Getting the Most From

The Introductory Physics Teaching Experiments:

Preparation and Participation

If you come properly prepared for your laboratory sessions and follow a few simple rules your laboratory experiences will be much more satisfactory and rewarding.

Prepare for the Lab

Before each lab, you must read and try to understand the lab write-up and attend the pre-lab lecture. How else will you know what you are going to do and why? Your lab session is a time to do the experiment, not a time to try to figure out what you are supposed to do! If you are unfamiliar with any of the concepts required for the execution of the experiment, consult your class text (or the other references) or ask one of your instructors for help. Complete and hand in the prelab homework. Make sure you know the material beforehand. The lab instructor can answer questions about the experimental apparatus and help you do the experiment but cannot make up for inadequate preparation.

Bring Necessities

a. Laboratory manual.

b. Something to write with, e.g., pen or pencil.

c. Something to write on. (i.e. A spiral bound to copy data)

d. Basic calculator.

e. Graph paper (when specified in lab instructions).

Know What You are Doing

Before commencing data taking, be sure that you know:

a. What you are trying to measure.

b. How you plan to perform the experiment.

c. How the apparatus works.

Keep Good Records

All data necessary for the evaluation of the final result of the experiment must be recorded in a neat and orderly manner on clean sheets of paper (preferably in a notebook). Your name, the date and the experiment title (perhaps even the time of day!) should appear on the sheets to clearly identify what they are about. The more you write down the better; you may want this information very badly later when you are trying to make sense out of what you did. Whenever possible, use a tabular form with clear headings for the data and always indicate the dimensions and the errors on the recorded numbers. It can be very useful if you prepare data tables in advance. These data sheets must be initialed by the lab instructor before you leave the lab, and copies are to be included with your lab report.

Think About What you are Doing

Pay attention to everything that happens; learn to be observant and think about everything you see. Try to relate what you see to what you have been learning in lectures.

Make sure that the data you are recording makes sense. One possible way to check this is to do rough sample calculations during the experiment. Many of the measurements can be plotted in graphical form; when this is the case, you should plot some typical data points while you are performing the measurements. By being attentive you can catch errors before you waste a lot of time and avoid the irritating situation of recording incomplete or erroneous data which will make it impossible for you to obtain a meaningful final result. If you have questions, address them to your lab instructor during or after the lab hours.

Write a Laboratory Report

Each of the laboratory experiments are performed in groups. Each person should use the data obtained and write his or her own report. Read the discussion of what a lab report should contain and examine the sample report.