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Lab report Dos & Don'ts

Some notes inspired by grading the 2nd year Pipe Flow lab reports.


DO understand the underlying theory before carrying out the lab measurements.
DO use external sources such as textbooks and internet (well established systems like wikipedia or mathworld are more reliable than student essays posted online).

DO NOT ever write things you do not understand even if you copy-paste the whole sentence from a trusted source.

DO NOT write generic sentences like "this is a report describing an experiment".

DO make sentences short and clear. Do not be afraid of word repetitions. It is report, not lyrics.

Grammar errors are just irritating (less irritating when the reader is not a native speaker like myself), but using unstructured and that thus senseless sentences are unforgivable.
DO read your report at least once.
Ideally, ask someone to read it.
DO NOT neglect MS Word spell check and grammar check options.

DO estimate errors (STDEV function in MS Excel, description, say, in http://mathworld.wolfram.com/StandardDeviation.html).

DO sign axis in the format [value, units] e.g. "Pressure drop, Pa".
DO sign plots in a way different from the software defaults "series 1".
DO choose the appropriate axis limits. For example, log(Re) axis does not have to start from zero (Re=1) when your data is in the range from Re=10,000 to Re=90,000.

Data points do not always have to be connected by a line. They rarely need to be connected by a smooth line.

DO add captions to the figures.

DO perform reality checks.

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In the lab:

When working as a group, DO assign someone to process and plot data while others are carrying out measurements.
It will help to choose the parameters for the next measurement.