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Kyle McElhoney, Aurora University
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Joined: 03/23/2017 - 9:37pm

Gen Chem Lab Report Alternatives

I was just wondering what others are doing for General Chemistry (I or II) lab reports. I have tried shorter memo-like reports for experiments as well as traditional full reports. 

Does anyone have other ideas that they find help students improve writing and comprehension of the material/techniques?

Kyle Grice, DePaul University
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Joined: 07/22/2010 - 5:29pm

Hi Kyle,

We are thinking about this for next year in terms of having students in Gen Chem I build up to a full report by writing sections for each lab instead of a full lab report. Haven't hashed out the details or made any concrete decisions yet.

Kyle 

Kari Young, Centre College
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Joined: 07/19/2012 - 1:14pm

We have our gen chem students write abstracts in Gen Chem I and II.  In Gen Chem I, students write two or three abstracts over the course of the term.  When we don't write abstracts, we do exit quizzes.  In Gen Chem II, students write six or seven abstracts and critique a (really bad) abstract that I wrote.  Generally, students also submit a spreadsheet that includes data and graphs.  

At the beginning of the term, the abstracts are often way too long and focus almost entirely on irrelevant experimental details rather than the interpretation of the data.  Because the abstracts run about 100 words, I find I can actually edit line by line and give really specific feedback about awkward sentences or missing information or formatting while keeping the grading load manageable.  It is satisfying to see improvement over time.

Our students then do the building up of a scientific paper in Organic II as part of a 5-week, 3-step synthesis project.  The students start with experimental, add in results and discussion, then introduction, then abstract in sucessive drafts on which we provide feedback but no grade.  The opportunity for revision really helps our students get better!

Kyle McElhoney, Aurora University
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Thanks!

Katherine Nicole Crowder, University of Mary Washington
Katherine Nicole Crowder, University of Mary Washington's picture
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We don't have our Gen Chem students write full lab reports for their typical labs. They complete an abstract for these reports. We decided to go with the abstract instead of a full report as it is essentially a full report in 3-7 sentences!

I provide them with a template that outlines what each sentence should be in an abstract, an example appropriate to the level of the course, and a rubric of the expectations for the abstract that they will be graded on. I go over all of this in the first lab class.

For the rest of the report, they have data sheets, calculations, graphical analysis, questions to answer, etc. We also evaluate their lab notebook pages.

Like Kari says, the early abstracts are way too long and include a bunch of stuff that they don't need to include. I spend a lot of ink crossing out whole sentences, but the abstracts are short enough for me to actually comment on and provide meaningful feedback. My teaching load and enrollment is too high for this to be feasible with full lab reports.

They write two team lab reports on their open ended project labs. They are responsible for purpose, safety, an extensive procedure section, and references on this. Their individual reports for this include an abstract and results/calculations section.

I'd be happy to share any of these materials if you're interested.

Kyle Grice, DePaul University
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Hi All,

We are currently revising our gen chem labs so that each quarter students students write several "partial lab reports" where they focus only on one or two specific areas, such as an abstract or making good plots and tables. Later in the quarter they write one or two full lab reports.  

Kyle 

James F. Dunne, Central College
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Joined: 05/21/2018 - 4:34pm

We use "partial lab report" approach in our Organic I and II sequence, as well as Analytical.  Gen Chem currently just keeps an exceedingly detailed lab notebook with all acquired data/graphs and turns it in prior to leaving lab.  It works well for getting them to keep notebooks, but makes the next steps of guiding their writing towards professional-style reports/articles even harder.  Our deptartment is planning a wholistic revision and alignment of how we teach writing this coming May, so any ideas would be welcome.