University of Vermont

CHEM 201 Advanced Chemistry Laboratory

Chem 201 Lab Report Format

Chem 201 Lab Reports: What is required

The five written lab reports comprise 75% of your grade.  Thus, the preparation of the lab reports is expected to take a significant amount of your time spent in the course.  For the wise student, much of the time spent should be spent prior to the lab:
  1. Understanding the goals of the lab and what will happen in the lab before you get there
  2. Learning the underlying chemistry to be done in the lab
  3. Learning the principles of the instrumentation to be used
  4. Thinking about what data sets are to be acquired
  5. Thinking about what calculations will be performed
  6. And thinking about what interpretations can be made from the calculations.
Your written reports should reflect mastery of these points for each lab.

Each formal, written lab report is due 2 weeks after the lab is scheduled to have been completed. Submit your reports directly to the TA in charge of the lab.

The Good News and the Bad News:
  • The bad news: you lose 1 point (2% of your grade) for each weekday-day that you are late, where 10% represents a change in letter grade.
  • The good news: you receive 1 bonus point for each weekday-day that you hand in your lab report ahead of the due date.

The format we use for the written reports is as close as we can make it to the format that you would use if you were submitting a manuscript for publication to a journal.   The skills you will develop in writing these reports will carry over to anything else you do in science beyond this course.  Good writing skills are as important to the successful scientist as good bench-skills--perhaps more important because if you cannot communicate effectively the results of your work, they will die of ennui in the back drawer of a filing cabinet or in the middle of a dusty 3rd-class journal on a library shelf.

spinning star  PDF of the instructions for preparing your lab reports

Yes, it is confusing to organize and write a lab report in manuscript format for the first time.  The problem is organization: getting your thoughts organized, getting your data organized, & getting your words in an organized fashion.   Probably the most difficult part is figuring out which of all the data you collected in a lab should be included in Tables and Figures and which are supplementary and should only be included as Appendix material.  That's where the organization part comes in.  The only way to get organized is by trying.  It will get easier as you write up successive laboratories.

I have also included two files here for you to download as an aid to help you understand what a manuscript in manuscript form looks like when converted to a published paper in a journal.  The 1st PDF file is a manuscript submitted to Analytical Biochemistry for the purpose of describing a new method to measure glucose and glycerol stable isotopically labeled tracers by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.  The 2nd PDF file is the paper as it was published from this manuscript in Analytical Biochemistry.

Other resources that also have How to Write Good information:

Write your reports for your peers: other junior/senior chemistry students.

Yes, you may submit your lab reports electronically directly to your TA & Prof.  However, even if you choose this option, you may also want to provide a written copy because what you submit must be in a standard format (Word or WordPerfect) that does not include idiosyncratic buried-fonts, characters, graphics, etc. that do not display correctly on someone else's computer.  You will be graded on what displays on your TA's computer.  Most appendix material will still have to be submitted the old-fashioned way unless it is done using a common application such as Excel.

A big help to preparing lab reports will be to have software that allows you to draw chemical structures and add them into your reports.  You can obtain a free copy of ChemSketch from ACD Labs.  Go to the Dept. of Chemistry web page and choose Chemistry Software from the links at the bottom right of the page.  Follow the directions.

Your first lab report will include a "do over" option. We realize that the first report you write may be a work in progress, and that you will improve as you write more reports. Therefore, your first report can be revised and handed back in later for a regrade. The caveat is that your revised first-lab report must be turned into your TA before that lab is presented as an oral presentation. When you turn in your revised lab report, please include your original lab report too.

Grading Rubric for Lab Reports

  Points
Abstract 3
Introduction 3
Experimental  
    Description of instrumentation & procedures used 2
    Definition of terms & equations used to perform calculations 5
Results  
   Written explanation 5
   Tables & Figures 10
Discussion 10
Literature cited 2
Appendix material 5
Overall composition and writing style 5
Total:  50
Bonus: Analyses that go beyond the required scope of the report 5

Last modified January 16 2012 06:09 PM

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