This document is many years in the making. It is short, but dense. It clearly spells out everything you need. Include what you need, and you will get a good grade. If you have questions, please ask. ~M

Two important things to remember:
1. This is a report, so everything already happened. All words should be past tense.
2. This is professional, so the report should also be in the 3rd person. No 'we', 'I', or 'us'.

            Experimental data becomes useful and of interest only when it is communicated.  Hence writing reports occupies a considerable amount of time for professional scientists, whether industrial or academic.  It is fitting, therefore, that time should be devoted to developing skill in writing reports.  There are many generally accepted conventions for professional reports.  They should include an introduction and sections on experimental details, results, discussion. Before you come to lab, you should be able to write the introduction as well as the experimental section, as you will be familiar with the techniques involved in the experiment. You are writing a lab report, not a manual, so everything should be written in past tense.

            The introduction should begin with a brief description of what you are going to study and why, and should include basic theory and balanced chemical equations involved in the experiment.  Include information which explains the importance of the experiment and how it relates to the general laws of chemistry you are exploring. Why are using this technique instead of some other one? Make sure that the reader will understand the purpose of the experiment.  For this course, the introduction should be reasonably short. (1‑3 paragraphs)

            The experimental section is usually divided into separate descriptions of the equipment required, the chemicals to be used, and the experimental procedure. Major items of equipment and special chemicals should be included. Do not list common laboratory items such as pipettes, beakers, etc. This section should be a concise outline of major points, sufficient to convey a clear understanding of the procedure to the reader. Someone should be able to perform the experiment correctly from your words, but it should NOT be a stepwise procedure. This section will also be the outline you will follow to perform the experiment. DO not include things that are not critical to perform the experiment. For example, you did the experiment in a 250 mL beaker. Could I successfully do the experiment in a bathtub? If yes, then don't tell me you did in a 250 mL beaker. Was it important to take the temperature every 30 seconds? Yes. Then include that as part of your procedure. Remember, past tense.

The results section presents the experimental data and all calculations. The data should be displayed in carefully planned tables or figures. Tabular data is considered to be properly presented when the information is readily understood by another reader.  Each table should be headed with a descriptive, self‑explanatory title. Each column should have an appropriate heading with proper units included. Sample calculations (preferably computer generated, not hand written) must be clearly labeled with a heading describing the calculation performed and all units should be included in the equations.

The discussion section of your report is the most important one for you and the reader. Here you interpret the results of your experiment. It is also an opportunity to show your knowledge and understanding of the experiment. You should explain the results and also mention sources of error inherent in the experiment or the methods used. An attempt should be made to identify and assess the importance of these possible sources of experimental error. Suggestions as to how to correct or eliminate possible errors should be included. Also compare your calculated values with the values found by the other students in lab. How well do the numbers agree?  If they don't, describe what you think may account for the differences.

Your formal report should include all of these parts: introduction, experimental, results and discussion. The introduction and experimental procedure can (and should) be completed before you come to lab. During lab, make note of any deviations from your procedure as you perform the experiment, then indicate them in your experimental write‑up.

            * Clearly label the data and calculations

            * Include all units and the appropriate number of significant figures

            * Neatness and organization are very important!

~MEO 02.15.05 07:34