Requirements for Physics Lab Notebooks

brontidegrrrMechanics

Nov 14, 2013 (3 years and 7 months ago)

52 views


Requirements for Physics Lab Notebooks

TJHSST Physics 1 Team

v 1.
4

9/10/09

1

Rationale

for

the
Requirements


The following list of requirements
will
probably strike students as rigid,
arbitrary,
and
especially, tedious
.
Written
requirements
provide
clear expectations

to students
.
But such a long
list of requirements ought to be j
ustified both by
learning

and science arguments.
Lab notebooks
are the science and engineering equivalent of an accountant’s ledger. It is a legal document
establishing priority for
scientific discovery

and first
-
to
-
invent priority in patents.

In
our
co
mpetitive
(and
litigious
)

society this
is reason enough. But this reason is dwarfed by
one based
on
delayed inference
.


A l
ab notebook
is a

map

of the path to
understanding
the natural world, a
temporal
sequence of small surprises
which eventually
coales
c
e

into discovery. This is the way science
works. Often
,

the

connections between the small pieces
are not

obvious. One needs to see the
collection of pieces, to logically
work out

the implications, to uncover the contradictions
that
follow from

the evid
ence and to resolve these. Sometimes, the discoveries are made later by other

people
. The importance of the experimental evidence is often not recognized

at the time of the
experiment
, even by those who did the work.

Careful records allow
later
reflecti
on and discovery.


Unfortunately, one of the rules disallows removing the lab notebooks from the classroom.
How do we reconcile delayed reflection with th
is

rule? The reasons lab notebooks may not be
removed are: first, to decrease the opportunity for a
cademic dishonesty, second, to avoid
students
forget
ting

the
ir

notebook
s

for the next lab, and
third,
to minimize the consequences of
students
neglecting to record

some essential
measurement
.

To extend
access
time at least one physics room
will be availab
le outside the regular class time before school, at lunch, 8
th

period, and when
requested, after school for make
-
up work, tutoring, and additional lab reflection or analysis.

In doing lab experiments a universal experience is to fill a whole page (or mor
e
) with
results, descriptions, analysis, or conclusions only to realize that it is all garbage.
One

completely
misunderstood some aspect of the lab and the only way to proceed is to begin again.
Although this
is messy it is an essential part of the way s
cience works
.
One begins with a question,
followed by

reason within a familiar context until it
yields

a plausible conceptual blunder.


T
hen, guided by
experimental
discrepancies,
one is led (sometimes reluctantly) t
oward

recognition of
the
misunderstandi
ng
.


F
inally,
one
logically assembl
e
s

a
conceptual
model

which is more consistent
with the experimental results
.
A part of what we want to record is this process. Preserve your
blunders while indicating that you believe the
se

results
to be
incorrect
.

Th
e time sequence is
maintained in the lab notebook
thus

it is clear in what order repeated measurements are made. In
extended research
,

results of earlier experiments determine what experiments are done later. In
such cases time order indicates the direct
ion of
discovery
logical cause and effect.



Finally, a natural question by students is why are we still
bound

to paper?

This
is how
Tycho Brahe
did

it

over
400 years ago
.

But now w
hy not do it all electronically,

in Word
and
Excel
for instance? There a
re two problems: First is the issue of preserving the time
-
line for the
reasons given above. Second is the issue of longevity of the record. Paper records have been
pas
sed

down to us from thousands of years ago. Digital formats change every time the rec
ording
medium is improved. Try reading
a document stored on a 5
1/4

inch floppy disk from 10 years
ago.

I am aware

this course lasts less than a year
, but

one should not develop habits of record
-
keeping with a shelf life.

Ultimately, s
cien
tific research

is
for
posterity.

This doesn’t mean we are
happy

to stay with paper. When these issues are resolved we’ll
all

move to electronic lab
notebooks.




Requirements for Physics Lab Notebooks

TJHSST Physics 1 Team

v 1.
4

9/10/09

2

1
.
Students
must use
the laboratory notebook purchased from the Physics Department. No other
notebook wil
l be accepted.


2. Cover label should include full name, class period, and teacher’s name.


3
.
Students

must use non
-
erasable
black

ink pen. (NO
pencils,
sharpies, magic markers, dry

erase
markers,
crayons,
paint pens,
chalk,
etc. may be used.
)

If
ink

b
leeds through
the
page
,

change pen

type
.


4. All entries must be
strictly

chronological (written in exactly the same order as the work is
done). Students may not “save” space or blank pages for later work.
Nor should
original
pages be
removed.

Executio
n time is the major organizing feature of the lab notebook, superseding logical
sequential, lab number, assignment date, due date, or any other.


5
. All pages
are

numbered and

must be

dated. The date recorded should be the date at the time
when it
is

wri
tten, and except possibly for lab work done near midnight, should also be the date
when the measurements
are

made.

Entries made to the page after the page date
must

be dated
again.


6
.
Students may not remove l
ab
note
books from the physics labs

until fin
al grades (in June) have
been recorded
. A
substantial
grade penalty will be assessed for failure to observe this rule.


7
.
All entries must be legible
.
Sloppy, illegible, unr
eadable entries will be ignored.


8
.
A

Table of Contents is required
; use the
cardboard insert provided.


9. Every
investigation

needs

a
descriptive
title.

This is to facilitate finding the work later.


10
. All lab partners
(full names)
must be listed for every lab. If you change partners
,

you must
record the change
.

All those
working on the same apparatus at the same time are partners.

The
only exception may be for teacher
-
presented

demo/labs
.


1
1
.
Makeup work is often done in one of the other physics rooms.
If
you do
the experiment
anywhere except
in your teacher’s
room
,

re
cord
the location
.

