PHYS 1010 Laboratory: Learning Outcomes, Lab Reports, and Grading Rubric

PHYS 1010 Laboratory: Learning Outcomes, Lab Reports, and Grading Rubric

PHYS 1010 Laboratory: Learning Outcomes, Lab Reports, and Grading Rubric

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PHYS 1010 Laboratory: Learning Outcomes, Lab Reports, and Grading Rubric

Learning Outcomes for PHYS 1010 Labs

1) Hands-On Activity

The student will develop good experimental technique, including proper setup and care of equipment, conducting experiments and

analyzing results in order to observe physical phenomena, assess experimental uncertainty, and make meaningful comparisons

between experiment and theory.

2) Critical Thinking

The student will practice making good decisions in unscripted situations, such as how to portray data, or how to identify and correct

procedural errors during lab. The student will gain experience with how to interpret data and use it to draw conclusions.

3) Technical Writing

The successful student will write about technical information in a manner that is clear, concise, and correct. The goal is to model

professional writing that may be found in a research laboratory, a hospital or clinic, or another workplace where technical

information is used or communicated. The entirety of your writing in the lab report should consist of complete sentences, proper

paragraphs, smooth transitions, and proper spelling – good writing practices that you have learned in your composition classes.

What should your Lab Report look like?

Like the lab reports you may have done in other science classes, a PHYS 1010 lab report will consist of several sections:

Introduction, Data, Data Analysis, Error Analysis, and Conclusions. Most lab reports should contain no more than one page of

written text, primarily the Introduction and Conclusion. This text should be well written, and it should be your writing – distinctly

different from that of your lab partner or anyone else performing the lab. Details of the expectations for the different sections follow.

The Introduction should be a short paragraph, 3-5 sentences long, that captures the reason for doing the lab: What do you

expect to learn? On what concepts will you focus? How will you test or use these concepts? Much of the information needed to

write this can be found in the Goals and Introduction section of the Experiment in question. This is an opportunity to practice

identifying the most relevant information and writing a concise synthesis of it (it thus aligns with the Technical Writing outcome).

We expect original writing, not cut-and-paste, or cut-and-paste with selected word changes that maintain the original sentence

structure. One approach is to read the stated goals at the end of the Goals and Introduction section and rephrase them in your own

voice in a short paragraph.

Your lab experience is an important opportunity to do hands-on work; to “get a feel” for how things move, pull, and react; and

to learn how to use physical and electronic lab equipment (see the Hands-On Activity outcome). One must be an active participant

in this process; it is not sufficient to watch a knowledgeable lab partner perform the experiment. Each lab partner must do each

part of each step to get the full experience: demand it of yourself, and of your lab partner. The TA will assess your level of

participation. Professional lab work requires gathering high-quality data and presenting it in a way that communicates its meaning

to others. You will practice this by gathering data, recognizing and correcting any mistakes you make during lab, then presenting

the final data in the form of tables of numbers that are clearly labeled. This part makes up the Data section. (It is the outcome of

performing the Procedure in the lab document.) During lab, feel free to jot down your data in a notebook or scratch paper (though

be careful to label the numbers). Later, as you write up the lab, organize your data for presentation in your report and label it so

that a reader can clearly see what has been measured. Your data tables may be written by hand, but must be legible. You should

never change values that you have recorded in this transcription process. It is here that you would also share any graphs that you

capture as part of acquiring data. Always be sure to label your graphs and give each a figure number so that they may be referred to

easily in any written responses in the lab report.

The calculations you perform in the Data Analysis section tie the lab experience to the problem solving you do in class and

homework, providing practical applications to those more abstract problems. They demonstrate real-life situations in which

calculations are repeated with one or more variables changed (often in a spreadsheet or computer program) to analyze the behavior

of a system subject to different conditions. You should always show your work for each calculation. When a particular calculation is

repeated several times, you should show at least one example of the calculation, and may simply display the results for the others.

For example, you might be asked to calculate the velocity for three different trials. You should show one full calculation, and then

just show the results of the other two calculations, as seen below. Remember that while you may handwrite your lab report, your

presentation must be legible and clear.

( )( ) 2




9.8 m/s 0.95 s 9.3 m/s

8.4 m/s

9.9 m/s

v at



== =



Graphs (a.k.a. plots or charts in Excel) are used to

visually express the behavior of a physical phenomenon.

The Data Analysis section is the place where you develop

the facts from which you will draw conclusions. Any graphs

you create to show the results of your analysis should have

a title and labeled axes with units noted in the axis labels.

