Dr. Wragg's Physics Labs


Office: 335 RITA
Office Hours: TBD → But come by any time
My Web Page
email me at
or send me an anonymous web-based email

You may purchase the lab manuals at Sas-E ink. It is located at 219 Calhoun St. between Pitt and Smith streets, close to Norm's Pizza.

Guidelines for Lab Reports

A lab experience is an integral part of your exploration of the concepts of the physical universe. The laboratory is a hands-on, active environment. Working in teams, you will carry out experiments which will allow you to assess, apply, verify, or discover concepts, principles, and laws. Some investigations will be cook-book in form; i.e., the procedure will be set out clearly. In some activities, you will be the scientist; i.e., you will have to design all of the steps for a procedure which will allow you to answer a question. All experiments require observation, measurement, analysis, drawing conclusions, and presenting your results. These are skills that transcend this class and are of major value in any field you pursue.

Please note that the most common problem with the safety practices indicated in the beginning of the lab manual is that you must wear closed-toe shoes. Not having suitable footwear is sufficient grounds for being removed from lab for that day, resulting in a score of zero.

In cases where my policies or procedures differ from those in the lab manual, mine take precedence. It is common for me to alter the directions printed in the lab manual.

If you have a question, comment, or complaint please let me know. Even an anonymous note under my door is fine. Note that there is an anonymous web-based email page available from my home page and is linked from the top of this page. Don't let my published office hours be an impediment to finding me at any time you have a question. Ordinarily I am pleased to see you any time you can drop in. You can phone or email ahead of time to set up a meeting if you wish. I am usually around. Please leave me a note if you can't find me.

General Structure
We have 3 hours for each lab exercise. During the first lab period you will be assigned to a group. The group will be changed from time to time during the semester. You should exchange contact information with your partners. All members are expected to participate in the lab process. At the conclusion of the lab period all equipment will be restored to its original order. Note that lab is not a race to see who can finish first.

Generally lab reports will be be a collective effort submitted by the entire group. At any time a student may choose to prepare and turn in an individual lab report, independent of their lab partners. Lab reports will be due either at the end of the laboratory period or at the beginning of the next class meeting. I will specify which is the case early in each lab period. Lab reports due by the end of the lab period may be hand written. Those due the following lab period must be done prepared using computer tools for word processing, graphing, etc.

Attendance is important. There is opportunity on the lab schedule to make up labs. You must make prior arrangements, at least 48 hours notice is required to get the equipment ready. Only labs in the recent block can be made up. For example, you may only make up the second lab in the first makeup session, not at the end of the semester. Makeup lab reports must be written and turned in by the end of that lab period.

Attendance and participation is critical to the learning process and an integral part of this course. Failure to attend class on the day an assignment is assigned or due does not mean that you may turn in a late assignment without penalty. There will be no makeup lab quizzes. If you have a medical or personal issue please follow the process below to get it documented. After I get notified by the Student Affairs Office I will judge whether you get an excused miss or a zero for the late or missed material.

To document an absence for any class

Tardiness is rude, especially to your lab partners. It disrupts the flow of the class. Please be polite to your classmates and me by being on time. I will penalize students for tardiness. Since quizzes are given at the beginning of the period, one built-in penalty is the possibility of missing a quiz, or not having much time to do it. Tardiness that negatively impacts your lab partners will result in you being penalized on your grade for that lab.

Lab Report
The standards for the lab reports will go up as the semester progresses, as you are learning how to observe and communicate effectively. Please take heed of my comments in class and on your graded lab reports.

Due Dates
Some lab reports will be due the day of the lab, by the end of the lab period. Others may be due the beginning of the following week's lab period. Late reports may be accepted (at my whim) but are usually penalized by at least 20%. We may also have one or two performance-based labs, in which your result translates directly into a score for that lab.

Quizzes will usually be given at the beginning of lab. They will be about anything you can reasonably be expected to know. This usually means they will be relevant to the previous lab, but they may also require rudimentary knowledge of the current lab. There will be no make ups for missed quizzes. I drop the one lowest quiz score.

I give you specific feedback aabout your grade with each quiz and lab report. I consider 8/10 on a lab to be "B" work and 6/10 on a lab to be "C" work. I encourage you to see me at any time for my assessment of your work. The grading distribution is as follows:

   Quizzes      15%
   Lab Reports   85%
   Total        100% of course grade

Guidelines for the Lab Report

Ordinarily, reports due the same lab period need not be typed, those due the next week will be typed. In either case please make sure that the names of all people participating in writing the report for your group are on the lab report.

Format of the Report
There is no single template for every experiment. There is more than one way to effectively structure a report. They tend to share common features: what you did, why you did it, what you got, and what it means. A well thought out and well written laboratory report not only serves to condense your experiment into an easily remembered form but also frequently provides additional insight as you deal with questions arising in summarizing your experiences.

All reports will have —

Lab reports commonly have sections such as introduction, procedure, data, results, and discussion. Discussion of the limitations of the experiment, and intrinsic sources of error are almost always appropriate. Note that mistakes on the part of the experimenter are NOT considered intrinsic sources of error.

Most importantly, a good lab report will show to the reader that you clearly see the physical principles involved as well as how this experiment employs that principle. In our laboratory exercises accuracy is slightly secondary to the principles involved. However, a "10" report must show care and accuracy in the measurements and the computations, as well as insight into the experiment.

A good lab report is: neat, clear, well organized, complete, thoughtful, and reflects your understanding of the laboratory. Graphs should be on graph paper or computer generated plots. They should be a suitable size. It is difficult to make a graph too big and easy to make it too small. Generally, a graph worth doing is worth at least a half-page of space. Put the objective and procedure in your own words, but don't make them too extensive. Sketches of the apparatus, with important features and variables labeled and measurements shown are almost always a necessary ingredient in a good lab report. The sketch is particularly useful in connecting variables in equations with physical aspects of the apparatus. Don't abuse significant figures. The aforementioned features are required for a grade of 8 on the report. To get a 10 a lab report has to demonstrate all of the above, and show special insight in the performance and/or interpretation of the lab.

Intro Physics Lab Report Tips

You will receive a grade of from 0 to 10 on each laboratory exercise. I consider 9-10 to be an "A," 7-8 to be a "B," and 5-6 to be a "C." I do not have to give every member of the group the same grade on the report. Your grade will be based primarily on your written laboratory report but may be weighted by other factors, including:

  1. My evaluation of your manner of performance and technique.
  2. Your contribution to the efforts of the group.
  3. Appearance of the lab report.

Disposal of submitted work
I will dispose of old, unclaimed quizzes and lab reports about a month into the next semester, so if you want them, please contact me before then.

Safety in the Lab

First and foremost is safety. Always! We will go over the lab safety section of the manual during the first lab meeting. It is mostly common sense for a physics laboratory environment. You have the responsibility and are accountable for following lab rules and maintaining safety in the lab.

Emergencies and security issues:953-5611 (Not 911 )
Public Safety non-emergency issues:953-5609
Non-emergency health issues: 953-5520

Safety in the laboratory and classroom is everyone's concern and is mostly a matter of maturity and attention. Most physics experiments and demonstrations use simple and safe equipment. Don't allow this to lull you into a false sense of security. Instructors may eject students from a day's lab exercise when those students violate the safety rules. This will probably result in grades of zero for the day for the ejected students.

General Education Information

I. General Education Learning Outcomes

  1. Students apply physical/natural principles to analyze and solve problems.
  2. Students explain how science impacts society.

Learning Objectives

Learning Outcomes

After the successful completion of this class, the students will be able to:

updated: Dec 2018 - jlw