Laboratory Reports and Grading
General Notes Physical Appearance Laboratory reports must be submitted in a clear and legible form. Specifically: No handwritten reports will be accepted. All reports must be turned in as printer output on white paper. Laser printed copy is preferred. "I couldn't get a computer", "the network crashed" etc. are not acceptable excuses for turning in a late laboratory report. o Chemical structures, graphs etc. should be generated with chemical structure or graphing software. It is suggested that you learn how to use this software before you need to use it! Be sure that all graphics are contained in the word processing file itself. IR and NMR spectra etc. are the only figures exempt from “copy and paste”, although you are welcome to scan the figures into your report. o
Format of the Lab Report Laboratory reports should be in the same format used by J. Am. Chem. Soc. The proper format for ACS journals is listed in the first journal of each year ‐‐ see J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1997, 119, 7A‐11A (Notice to Authors). You can also find the Notice to Authors (and MUCH other information) on the ACS web site or see attached. It is HIGHLY recommended that you read over a few J. Am. Chem. Soc. articles before you begin writing your first lab report (or even perform the experiment) to become familiar with the substance and style that is expected for these laboratory reports. Please do not forget: o Reminder: All reports must include at least one reference to the primary scientific literature. Footnotes should be in standard J. Am. Chem. Soc. format. Students frequently forget these items and are penalized accordingly. o Although you are working in lab teams, each team member must submit their own report. You are free to discuss the findings and conclusions with your lab partner, but the writing and structure of your report must be solely your own work. The following sections are required in all reports:
Abstract This is a very brief statement of what was accomplished. It only contains important numerical data such as x‐ray unit cell data, kinetic activation parameters or rate constants. Raw data is not included. Summarize the findings, interpretations and the conclusions. Don't forget units and uncertainties in measurements. Remember to state how something was synthesized.
Introduction This should contain a brief statement of purpose or goal. It is important to establish why you performed the experiments you did and to put your work in context relative to the existing literature. In this course, this section may be a bit shorter or less detailed than in a J. Am. Chem. Soc. article; however, you should make an effort to find at least a few literature references. A decent introduction should be 1‐3 pages depending on the experiment. If you are introducing a "new" technique then your introduction should include a brief but appropriate discussion of the principles being developed or explored. Include numbered equations if necessary and be sure to define all terms (and units). If you use more than one new technique, you'll need to include discussion for each one.
Experimental This is a detailed description of how the experiment was actually performed. Don't be too detailed (such as "the weighing paper was folded in half, placed on the paper and then the balance was tared...") but be sure to include masses, moles, reaction times, yields, color changes, characterization data (i.e., m.p., IR peak positions), etc. Be sure to identify solvents (and whether/how they were purified) and/or reference compounds (footnote if necessary). A perfect experimental will permit someone who has never seen or performed the reaction to perform it flawlessly and to know exactly what to expect as the reaction proceeds.
Results This section will present your experimental data, but without extensive interpretation. For example, you might talk about the kinetic data and how the plot is first or second order, but leaves the mechanistic implications for the Discussion section. In some formats, Results and Discussion can be combined; it is up to you to decide which a more efficacious format for your experiment is. Be sure to refer to data tables, spectra, or figures which will be included in your report. Make sure that all Figures and Tables are properly labeled and numbered according to J. Am. Chem. Soc. standards. Do not turn in a "freshman style" report.
Discussion This section is probably the most important one in your report (less so for a simple synthetic procedure). It should contain your interpretation of the experimental results along with any necessary justification. For example, based on your observations you may wish to comment on a proposed reaction mechanism or potential sources of error. Keep in mind that sometimes no real conclusion can be drawn from the available data (if not, explain what additional experiments could be performed). You may also want to provide answers to some of the questions in the book which follow the experimental procedure. If desired, the two sections can be combined into a single "Results and Discussion" section.
