InLab: the lab procedure
Setting up the lab:
notes as you set up your experiment and calibrate instruments to help
you document your experimental protocol so that you may use it later
when writing the Methods section of your lab report.
a sheet of paper or in your lab manual or in a formal lab
notebook, list the lab materials you'll be using and describe the
set-up for this experiment. Take notes about potential sources
of uncertainty so that you may refer to them when you are writing
the Discussion section of your lab report. You may want to or may be
required to draw and label the instrument(s) you'll be using.
here to see an example of lab notebook
2. Preparing a table or spreadsheet for recording
Using the information you have gathered about the data you will be collecting
and list of variables from your PreLab as a guide, create a raw
data table or set
up a spreadsheet for entering data from your
experiment. For help in determining which you should create
now, a table or a spreadsheet, click
here. For general information on tables, go to Designing
Conducting the experiment:
Conduct your experiment
as set up in the PreLab and record your data in a table or spreadsheet
(see question 2 above). Take detailed notes on your experimental procedures.
These notes may be all you have later on when you write your lab report.
It's also important to note any problems you have with the experiment;
these notes could be useful when writing the Discussion. Describe in
writing or sketch out on a sheet of paper your observations as you collect
data during the experiment (observations are potentially significant
things that are not reflected in the measurements: color, smell, interesting
reactions, unexpected behaviors, etc.)
As you record your
data, take note of any trends emerging in the data. You should be asking
yourself various questions: What are the relationships
among the variables? Do the data behave in the way that you had
anticipated? If not, why not? You may need to consider sources
of uncertainty once again. Sources of uncertainty may affect the
and precision of your experimental data.
the results of your experiment do not seem to lead you to an answer
to your research question, you may need to rethink the design of your
experiment, which could mean revising the experiment, revising the variables,
revising the hypothesis, or even revising the research question. A good
scientist must be flexible in designing and conducting experiments.
Remember that the most important part of an experiment is that it is
clearly designed so that it may be repeated by others seeking to reach
the same conclusions. Whether you are right or wrong with respect to
your hypothesis is not as important as a well-designed experiment.
Visualizing the data:
Now that you have
entered your data in a table or spreadsheet, you are ready to represent
the data in the appropriate visual format for your lab report. Representing
your data in a visual format will allow you to identify trends and relationships
among variables more easily. Follow these steps:
- Establish what
types of data you have, quantitative
- Determine if
the data should be represented as a table
or a graph.
- If you decide
to use a graph to represent your data, determine which type
of graph is one that best represents your data.
- If a table is
the best format for representing your data, then modify the table
you used to collect your data so that it is labeled and organized
properly. Go to Designing Tables
for help on making tables.
- If you need help
creating a spreadsheet to make a table or graph, go to Excel
- Remember that
the purpose of your table or graph is to summarize your findings for
yourself and for others and to reveal trends in your data.
Using your data to solve your research problem:
Review all your
data--tables, graphs, and drawings--to establish whether or not or to
what degree the data support your hypothesis. Next, use what you have
learned from comparing data to the hypothesis to answer your research
question. State the answer as best you can in a sentence or two. Then
return to the original problem you were given to solve, both the knowns
and the unknowns that you defined in Question 1 of the PreLab. Does
the answer to your research question resolve the unknowns and allow
you to solve the problem? If so, write the solution. If your answer
still does not provide a satisfactory resolution to your research question
and the original problem, you may need to explore alternatives: a different
experiment, a different hypothesis, a different research question.