page has some suggestion that will guide you in
producing high quality lab work by outlining some
of the pitfalls those unfamiliar with scientific
methods might fall into.
- Title page. Each lab activity submitted
should have a title page with the following
- official lab title,
- name of the author,
- name of partners and
- date of lab
- Give your submission a professional
appearance. Bring a pencil and eraser to
lab and use them. Scratch-outs of mistakes
looks sloppy and as if you don't care about
the quality of your work. Humor your prof and
at least appear to care.
- Use a ruler for straight lines of any kind.
Even the edge of a book can guide a nice
- Unless a question asks for a simple yes or
no, then write the answer in complete and
- Talk about what you want to say among the
group members. Be careful with phrasing. Make
your thinking clear.
with Numbers in the Laboratory
- Any number being read from a scale in the
laboratory usually has the last digit
estimated. For example when reading length
using a millimeter scale, readings are
reported to the nearest tenth of a millimeter
with that last digit estimated between two
- In laboratory work any number that is a
"reading" must be written down as it is coming
from the instrument before anything is done
with the number. Don't convert it, subtract it
from or add it to another number. Write it
- Suppose the number is a length in
millimeters and you need the value of the
length in meters, you first write down the
reading from the instrument and then convert
the value to meters.
- Almost every number has a unit (meters,
seconds, etc.) as part of the number and it is
meaningless with its unit.
- If the number is in a column of a table it
is best to make the units part of the column
header rather than writing it after each
- Pay attention to significant figures with
every number you measure or calculate.
Significant figures are important because they
tell us how reliable a number might be.
- If you are rusty on significant figures
check the link at the top of the web page
containing our lab schedule.
- Don't overlook zeros as important
placeholders. Write 0.XXX and not .XXX (for
example do write 0.123 not .123). Writing the
zero tells everyone you did not slip up there
and forget a digit.
Use of Spreadsheets
- Work in Print Layout View (Excel's term for
it) so you can monitor how the document will
print. Keep everything in one workbook if
possible and always configure your document to
print one page wide.
- First format the document by setting the
margins to 0.5 inches.
- Next format your title page with all the
relevant information: lab title, lab week,
date and group members. You can add a page
break if you wish so you will not have to
scroll so much between the title page and the
rest of your lab. Come back to this title page
before you save and send or print it. You may
need to move cells around after you changed
column widths when working on the subsequent
- Now open up the view header/footer which can
be done in most spreadsheets by double
clicking on that part of the page. Put the
title in the header in the center. In the
footer in the center enter the last name of
each group member in a horizontal row
separated by commas. Then close out the
header/footer view and get to work.
- Keep your work one page wide and work down
from the first page and not across unless
instructed to do so. You can eliminate
unnecessary while space by resizing the column
- Pay attention to formatting for both how it
affects the professional appearance of you
document (keep all the date centered in the
column) as well as matter such as significant
figures, commas in large numbers and rounding
- Complete calculation steps in a vertical
fashion always indicating both the value of a
number and its units in a cell to its right.
The units must reside in a separate cell or
the spreadsheet will treat you number as text
and cannot do any calculations with it.
- For constants that are used in equations
more than once (except for numbers such as π) the best
approach is to group them at the top of the
page or to the right and include them in
calculations using absolute reference (example
- Very few numbers except for integers and
exponents are entered in equations directly in
a cell but instead are placed in separate
cells. The number need in an equation is
entered by referencing the column and row
number of the cell where it resides.