I’m currently working on my fourth lab report of year 2 but it’s the first one I’m writing by myself since first year. Group work is something I’ve had to get used to at uni. A lot of people in physics are very independent and prefer working alone and I am no different. Depending on other people to complete parts of an experiment for you, or worse, to write parts of a group report which you all get the same mark for can be difficult when you want to do well (and others aren’t that bothered). Individual reports are harder work but at least you can know that the work you put into it should be somewhat related to the results you get. In group situations, lab reports can be very unbalanced in terms of who does the most work which can cause some anger (if hidden to the rest of your group to avoid conflict). Here are my top tips on how to go about writing your own lab report:
- Make a plan: Bullet point which information is going to go under each heading in your report. The better your lab notes are, the easier this is. You can always move things around later though.
- Just start writing: The worst part of any task is getting started so I usually begin my reports by writing REALLY badly. I can go back over it later once I have an idea of what I’m writing and make everything more clear.
- Don’t try to sound smart: The best lab reports aren’t pages and pages of long winded sentences describing every little thing in detail. The more concise you can be without losing essential details the better. Fancy words that you have to google to know what they mean are unnecessary for physics students. I try to avoid punctuation that isn’t a full stop or comma too because honestly I don’t know how to use semi colons correctly. Relevant scientific words and theory are of course required though.
- Make sure it fits its purpose: Lab reports should give all the information someone would need to recreate your experiment with ease and summarise your findings with possible improvements. Don’t lose track of what the report is supposed to be.
I haven’t done a real essay based subject since GCSEs but physics at university isn’t just applied maths. There’s no way of avoiding academic writing in your degree so you might as well learn to enjoy it, or at least pick up some skills. I find essays a bit harder than lab reports to write because I’m not sure if I’ve ever been properly taught how they work. Thankfully none of my modules so far this year have involved writing an essay as such, only reports. No matter how much I practice academic writing though the best part of writing a report or essay is the feeling of accomplishment and relief when you’ve finished it!