Writing the Physics Laboratory Report

The main factor in evaluation of your laboratory work will be written records you keep. The following will describe the proper order and content which is required procedure for recording your physics laboratory data. Please read the rules carefully before your first laboratory meeting and question your instructor on anything you do not understand completely and clearly.

Never begin any experiment unless you understand the overall purpose of the experiment and the reasons for each operation involved. This requires studying (not just reading!) an experiment before coming to the laboratory. For this reason, laboratory experiments are always assigned in advance, except under unusual circumstances. You will find that not only will your performance in the laboratory be better if you are will prepared, but you will also benefit more from the experiments, in knowledge as well as in grades.

Lab work must be done in PEN (blue or black ink only!) Failure to do this will result in a grade of “0”. You will not be permitted to resubmit the lab. The entire lab must be submitted using only one color. Do not mix colors.

If you make a mistaake mistake, simply draw a single line through your mistake and continue writing your lab. Do not use white out and do not erase!

The first two pages of your lab notebook must be reserved for a table of contents. There should be four columns of data on these pages:

Lab Number / Lab Title / Date Completed / Pages

Lab Number: Begin with “1”, followed by “2”, etc.

Lab Title: Every lab has a title on the top of the lab instruction packet.

Date Completed: The day you finish the laboratory experiment. If your lab continues for a few

days, it is the day that you finish your lab.

Page: You will number your pages in your lab book beginning with the first page of your first lab

report (page 1). Page numbers are placed in the lower outside corner of each page of your

lab notebook.

If you want to view a sample table of contents please visit the sample lab report posted on School Wires.

Your lab report must include the following material in the following order:


Place the date of the lab exercise in the upper left hand corner of the first page of your report. If the lab spans more than one day, use only the date of the last day of the lab. If it is a make-up lab, place the date of the make-up lab and write MAKE-UP next to the date.


Every lab has a title. It should appear on your lab instruction packet. Center the title on the very top line of the first page of your report. Use UPPER CASE LETTERS. Write large!


This is a one-sentence description of “why” you are doing this lab. It describes its relationship to the topic being discussed in lecture. Include the name of the “law” or “principle” you will illustrate by performing the assigned task.


This is a proposal of how you intend to prove the objective. In the objective you simply stated the law or principle, here you need to explain it. For example, I predict all objects accelerate at the same rate regardless of mass. We will prove this by allowing three objects of different mass to roll down an incline and measure their acceleration.


Provide a sketch of your experimental set-up. Label all the equipment in your sketch that you are using. Then, provide a short (two or three sentence) description of the important activities completed during the experiment. It should not restate what is found in the step-by-step procedure found in the laboratory instructions.

Data, Tables, Graphing:

Record of the measurements made during the experiment. There will be data tables for almost every lab report. All data must include labels and units. Headers must be at the top of each column.

Sample Data Table:

Time (s) / Distance Traveled (m)
0 / 0
2.25 / 10
6.67 / 20
14.22 / 30
28.63 / 40

Tables must include columns, boxes, and rows (just like the examples above!). Use a ruler and be neat! Tables may NOT be cut and pasted into your laboratory notebook. They are to be drawn by you using a pen and ruler! These are not lists of data! You must construct a TABLE like the one illustrated above.


Graphing the results of an experiment involving two variables helps to make the relationship of the variables more obvious. Graphs for particular labs will be discussed in full when those labs are performed. All graphs are to be computer generated and placed in your lab book by cutting and pasting. Invest in a glue stick that is readily available. Do NOT ask to borrow a glue stick as you enter the room on the day the lab report is due. This should be done at home or before you come to class. Graphs that are not glued into your lab notebook will cause you to lose some credit for the lab report.




These forms of adhesion will cause you to lose some credit for the lab report.

A data table of coordinate values should accompany your graph. This data table is NOT cut and pasted into your lab notebook. This is done by hand, ruler and pen. The data table should look like that described in the Data section of these instructions.

An average line must be constructed through the plotted points on each graph. Most computer graphing programs have this feature. Don’t wait until the last moment to explore your computer and its graphing capabilities.

Each graph should have a title/header that states what is being graphed. Each axis should be labeled as to the measurement being graphed. Units for each measurement should be stated on each axis. Each graph should also have the appropriate linear regression line.


Sample Calculations:

If there are any mathematical calculations (no matter how insignificant they may seem), that are needed to complete the analysis of the lab data, they should appear in this section. There should be a sample calculation for every equation used in the lab exercise. These are often equations that reflect the law, or property being examined through the lab exercise. Each sample calculation should include the following items in the following order:

  1. The given information.
  2. The equation used.
  3. Substitution of known values with sample units from your data.
  4. Numerical answer using proper units. Box in your answer.


Calculation of acceleration using information from above data table:


d = 10 ma = ½ dt2a = ½ (10m)(2.25s)2

t = 2.25 s a = (5m) x (5.06s2)

a = 25.3 m/s2


The analysis section of your laboratory report should contain the answers to all questions posed in your laboratory instruction packet. Number these questions and answer them using full and complete sentences. No one-word or one-number answers will be accepted. If asked to calculate something in these questions, they must be done using the same method as the “calculations” section of your lab report.


Here you will interpret the data and the calculations, especially the graphs, and give your final statement on the lab performed. Did the experiment turn out as expected? What could have contributed to errors? What do the graphs tell us? Cite specific evidence from your data to support your conclusion.

Labs are due the next lab day that class meets. For instance, you a lab for Galileo’s inclined plane was held on Tuesday September 7th which was a “B” day your lab would be due the following “B” day. When you come to class that day you are to drop off your lab book in the clear plastic box on the side of the room by the windows. Labs not turned in and placed in the box upon entering the room will be marked as late and will result in a 10% deduction.

If you have any questions at all about a lab or something you are confused about it is your responsibility to come see me so I can help you.

I recommend that you keep track of all the due dates for your lab reports using a planner. Remember the policy is: NO LABS AFTER ONE WEEK WILL BE ACCEPTED.