Report writing guidelines

```The “Astronomy” view on report writing
2nd Year Laboratory Experimental Report
• All scientific reports should be arranged in sections.
• It is helpful to number sections and divide each section into
subsections with meaningful subheadings where required.
• Grammar and spelling are very important
– Redrafting extremely important for readability
– Redraft several times – reading afresh each time.
Abstract
1. Introduction (including any theory)
2. Experimental details
3. Results
3.1 Overview
3.2 First set of results
3.3 Second set of results
4. Discussion
5. Summary or Conclusions
References
Grammar and Spelling
• In many branches of physics the convention is to write in the
third person and the passive tense, i.e. &quot;the voltage was measured
at ten second intervals&quot; rather than &quot;I/we measured the
voltage...&quot;.
• Note, however, that in astronomy journals many authors write in
the first person. (we). Check with your marker if you are unsure.
• It doesn’t matter to us (astro) which one you chose, but be
consistent!
Grammar and Spelling
• In many branches of physics the convention is to write in the
third person and the passive tense, i.e. &quot;the voltage was measured
at ten second intervals&quot; rather than &quot;I/we measured the
voltage...&quot;.
• Note, however, that in astronomy journals many authors write in
the first person (we). Check with your marker if you are unsure.
• Use the present tense for statements which are still true rather
than actions pursued in the past, i.e. &quot;the work function was
calculated from the Fowler-Nordheim equation to be 4.0 eV
which is in agreement with the published value&quot;.
• Theoretical statements are also written in the present tense, e.g.
&quot;The condition for maxima in the intensity is given by the
equation...&quot;.
Grammar and Spelling
– Read what is there, not what you thought you wrote (you’ll need a gap
between writing and re-reading if this is to work properly)
– Is it understandable to someone who doesn’t know the expt?
– Do you trip up on any sentences?
•
Get someone else to read it to be sure that it makes sense.
2nd Year Laboratory Experimental Report
• All scientific reports should be arranged in sections.
• It is helpful to number sections and divide each section into
subsections with meaningful subheadings where required.
• Grammar and spelling are very important.
• There is no one conventional format that is followed in all cases
but a good laboratory report should follow the style of scientific
papers (e.g. one of the Physical Review or Institute of Physics
journals).
• Use the Departmental template for assessed work (see module
web pages).
Demonstration of Three-Dimensional Electrostatic Trapping of StateSelected Rydberg Atoms
S. D. Hogan and F. Merkt
Laboratorium f&uuml;r Physikalische Chemie, ETH Z&uuml;rich, CH-8093, Switzerland
(Received 15 September 2007; published 30 January 2008)
A three-dimensional trap for Rydberg atoms in selected Stark states has been realized
experimentally. H atoms seeded in a supersonic expansion of Ar are excited to the lowfield seeking n = 30, k = 25, |m| = 0, 2 Rydberg-Stark states, decelerated from a mean
initial velocity of 665 m/s to zero velocity in the laboratory frame and loaded into a
three-dimensional electrostatic trap. The motion of the cold Rydberg atom cloud in the
trap and the decay of the trapped atoms have been studied by pulsed electric field
ionization and imaging techniques.
Not clear if they are reporting the trap, or if this has been done before.
Equally unclear if the experimental statements refer to their work or others
“ionization and imaging techniques” doesn’t tell the reader what was found.
No motivation for why they are performing the experiment
Abstract
• Context
– Due to their wide availability, abstracts are an important part of any paper
• Aims
– Many authors write bad abstracts, and so here we provide some guidelines
• Method
– Here we outline how to structure an abstract by ensuring it contains
certain core elements and a strong narrative.
• Results
– We demonstrate with examples how this style of abstract aids readability
and makes your paper or report more interesting, especially if you make
sure you include important numerical results here.
• Conclusion
– On the basis of this we encourage all authors to consider using a similar
approach when writing an abstract. We finally recommend that an
abstract be written once all other elements are complete.
Adapted from Bertout &amp; Schneider 2005 A&amp;A 441 3-6
1. Introduction
• The basic physics being investigated.
• A brief account of the principles behind the experimental
methods adopted and an indication of the scope and significance
of the work.