For example, in the graph shown, the student has labeled

both axes with units and noted in the title that this data represents the first of several trials. Remember that you are communicating

your analysis to a reader, and clear labels along with any written explanation that you feel aids your presentation are warranted.

Always be sure to label your graphs and give each a figure number so that they may be referred to easily in any written responses in

the lab report.

In some of the labs, you will gather data to test and confirm well-understood physical relationships, such as the conservation

of energy. Because the answer can be predicted accurately through well-established relationships, you can compare your

experimental results with this “theoretical” answer and discuss the amount and cause of the differences. This reflection leads one to

envision how to do the experiment better next time. The Error Analysis section also employs the mathematical field of statistics to

help you understand the uncertainty in your measurements and to decide the statistical significance of your results. Again, your

calculations should be detailed, clear, and legible.

The Conclusions section should connect with the Introduction section in the way they would in a written paper, while the

Data, Data Analysis and Error Analysis section are the “meat of the sandwich” where the facts are established and relationships

developed that support the conclusions. In particular, the written sections should employ all of the good writing practices you

learned in your composition courses – complete sentences, proper paragraphs, smooth transitions, correct spelling; after all, we are

practicing professional technical writing. In the Conclusions, you must answer the specific questions that appeared in bold

throughout the instructions. You should also address other, less specific questions. For example, what were the sources of error

that may have affected the results of your lab? How could those errors be eliminated in a future experiment? Are there errors that

we always will encounter, like the reaction time of a student using a stopwatch? Did the lab help you to solidify your understanding

of physics concepts, and if so, which ones? Are there other questions or ideas the lab has prompted you to investigate? These are

the kinds of questions you should consider as you write the final, concluding statements in your lab report. Thus, the Conclusions

section should consist of several short paragraphs, each responding to a specific question asked in lab, plus a longer paragraph that

summarizes your thoughts on the broader questions listed above, which apply to all experiments.

Rubric for PHYS 1010 Labs

Criteria: Ratings: Points:

Prelab Questions:

Concepts and calculations on central

ideas of the lab.

Typically one point per question, partial points available on some questions,

submitted and graded in Canvas. 5


A short paragraph describing, in your

own words, the purpose and goals of the


Complete, concise, unique


2 points

Weak representation of

experimental goals.

1 point

Introduction absent or


0 points



A) Participation:

The TA will assess your level of

participation during the data-gathering

phase of the Experiment.

Actively contributing


2 points

Passive or part-time


1 point

Disengaged or absent.

0 points


B) Data/Graph Presentation:

Data/graphs are organized and

presented clearly, legibly, labels clearly

identify each item.

Organized, legible, labeled.

2 points

Data/Graphs are present

but moderately


1 point

Data/Graphs very

disorganized or not


0 points


Data Analysis:

A) Calculations

Calculations are correct; a sample

calculation, including equation, is shown

for each major calculation.

Correct; samples

are correct and

clearly presented.

3 points

One or two mistakes

in calculations. An

organization or

presentation issue.

2 points

Multiple calculation

mistakes. Poor

organization or

presentation of


1 point

No calculations


0 points


B) Graph Presentation:

Graphs portray the data correctly, in a

way that helps to convey information;

labels clearly identify each item.

Correct, helpful, labeled.

2 points

Missing axes or title

labels. Data plotted


1 point

No graphs presented.

0 points


Criteria: Ratings: Points:

Error Analysis:

Calculations are correct and clearly

presented, including equations.

Correct, clearly presented.

2 points

Some analytical mistakes

or presentation issues

1 point

Not presented (when


0 points



A) Answer Questions:

Answer each of the questions posed in

the previous sections using information

and facts developed in the previous


Correct, thoughtful


articulated well.

3 points

Answers partially

correct or poorly


2 points

Answers mostly

incorrect and

poorly articulated.

1 point

No answers or



0 points


B) Discussion:

Discuss what worked well in your

Experiment and what did not. How

would you improve your Experiment in

the future? Describe how the lab

experience relates to the lecture part of

the course, and to life and careers.

Meaningful insights.

2 points

Simplistic insights.

1 point

No insights; plagiarized.

0 points


Writing Practices:

The lab report employs all of the good

writing practices you learned in your

composition courses.

Complete sentences, proper

paragraphs, smooth

transitions, correct spelling.

2 points

Imperfect or weak use

of these practices.

1 point

Plagiarized work.

0 points

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