InLab: the lab procedure
Lab Title: _____________________________________
Note: Once you print this page, you will have the handout version,
which only contains the Descriptive InLab steps. For more help or additional
information, you'll need to go to the on-line version of Descriptive Labs
InLab at http://labwrite.ncsu.edu where you can view additional materials
on-line or obtain a full printable version from the Descriptive Labs homepage.
1. Setting up the lab:
Before you start the lab, review the objectives and the procedures you
will follow. Take detailed notes as you gather your materials, set up
your lab, and calibrate instruments. These notes will help you document
your experimental protocol, which you can use later when writing the Methods
section of your lab report.
2. Preparing to collect data:
If you are collecting quantitative
data, identify the variables
of measurement and create a table
or set up a spreadsheet. If
you are collecting qualitative
data, determine the kinds of data you will be collecting and then
prepare appropriate materials for recording observations (drawings, tables
for observations, photographs, etc.). Read the lab manual to see what
kinds of data you are being asked to record and be sure that you are ready
to record the data in the appropriate form when you begin the lab procedure.
3. Collecting and recording lab data :
Carefully follow the experimental protocol. As you conduct your experiment
and record your data, take notes on what you are doing and on any changes
in the procedure. As you record your 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? If the data make no sense, you may need to consider sources
of uncertainty once again. Sources of uncertainty may affect the accuracy
and precision of your experimental data.
4. Visualizing the data:
If your data are quantitative, it may be useful to turn the table or
spreadsheet you created into a graph. If you are going to keep your data
in a table, revise the table so that it can be presented correctly in
the report. Representing your data in the proper visual format will allow
you to identify trends and relationships among variables more easily.
5. Making sense of your data:
Review all your drawings, tables, graphs, and other data you collected
during your lab and summarize in a sentence or two the overall finding
for the lab. Then write a few sentences about how these findings help
to answer the questions you raised in the PreLab, question 4. If you
haven't completed the PreLab, you may want to go there now. If your
lab instructor says it is OK, corroborate your findings with your peers.