Memorandum To: Professor David Thacker From: Jacob Jenott (101

Professor David Thacker
Jacob Jenott (101-58743)
August 31, 2012
Assignment 1- “Writing to Achieve a Readable Style”
This memo shows how lab reports need to be examined thoroughly before being considered
finished. Chemistry lab reports will be examined from Spring 2012. The sections below are
wordiness, tone, style
During this analysis I found my results section to contain too many words, where it should be
concise and pertinent. Below, I cut empty phrases that distract the reader from important
information about the report. Highlighted words have been added to text.
The Rf value is a ratio between how far the point of application went and how far the
mobile phase went up the tlc. The first tlc (a mixture of one drop acetophenone and ethyl
benzoate)Rf value: was 49/23. The second tlc (a mixture of one drop acetophenone and
ethyl benzoate diluted 1:10 with ethyl acetate) Rf value: was 48/20. The third tlc had
three compounds on it (acetophenone, ethyl benzoate, and the same dilute mixture of the
two in tlc number 2), from left to right. The Rf values were:, from compounds left to
right, were 51/24, 51/19, and 51/22. The last tlc compared fresh and old mixtures of had
two compounds; the first, a mixture of methanol, benzoic acid and one drop of sulfuric
acid, the second being fresh benzoic acid (50 mg) in methanol (1mL). The first Rf value
(old mixture) was 37/9 and the second (fresh mixture) was 37/16.
My revisions of this paragraph helps readers get important information quicker and more
efficient. Descriptive clauses were also reduced in this paragraph leaving the reader to peruse
further pages of the report to better understand the experiment. Below is another example where
wordiness and poor word order distracts the reader from the results of an experiment.
I started with unknown number 11. My solid substance was a white powder with no other
identifiable characteristics. The liquid obtained was a clear, water-like material. For the
melting point experiment, The first range I obtained was mp: 96-98 degrees Celsius. That
is, my substance started melting at 96 and finished melting at 98 degrees Celsius. The
second trial had a melting point range of 96-97 degrees Celsius. For the third trial, I did a
mixed melting point with my unknown (number 11) and phenoxyacetic acid. The melting
point range was 95-96 degrees Celsius. I concluded my solid substance to be
phenoxyacetic acid. For the boiling point experiment, I gathered numbers of bp:122
degrees Celsius (trial 1), 131 degrees Celsius (trial 2) and 132 degrees Celsius (trial 3).
The refractive index: was done on two different refractometers and numbers of 1.5250
and 1.5253. I concluded my unknown liquid to be chlorobenzene.
Revision: Unknown 11, phenoxyacetic acid: mp 96-98. chlorobenzene: bp 122,
Refractive index: 1.5250 and 1.5253.
The results section of a scientific report need to be as short as possible only highlighting
conclusions based from the experiments. Be careful not to confuse the “observations” section
with the “Results” section. Nearly the entire section was deleted and deemed unnecessary.
Writers need to be able to see the results of your experiment quickly and easily.
My analysis showed that tone wasn’t always appropriate. Writing lab reports graded by graduate
students allows you to assume they know about the experiment in much greater detail that you
do, so text should reflect that. Here is a sample from a concluding paragraph in a chemistry lab
report and the corresponding revised paragraph.
Original: The first thing done on the melting point experiment, after gathering and
setting up equipment, was determine the approximate range of melting my unknown
substance was. I knew it had a relatively low melting point as the entire thing was melted
before the thermometer read 85 degrees Celsius. Appropriate time was not given for the
thermometer to catch up to how hot it actually was.
Revision: Determining a mp range is a useful way of determining an unknown
compound. My first attempt in determining mp failed as the hot plate was on too high of
a setting. Although an accurate range wasn’t discovered, I knew the mp was lower than
expected so appropriate adjustments could be made
The instructor (and grader) already know a one must set up equipment to gather information
about the melting point of an unknown compound. Therefore, it is useless to include it in the
report unless said report is targeting a less familiar audience. Chemists regularly abbreviate
melting point as mp because it is such a widely used classification.
Scientific writings need to have the correct style for peers to take you seriously. Proper
terminology paired with a chronological view of thinking (or of the experiment) make scientific
writing simple yet challenging. Below is a paragraph that the instructor graded highly on those
two aspects.
When all ingredients were placed in the separatory funnel and mixed up, both water and
methylene chloride separated out while the benzoic acid dissolved. It’s a fair assumption
to say most of the benzoic acid mixed with the methylene chloride as both are non-polar
species. I then disregarded the water (which was the bottom layer because it was more
dense than methylene chloride) and placed the remaining mixture through the
rotoevaporater and ended with about 60% of the total benzoic acid. In part II, the mixture
included sodium bicarbonate. The benzoic acid and sodium bicarbonate (base)
immediately reacted to form a salt. Right there you already lost some of the benzoic acid
that you are trying to recover. The salt is then dissolved into the water layer. We then use
gravity filtration for both the water and the methylene chloride. Remaining benzoic acid
is then recorded.
The above paragraph sets an example to how scientific writings should be written. This
paragraph consists of a fair amount of jargon which excludes non chemists from understanding
the significance of the writing. Sentences are neither short and choppy nor excessive and
rambling. Both of which turn the reader off, no matter the type.
Scientific writings need to be as concise as possible, without losing meaning. Much of the time,
these writings are directed towards peers so tone needs to reflect that. Jargon can be used when
appropriate to save time and specify meaning but too much can obscure writing. Wordiness is
another way to obscure writing with meaningless thoughts that add nothing to the paper. Along
with wordiness, scientists mustn’t confuse sections of a report. It is imperative for scientific
writings to be in chronological order so fellow scientists can navigate through experiments and
the results of them. This allows them to not only understand them but allows duplication of