• An introduction to the rest of your report.
relevant details; finish by stating your aims
– Be understandable to someone who has not done the experiment
– Don’t include experimental details or results.
2. Experimental Details
• This section should include details of the apparatus and methods
used - draw diagrams!
• Do not describe how standard equipment works.
• Special pieces of equipment merit more space.
• Describe any non-standard methods which you used; comment
on experimental procedures.
• Do not give a &quot;recipe&quot; for the reader.
• Use past tense to describe what you did.
• Report what you did and why; and any problems encountered.
3. Experimental Results (and Discussion)
• You may remind the reader of what it is you are trying
to measure and show how this is to be accomplished.
• You should always give a concise description of how
• You may also choose to include a preliminary
agree with previously published results or theory? But
this is also fine in discussion
• Use full paragraphs
• Comment on the quality of any fits you make and if
your error bars have been over or underestimated.
• The raw data, or processed data, should be presented in the
clearest possible way - tables or graphs – but not both.
– Don’t include unnecessary tables
– Don’t use tables for just a few numbers that could be in the text
– Always quote errors on measured quantities.
• Graphs should be drawn using a data plotting package.
• The derivation of results from graphs must be shown clearly.
• Scales should be carefully chosen to most clearly indicate any
features in the data.
• Carefully explain how your errors were estimated. Error
bars/crosses should be shown on some if not all of the points.
Displayed material
• Figures should be given self contained figure captions placed
below the figure. There is no need to give the figure a title.
• Figures and tables should be numbered consecutively
i.e. Figure 1, Figure 2a, Figure 2b, Figure 3, etc.; Table 1, Table 2.
Always refer to figures by these figure numbers. All figures
should be referenced in the text in the order they appear.
Graphs are Figures.
• All diagrams, photographs, etc. are also Figures.
• Carefully consider how to combine data sets in each figure to
Poor Quality Graphs
Figure 1. M versus x
Graphs
Figure 1. Magnetisation versus Mn composition, x, for a series of Y(Al1-xMnx)
intermetallic samples. The data (■) were collected at a temperature of 5 K in
an applied field, H, of 50 A/m using a SQUID magnetometer. The red line is a
least squares fit to the data using the model of Jones et al. [1] and confirms the
linear increase in the magnetisation with Mn concentration x.
4. Discussion
• Discuss the significance of your results when compared with the
published results or accepted theories.
– Are your results consistent with accepted values or not
– Don’t use “reasonable agreement” – quantify it!
• Discuss the sources of error, the problems encountered in your
own investigation and their effect on the end result.
– When listing possible sources of error, ascertain which are important and
which are not, be quantative if possible
– Construct arguments and give evidence
method you have used.
• You could include a section summarising the contents of your
report, reiterating the points you feel are important and giving
the conclusions of your experimental investigation.
References
• List the primary sources you have used to write your report
• Cite these references in the text, for example, &quot;...previous studies
have shown [1]...&quot; and at the end of the report list these
references in order of their reference number:
• Bibliographic material can be included, for example, “...a more
complete discussion is given in ref. 2.”
• If you cite the same source more than once you need only list it
once in the references, for example page 10 of ref. 2 could be
followed later by [2] chapter 6.
Make sure your references are given in an acceptable format
(see the library quiz)
[1] I. D. Hughes et al., Nature 446, 650 (2007).
[2] S. Blundell, Magnetism in Condensed Matter (Oxford University
Press, Oxford, 2001).
2nd Year Laboratory Experimental Report
Any questions?
Timetable for the meetings
Experiment code
Room
Time
Peter Wheatley
R0.03/4
5 p.m.
Andrew Levan
A2 Astronomical
Instrumentation
A1 Astronomical
Distances
R1.04
5 p.m.
R0.03/4
5.30 p.m.
Levan and Wheatley
Andrew Howes
P3 NMR
MAS 2.05/2.06
5 p.m.
Gavin Bell
P1 Ultrasound
P521
5 p.m.
Martin Lees
P4 X-ray Powder
Diffraction
P523
5 p.m.
Jim Robinson
S1 and S3 Gamma
Ray Spectroscopy
S2 Compton
Scattering
B2.02
5 p.m.
TBC
Friday from 1 p.m.
Jon Duffy
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