Writing a Physical Review Letter

We prefer students to write their laboratory reports in the form of a typical science paper in Physical Review Letters. Your report will include some additional information which would not usually appear in a science journal; in particular, sample calculations and the original signed data sheets are required. If you are taking the Venture "Language, Science and Society" or are taking the laboratory for writing credit, we will give suggestions for improved writing on your laboratory reports.

Lab reports written as scientific papers

The cover page should state the following: the name of the experiment, the name of the author, the name of the laboratory partners, the date that the experiment was performed, a table of contents of the laboratory report, and "Language, Science and Society" if you are a Ventures participant. A short scientific paper reporting on the results should follow the cover page of the laboratory report. The paper should have the following sections, in the order listed.


(0) Heading and cover page as specified above

(1) Title, author, institution and abstract (first page)

(2) Introduction, including motivation for the experiment (This section should capture the interest of the reader.)

(3) Theory

(4) Experimental setup and procedure

(5) Analysis and results (for lab report, include sample calculations)

(6) Interpretation of results

(7) Conclusion

(8) Remarks and acknowledgments (Optional for Lab reports)

(9) References (if needed)

(10) Table captions (if needed)

(11) Figure captions (if needed)

(12) Tables (if needed)

(13) Figures (if needed)

(14) Copy of signed original signed data sheets (Appendix 1 for lab reports)

(15) Prelab homework, if applicable (Appendix 2 for lab reports)

Most scientific papers, when submitted to journals, have the table captions, figure captions, tables and figures attached at the end of the paper. The editors of the journal have the job of integrating the figures and tables into the text. Students may use either format, that is, you may put all captions, tables and figures at the end of the text, as described in the above outline; or you may put the figure captions and table captions under the figures and tables and integrate them into the text. A sample Physical Review Letters article and the guidelines for contributors to Physical Review Letters are included in Appendix E. In addition, since not all science journals follow the same procedures, the guidelines for contributors to the Astrophysical Journal are also given as an another example.