PHYS 270L Aims Community College Friction Experiment Lab Report Discussion
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You must have a section entitled Data and Analysis (7) in which you list and describe the raw experimental data
collected during the experiment. Include any tables, graphs, results of best fits etc. as is appropriate. Describe how
quantities were calculated from your raw data. If it is necessary to show a formula employed during the experiment
then you may simply leave some space and write the equation in by hand as is shown by Equation 3 in the sample
Finally, you should have a section entitled Results and Conclusions (8) in which you state the main result(s) of the
experiment and compare your result(s) to the accepted or theoretical value(s) (if available) by computing a percent
discrepancy. State what you consider to be the most likely causes of these discrepancies. If possible discuss these
potential reasons for error quantitatively by calculating (or estimating) how much effect each source of uncertainty
may have on the final result. An example of this type of reasoning is shown in the sample lab report at (9).
Data Tables (10) may be incorporated inline into your lab report or may be placed at the end (as in the example) if
it is more convenient. Data tables should be identified with a descriptive header. Each column should have a
heading that describes the physical quantity that is recorded in the column. The column heading should also show
the units of the physical quantity and the uncertainty in the quantity (if known). Numerical values recorded in the
table should be rounded to the appropriate number of significant digits
Graphs (11) may be incorporated inline into your lab report or may be placed at the end (as in the example) if it is
more convenient. Graphs should be prepared on the computer. You should adhere to the following guidelines when
preparing a graph.
1. Title – Every graph should have a title which identifies the graph by a number (i.e. Graph 1) along with
some descriptive text that tells exactly what is plotted (i.e. Velocity vs. Time) and perhaps the purpose
of the graph (i.e. Determination of Acceleration and Initial Velocity).
2. Axes and Axes Labels – Both axes should be labeled with descriptive text that tells the name of the
physical quantity that is plotted on that axis and the units of that physical quantity (i.e. Velocity (cm/s)).
Numerical values of the physical quantity should be printed at the major tick marks.
3. Size and Clarity – All graphs should be printed at a size that is sufficiently large so that the information
can be easily read. Typically this means to make your graphs occupy most of the printed page. Choose axes limits so that the region of interest occupies most of the graph. Choose font sizes that are
sufficiently large to be easily readable.
4. Graph Modes – You should adjust the graph mode so that individual data points are shown with some
form of marker or with dots. Data values should never be connected with a jagged line. Show
relationships that represent the best fit to data using lines with no markers.
5. Annotation – Whenever a best fit is performed on a graph, the results of the fit should be clearly
displayed on the graph. In the case of a linear fit one should show the values of the slope and the y intercept. Be sure to include also the associated uncertainties and units. It is a good idea to include a
measure of the goodness of fit (either the chi-squared value or the linear correlation coefficient – both
discussed later) on the graph. Also, if possible, describe the physical significance of the slope and
intercept as is done in the graph above. Finally, be sure to place your name (and your partner’s names if
appropriate) and the date on the graph.
6. Uncertainty Bars – Whenever the uncertainties of individual data values are known they should be
represented on the graph with uncertainty bars (often called error bars) as is shown in the above graph.