Lab Writing Guidelines (ver 1.20)


  • Font: Please use 12 pt Times New Roman for everything except your abstract
  • Section Titles should include Roman Numerals and be bolded and spaced as shown HERE.
  • Spacing: Please us double spaced formatting for the body of your lab report.
  • The body of the abstract should be 12 pt Times New Roman SINGLE spaced while the titles, date, teacher name and lab partners should all be formatted as shown HERE
  • Please do not add additional spacing between lines to make your report seem longer.


1) Never, ever over-write your written work with handwritten notations. Ever. It only serves to call attention to your error and that you're being too lazy to edit and reprint the page.

2) Write clearly and concisely.

  • For example:

    We conducted this lab because the purpose was to determine, to the best of our ability, the coefficient of friction between wood and cardboard and upon completion of the lab to then compare that test value to real values researched using the internet.

Rewrite as:

    • The purpose of this lab was to determine an experimental value for the coefficient of static friction between wood and cardboard and compare that value to the known value.

    • The purpose of this lab was to determine an experimental value for the coefficient of static friction between wood and cardboard and then conduct an error analysis on our results.

    • The purpose of this lab was to determine an experimental value for the coefficient of static friction between wood and cardboard.

3) Do not use the word "You" ever. For any reason. When I read the word "you" it refers to "me" (your-most-gracious-AND-humble-physics-instructor). I had nothing to do with your lab.

  • For example:

    If you take the block and measure its mass...

Rewrite as:

    • We measured the mass of the block...
    • We found the mass of the block by ....

4) Eliminate the word "would" from your science vocabulary, unless you mean to use the word would.

  • For example:

    We would take the block and place it on the ramp. When the block would start to move we would start the timer. When the block would be finished with its motion we would stop the timer.

    Rewrite as:

    • We placed the block on the ramp and then raised the ramp slowly until the point where the block accelerated. We started the timer at that instant and then stopped timing the moment the block stopped moving.

5) Do NOT ignore your spell checker.

6) Work to avoid starting your sentences with prepositions ("in", "after", "during", "before" etc...)

  • For example:

    In this lab, the purpose of this lab was to find the coefficient of static friction between wood and cardboard.

Rewrite as:

  • The purpose of this lab was to find the coefficient of static friction between wood and cardboard.
  • For example:
  • After we did all of our prelab, we decided to determine that the best way to begin was to find a way to lower the ramp

Rewrite as:

    We first worked on solving the problem of lowering the ramp. We did this by....

  • For example:
  • During the course of this lab, we found recurring errors of...

Rewrite as:

    We found a certain error occurred when...

7) Make a double-extra-effort to use accurate physics terms:

  • For example:

    We raised the ramp until the block started to move

    Rewrite as:

    We raised the ramp until the block started to accelerate

  • For example:
  • The block rubbed against the surface.

Rewrite as:

    The block moving against the surface caused friction.

8) Please use subscripts and superscripts appropriately when typing your lab reports. x2, vi (for example) are REALLY easy to type in Microsoft Word and Google Docs (follow those links) or check the graphics below.

NEVER, EVER type x^2 when you mean x2 (ever!)

Google Docs, Sheets & Slides:


MS Word:



1) Read your entire lab out loud, slowly and evenly. Make a double-extra effort to read each word as if you were reading it for the very first time.

Reading aloud in such a fashion will show you what your words actually say, not what you *want* them to say. It is also particularly helpful catching spelling errors NOT picked up by your spell checker (for example when you type the wrong word).

2) Have a friend or family member read your lab out loud to you. You will most certainly hear parts of your lab that are uneven, not as clear as they should be or otherwise incomplete or excessive.


1) Be careful to use the correct upper and lower case values for physics constants and variables.

For example:

  • f ≠ F since f = friction and F = Force
  • cos, sin and tangent are all lower case as are all mathematical functions

2) Physics uses LOTS of Greek characters. Please take the time to typein/select the appropriate Greek characters in your work (writing them in by hand is NOT acceptable). They are not hard to find. You can Google them or go to THIS page on my website and just copy & paste from there. I've also included basic other symbols that may be useful there (It is not an exhaustive list but they are symbols I use from time to time). You can also use the character tables associated with your fonts on your computer.


The discussion is a difficult part of the lab report for many students. Here are some hints to keep in mind when writing the Discussion section:

  • Your claim MUST directly relate back to your purpose:

Purpose: The purpose of this lab was to determine an experimental value for the coefficient of friction between wood and cardboard.

Claim: We determined that the coefficient of friction between wood and cardboard was .50

  • Your evidence should come directly from your data and should discuss averages only. NEVER use individual trials to present your evidence. You do not need to present two parts to your evidence. I included two different styles of writing evidence in my example, that does NOT mean you need to provide two different sections of evidence in your report

  • The reasoning section should discuss the physics that is at the foundation of your investigation:

    The coefficient of static friction is a ratio of the force required to set an object at rest into motion, divided by the weight of that object. Friction occurs when the uneven surface of one object catches and rubs against the uneven surface of another object.

  • The error analysis must be clear and concisely written. DO NOT list multiple possible sources of error and assume that somewhere in there is the most likely source of error, or the most significant source of error.

  • NEVER blame basic human error such as the time it takes for you to start/stop a timer or view data on a device. That is *always* present and is assumed to be so. Do discuss specific mistakes you and your group did make or that you suspect you made that impacted your results. Do discuss something that may have occurred or was likely to have occurred that is NOT related to human error.

  • The BEST error analysis' will examine one specific issue and follow that through the lab:

    The aluminum foil was crinkled and not smooth. Therefore when the block slid across it, the block's motion was hindered perhaps more by the crinkled surface of the foil than the actual microscopic inconsistencies in the foil that we were trying to measure. Those crinkles increased the measure of our frictional force which would in turn increase the value of our coefficient of static friction that we calculated using the formula μ = f/N.


It is NOT cheating to have a friend, colleague, family member or other such person review your lab using this check list. It might take some extra effort on your part to convince them to help you-- but I've found freshly-baked white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies can work *very* nicely in that regard.

Either that or a 16 oz white chocolate mocca.... just say'n

In any case, being MOST GRACIOUS & HUMBLE is ALWAYS a good idea!