Conclusion This should summarize your major results and focus on their significance. This might be more speculative than a simple abstract and is often a place where the author muses on other possible avenues of exploration or makes predictions. You MUST suggest a further avenue of study in EVERY report that you turn in. Don't just say "NMR spectroscopy would be useful", for example, tell why it would be useful...what it would differentiate or disprove? Take a look at some real J. Am. Chem. Soc. articles for examples.
References Use standard J. Am. Chem. Soc. format. Extensive references to the primary literature are not required, but some must be given to demonstrate that the student has read and understood the original literature report, not simply a summary of it in the textbook. The student should feel comfortable discussing any of the papers referenced and may be called upon to do so in the laboratory. Do not include references that you have not personally looked up.
Tables and Figures While "routine" spectra such as NMR spectra are not normally reproduced in J. Am. Chem. Soc. articles, you should include such data as Figures in your reports. The Figures should be numbered and titled according to ACS standards and referenced in the lab report. Tables should be clear, uncluttered, titled, self‐explanatory and referenced in the lab report. Never put a Figure in your report unless you are going to discuss it (note the word is "discuss" rather than "mention").
Supporting Information Supporting information is usually supplied with a submitted manuscript and includes data etc. that are not normally part of the final published paper but are critical to the peer review process. In this course, your duplicate lab notebook pages will be
considered Supporting Information. If you did additional calculations or data work‐up after the laboratory period, be sure to turn in those extra yellow pages. As all your calculations and numerical data are entered in your laboratory notebook (if it is filled out correctly), you should not need to add additional pages of calculations, plots etc. to this section. Keep a good notebook! Remember that ALL data gets transcribed into the notebook and interpreted. If you take a spectrum, write down the peak values and assign them!! If you do this when you get the data, you don't need to do it later when you're writing the report. In addition, you may immediately find that there is something wrong and have the opportunity to fix it!
Grading Criteria Because each experiment uses different techniques and has a different focus, the specific number of points allotted to each section of a report will tend to vary. You will not be supplied with a checklist and point value for each item ‐‐ it is up to YOU as a scientist to write the paper, decide what areas are most important and make sure that you follow the J. Am. Chem. Soc. format completely. Recognize that writing abstracts, footnotes, equations, introductions etc. are fairly routine exercises that can earn you "free" points if you learn to do them correctly. For this reason, there is a large emphasis placed on how you analyze and interpret your data, particularly with respect to the conclusions that you can (or cannot) draw. Our goal is not to put you through "cookbook" exercises and spit out "plug‐n‐chug" answers. Our goal is to develop the skills that you need as a scientist ‐‐ writing, thinking, reasoning, understanding and communicating. Students are reminded to make sure: o o o
The abstract includes descriptions of synthetic methods, numbers, units, uncertainties, data interpretation and conclusions. The introduction sets the stage for the work, provides a coherent rationale for the work and explains any concepts that might be new or unfamiliar. The Results and Discussion section(s) explain and interpret the data. Show how the sum of the data leads you to a Big Picture. Sometimes you cannot draw a definitive conclusion or two sets of data give conflicting results ‐‐ that's life in the real world. Deal with it as professionally as you can. Tables, Schemes, Figures etc. are all numbered/titled etc. according to J. Am. Chem. Soc. format and are referenced from the text. To include at least one pertinent primary literature reference. Often you'll use at least one in the introduction and another when you compare your findings to previously reported literature values. Your conclusion is more than a summary.
As many peaks as possible are assigned in spectra. Make sure you don't have any "missing" peaks if you are claiming to identify something. Make sure you don't have any unassigned (or undiscussed if you cannot assign any)! o Take the time to read a few J. Am. Chem. Soc. papers so you know what to expect. Do this before you even do your first experiment in this course! o
Laboratory reports are due ONE WEEK AFTER THE EXPERIMENT IS DONE. Late report will be penalized (10 points off per day) NOTE: Penalties accrue over weekends and holidays. A report due on Friday at 1 PM that is turned in on Monday at 8 AM will be taken 15 points off!
How to prepare and get good grade in lab report