Physics 223 & 224 Lab Overview

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Phys 223/224 Lab Format

Under this new format, we are able to offer fewer labs while increasing the amount of time you will spend on them. In the past, the labs too closely followed a cook-book format and students did not spend enough time solving problems and developing their analytical skills. We hope that this new format will allow time for the experiment teams go into greater detail and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to conduct scientific experiments. We feel it is important that each lab group efficiently works together, solves problems and shares ideas.

Now, conducting one experiment will usually take place over a two week period, culminating with each lab group writing one lab report. The report is broken into three parts with each part completed by one member of the group. The parts are as follows:

  1. Abstract: The abstract should be well written with proper sentence structure and correct grammar. The person responsible for writing the Abstract is considered the team leader.

  2. Data Analysis: Data should be analyzed as it comes in. The person working on this task should be busy creating an Excel worksheet and entering data into it. The data will then be alanyzed for any mistakes in real-time. The lab write-up for the data section consists of a link to their Excel worksheet and any complicated data reduction steps. It does not need to be in free-flowing paragraph form as is the Abstract.

  3. Error Analysis: The person in charge of the error section should be continuously thinking about sources of error and the proper way to account for it. Uncertaintities in each measurement should be considered and documented in the lab report. The use of bulleted lists in the lab write-up is acceptable, but complete sentences and correct grammar must be used.

Each of the above parts are graded and each student will receive a score based on the quality of his or her work. This score is based on a scale of 0 to 33 points and comprises approximately 80% of each student's lab report grade. The remaining 20% comes from the overall lab report grade, which is calculated by adding up the scores of the individual sections (Abstract, Data and Error). This grading scheme will reward those who work hard and penalize those who do not hold up their end. Of course it is in the group's best interest if all its members perform at a high level. Roughly every other week, you will be assigned a new lab group and a given a new duty to perform.

In addition to the lab report grade, students will be individually graded on other aspects of the lab such as:

  • Keeping a scientific journal or notebook
  • Giving oral reports on their experiments
  • Answering written questions about the lab and physics theory
  • Taking in-class quizzes based on lab experimentation and pre-lab readings

Experiment teams will make use of a Lab Report Template to enter their Abstract, Data and Error reports. An electronic copy of the report will then be turned to your TA on a floppy disk. The TA will grade the lab report, inserting his or her comments where necessary. Your TA's comments on the Excel data sheet will be readily visible. However, to view your TA's comments in Word, you will need to do the following:

  1. From Word's menu bar, select Tools >> Options.
  2. Under the View tab, make sure to check the Screen Tips option.
  3. Your TA's comments will then be visible as a light yellow highlight.
  4. Move your mouse over the highlighted section to read the comments.
  5. You may scroll through all TA comments by selecting View >> Comments from the menu bar. (Click on the comment at the bottom of the document to jump to the reference point.)

(TAs may add their name and initials to the comments box in Word by selecting Tools >> Options >> User Information and entering the appropriate information. In Excel from the Tools >> Options >> General menu selection and then filling in the User Name field.)

For some reason, a few departments on campus require that students take the second two physics labs (223 and 224) without taking the first lab in sequence (124). As a result, some 223 students will be ill prepared, especially with laboratory procedures and techniques, and class time can not be used to bring them up to speed. (Use our Physics Tutorials and our capable Teaching Assistants to help fill in your gaps.)

It is assumed that all students in the 223 and 224 labs are proficient in the following areas:

Below are some hints that will make your lab experience a more enjoyable one.

  1. Data should be recorded in tables and analyzed graphically. (Excel makes this easy.) You decide the layout of these tables and what data is important to measure.

  2. Take data and analyze it as the experiment is proceeding. By doing this, your errors and gaps in the data will be revealed. Fill in any gaps and fix any errors during the experiment; don't leave until you can say "We got it right!"

  3. You will turn in two files on a floppy disk each week -- the Lab Report (a Word document) and the Data Workbook (an Excel document). Make sure to save each file with the proper naming convention being sure to include your table number.

  4. Due issues with a security application on the lab computers, students should use the drag-and-drop method to move their files to the floppy disk. You should not use the Save As... option in Word and Excel to save your work to floppy.

  5. Make sure your TA has all your Word and Excel files when the experiment is completed.

  6. Nudge questions must be answered in you lab notebook and should be done while the experiment is ongoing. Your TA will walk around and ask you how you answered your questions.

  7. You must bring your notebook and floppy disks every week. Your notebook is the place to keep raw data, diagrams, calculations, questions, and thoughts about each experiment.

  8. Data is where most points are lost, so be careful about units, formulae, and graphs.

  9. You may wish to include in your lab write-up a screen shot image of data taken by the computer in some experiments. To do so, with the image on the screen, press the Print Screen button on the keyboard. This will place the screen shot image into memory. Then open the Paint application from the computer desktop and Paste the image. Paint is a very simple application, but you can alter the size of the image using the Sketch/Skew command from the Image menu. For best results, save the image in the GIF format. The image can then be inserted into your word document.

  10. Before you leave the lab room make sure everyone in the group has a clear plan about their asigned task regarding the experiment. Make sure that all aspects of the experiment will be covered in the lab write-up. The person in charge of the abstract should make sure that all bases are covered.

  11. We try to make each lab so that the teams can discuss, write, and plan the bulk of their lab write-ups during class time, however, it is your responsibility to use this time wisely and to work efficiently.

  12. Refer to the Sample Lab Report from the Sample Lab to see what a proper lab report looks like.

  13. Before leaving the lab room for the day, be sure to logoff the computer!

If you have a question or comment, send an e-mail to Lab Coordinator: Jerry Hester

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