step to help stay organized.

●       Data tables

The table is amongst the most important elements of your lab report. It should have a descriptive title and headings that explain the data below. In case you have additional information about the table, note it in the footnotes.

Ensure that the table expresses the units of its measurements. To do so, include your measurements with the column title. If your table is handwritten, ensure that the data remains visible and only use a single line to cancel a mistake.

●       Graphs

There are many types of graphs to help you analyze the pattern of your data. Ensure that you properly label the axes of your graph so that the reader can follow the results. Moreover, every table should have a title on top of the graph that explains what data the graph is drawn against.

If you’re planning to hand-draw your graph, ensure you use a graph paper that has guidelines. The guidelines help you rightfully position your data in the graph.

You can use a ruler if the line is straight; otherwise, you’ll need to hand-curve it. If you’re drawing several lines, ensure they do not overlap and if they do, use different graphs to show the relationship.

The best way to approach graph drawing is using a computer. Computers help you generate your graphs using software such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. Unlike hand drawing, these graphs are accurate and neat to follow.

●       Experiments/ Observation

what is an experiment section? It includes several paragraphs below each graph whose function is to show key relationships from the table. The observations should not be conclusive but rather relate facts with the findings of the graph. In simple terms, the observation section explains the graph.

For example;

From the previous example in the procedure section, below is the resultant data. The example shows how you should structure the tables, the graph, and the observations.

Data

Distance of S in air d2 (cm) Distance of S in water, d1 (cm) distance of W, d (cm) d1-d (cm)
0 0 0 0
30 20 10 10
35 30 15 15
40 40 25 20
45 50 25 25
50 60 30 30

 

Graph

physics lab report

Observation

Each time solid S is immersed in the water, the distance d1 must be adjusted to a smaller distance for the meter rule to balance.

You will realize from the above example that the table and the graphs’ data are generated using a computer. Using a computer makes it easy and neat to organize your experiment stage. Additionally, the observation-only focuses on the result without adding any conclusions that may be premature at the stage.

5.      Physics lab report discussion

The discussion section is perhaps the most important stage in your physics lab report paper. In this section, you include all the key findings and use your data to reference your statements. you should also provide logical statements and the relevant findings resulting from your research paper.

In the discussion section, ensure that your answer the research problem. The research problem is the reason for experimenting or the gap your experiment aims fills.

If your physics report has any mathematical relations or derivations that support your experiment, this section should show that.

Ensure that you neatly and easily organize the formulas as this section may turn messy. First, work out your calculations on a different sheet and then transfer them to the final report once satisfied.

Are there is any measurement and uncertainty in your physics lab report? The assumptions section is the best place to state them and explain the source.

You should write the errors after explaining and discussing every detail of your experiment. When mentioning the errors, put down the assumptions of your experiment.

Here is what your discussion section should have:

  • A summary of the findings of your experiment.
  • A clear description of the patterns and relationships that the results Back up your statements by referencing the data from the experiment.
  • Mention any assumptions, agreements, contradictions, and how to solve them. Recommend additional research(if needed) that may help achieve more concrete results.
  • Explain how the experiment will contribute to society or the bigger picture of your findings. Answer the question. Why was the experiment worth and how what does it imply?

Sample lab report discussion section;

From our previous example, here is one way you can structure your discussion section.

Discussion

Based on the principle of moments:

Wd1= WAd where WA is the weight of solid S while in air……… 1

Wd2= WWd, where WW is the weight of solid in water……… 2

Based on  1 and 2;

WA=  W d1/d and

WW=Wd2/2

So, the relative density of solid=wA/WA-Ww

Replacing each equation  with its equivalent value

=Wd1/d/(Wd1/d-Wd2/d)

=d1/(d1-d2)

Thus, the gradient of the graph of d1 versus (d1-d2) represents the relative density of the solid.

Assumptions

  • The water used does not contain any impurities.
  • The meter rule weight is even, and the weight is distributed equally.
  • Strings attaching the solids to the water are of equal weight or its negligible.

From the above physics lab report examples, you will realize the formula references the data from the table. You should label the arguments in your discussion for easy referencing.

Note that in the example, 1 and 2 denote the first two arguments. Labeling ensures its easy to reference. Lastly, note down your assumptions to notify the reader why their outcome may differ from yours.

6.      Physics lab report conclusions

This section should summarize the lessons you learn from the experiment and the reference materials you use. In this section, you can also mention the probable sources of error. It is advisable to open up room for future opportunities to further the experiment.

When referencing your sources in the lab report, use the APA formatting style. Otherwise, some of the important fields to include when referencing a book include Author’s last name, first initial, publication year, title, and publisher.

On the other hand, when referencing an article, include the author’s last name, first initial, publication year, the title of the article, journal’s name, and the page you reference. To learn more about how to reference your lab report sources, check our lab report writing service.

Final thoughts

Physics lab reports are important documents with a clearly defined structure that you should follow. This article details every crucial feature when structuring your report. The general structure must have a cover page, an abstract, procedure, results, discussion, and references.

To ensure your report remains neat and presentable, typewrite it, arrange the sections in order and use 3rd person narrative. Also, hand draws the diagrams to ensure the graph reflects the data.

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