2 Mar 2016

Writing Lab Reports

Web Resources and Apps

Submitted by John Lee, University of Tennessee Chattanooga

Each spring semester I take on the task of teaching and grading full lab reports for my senior advanced inorganic chemistry class. For most this is their first experience writing a document of this magnitude as most other labs they have previously taken require either lab report sheets or the occasional abbreviated lab memo. As I read their lab reports each year I am reminded both how challenging it is to teach writing (more specifically scientific writing) and to grade the reports objectively. See for instance the Nature Chemistry thesis article:  http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1038/nchem.1985.

This year I stumbled across a great website for lab report writing. The link below is to a lab-writing website that was designed at North Carolina State University under an NSF grant. It includes a plethora of information that range from flow charts for students as they construct their lab report (with each section hyperlinked to definitions/bullets of what should be included), to differences in types of data plotting, to downloadable/editable grading rubrics for faculty. This is an impressive website and you can easily spend a lot time perusing the amount of information that has been made available.

Learning Goals: 

After reading through this website, a student will be able to formulate a logical plan to turn the data in their notebook from a laboratory experiment into a well-crafted laboratory report.


Implementation Notes: 

Currently, I give a lecture on writing lab reports and abstracts in our department's shared junior level chemical literature course. In that lecture I focus on Whitesides' paper that has been shared previously (see related activities). Next year, I plan to not only include pieces of this website into the junior level chemical literature lecture but will also navigate the website on the first day for my seniors in advanced inorganic lab. 

Time Required: 
15-20 minutes during laboratory introduction
Creative Commons License: 
Creative Commons Licence

The VIPEr community supports respectful and voluntary sharing. Click here for a description of our default Creative Commons license.