If
you do it

at any time

other than

your scheduled class time,
you must also
record the

time
.


1
2
. Sharing information
directly from

the lab

notebooks

is limited to measured results and direct
observations
and
then
only

with

lab partne
rs

who are present when the measurements
are

made
.
All
derived
(secondary)
results, including
calculations and conclusions
,

should be the student’s
own.

Of course, students are permitted (
in fact,

encouraged) to discuss
all aspects of
the lab and
their r
esults

with their lab partners
. Direct copying of anything
in the lab notebooks

is not allowed.


1
3
.
A
ll measurements must include error
bounds
.

To the extent

possible
,

calibration
measurements should be made to determine the accuracy of the experimenta
l results and repeated
trials should be used to determine the precision.




Requirements for Physics Lab Notebooks

TJHSST Physics 1 Team

v 1.
4

9/10/09

3

1
4
.
Error
,

as used in
science,

means
experimental
uncertainty

in a specific measurement
. “
Human
error


is a mistake, not an error
, so should
n
ever

be listed as an error source.

If a human made a
mistake, what was it, and why was it not corrected?

“Instrument error” is also disallowed because
it is not
specific enough to allow adjustment, correction, or future design change.


1
5
. No
inserts are permitted except
printed
graphs
,

s
preadsheet printouts,
and
photographs,

all of
which must be

neatly

taped

with clear
tape

into
the
lab
note
book

[No layered, folded, or “pop
-
up”
pasting of anything!]
. This
requirement

implies no loose inserts (except the
cardboard separator
and any grade
sheet that your instructor might include
).

Loose inserts will be discarded before
grading
.


1
6
. Methods and equipment should be described for every measurement or observation.

Like
-
kind measurements are assumed to be made the same way, so only variation
s need to be noted
after the first one.

Enough detail needs to be recorded so
it would be possible
for someone who
is
unfamiliar with

the
lab

to
assemble the equipment and replicate the
experiment

using only what is
recorded in the notebook
.

In other wor
ds, another physics 1 student


who has never performed
the investigation


should be able to reliably replicate your methodology and results from what has
been recorded in your lab notebook.



1
7
. All information from sources
outside
of
the lab group

(pa
rtners)

or
any
lab handout
s

must be
cited.

In addition to the source
,

t
he citation must identify
the
specific information obtained.


1
8
.
Written mist
akes
will

not

be corrected by removing pages, scribbling out, erasing, whiting
-
out
, or surgical excising
.

They
will

be lined out with a single line
.

While indicating the intent to
exclude
,

lined
-
out
mistakes

are

still accessible

to the reader
.

Extended corrections may be crossed
out with one diagonal line through the whole paragraph

or page
.


19
. Do not
copy any part of
any

handout
(bigger than a word
,

a constant
, or an equation
)
into your
lab notebook.

Objectives, descriptions, methods, interpretations, etc. should be
in
your own

words
.

The idea here is that everything appearing in the lab notebook sho
uld be processed by the
brain first.


20
.
Since experiments begin as questions it is more natural to phrase the objective as a question,
but this is not a requirement. It
is

required that
Objectives be specific. "Win Nobel Prize

in
Physics
" would not me
et this criterion.

"
How
is the
force exerted
by a spring
on an object and
the
object's

position over time

related?
" would be more specific.


21. Most laboratory investigations involve quantitative observations (measurements).
All

such
measurements have
dimensions; length, time, mass, etc.
These dimensions
must

be explicitly
attached to the numerical values
.
[
For example,

4.50 m, 27 cm
3
, 3.445 kg. 19 μs, etc.]



22.
Sample calculations

will frequently need to be performed in order to evaluate the quality of
your data.
You may need to
propagate the erro
r
associated with your
measurements

through your
calculations in order to determine i
f your results are “good enough,” or if you need to repeat your
data gathering. Make sure that any error analysis and error propagation is clearly recorded and
understandable by both yourself and other readers.


Requirements for Physics Lab Notebooks

TJHSST Physics 1 Team

v 1.
4

9/10/09

4

In summary,
l
ab notebook entries
should
in
clude

the following parts

for each experiment

or
investigation
:




Title
, Date

(on every page)



Lab
P
artners

(full names)



Objective

of your investigation
,

or
q
uestion

to be answered



Description of
m
ethods and
e
quipment

sufficiently detailed so that another Ph
ysics 1
student could reproduce your experimental methodology and obtain results consistent with
yours
.

These notes will nearly always include diagrams, sketches, or schematics.



If the investigation has
quantitative

aspects, then a data section is require
d. This will
neatly

contain (usually in a tabular format) all measurements taken, including error bounds

that
you have
thoughtfully

justified.

ALL MEASURED AND DERIVED QUANTITIES
MUST EXPLICITLY
INCLUDE

APPROPIATE DIMENSIONS.



All plots must be produced u
sing proper graphing technique.



If the investigation has
qualitative

aspects,
then

include notes detailed enough so that
several

months later, you could use them to formally report your results if required to do
so. Once again, these notes will frequentl
y include diagrams, sketches, or schematics.



Include s
ample
calculations

of each type
(including
e
rror
propagation
)

that might be
performed on your data. This section could include plots or graphs of your data, or the
output of spreadsheets.

Pay attenti
on to correct use of
significant figure
s
(sig figs)
, and
attach appropriate dimensions to all numerical quantities and calculations
.



A
ppropriate notes


written
while performing the investigation



that
pertain to any
conclusions that could be drawn from a
n analysis of your data and/or observations.



Citations
,

if applicable
.


These
records
need not be l
engthy
. For some
investigations
,

the entire notebook record may be
less than a page.



Citation
:


These requirements have

been adapted from a document produced by Dr. Michael Walker of
TJHSST during the 07
/
08 academic year.