Lab Report Format Information Sheet for Conservation of Mechanical Energy Lab

The reporting of experimental results is an important part of good scientific work.  Putting together a good report provides an opportunity for you to synthesize and process information that you gathered during your lab.  It also provides a standardized and organized format for the evaluation of your work by your peers (or instructors).

In this class, you will periodically produce a lab report for labs throughout the year.  Each lab report will follow basically the same format, but there may need to be some modifications to accurately represent the specific circumstances or data of each lab.  These modifications will be discussed in more detail when they arise.

The basic sections of each lab report and a short description of each are listed below.  Please look at the specific modifications and/or deletions for the Conservation of Mechanical Energy Lab.  They are highlighted in red.


1.      Report Header (Upper Right Hand Corner)

A.     Names of Lab Group Member (Hopefully you don’t need any help here)

B.     Class and Period (Check your schedule)

C.     Date (Once again, hopefully no need for assistance here)

D.     Title

i.        This is usually given to you for each lab.

ii.       It is Ok to use the Title on the lab write up given to you

iii.      Don’t just write “Lab 1” or “Lab from week of 9/8”


2.      Problem Statement

A.     First section not in the header

B.     Write a testable question that applies to your lab.  State it in the form of a question, which means you need a question mark!

C.     What was this lab about?  What were you trying to measure and show?


3.      Literature Review

A.     Definitions and explanations of terms used in the problem statement and procedures

B.     Important information about the materials or special equipment used in the lab

C.     This is your “research”

i.        If this were a paper for a journal, you would need to actively research a topic to find out what research had been previously completed on this topic.  This is how you would come up with your testable question and the procedure used during the experiment.

D.     Relevant Topics for discussion:

i.        Energy

ii.       Mechanical Energy (Including the specific types that comprise it)

iii.      Kinetic Energy (and the factors that influence it)

iv.     Gravitational Potential Energy (and the factors that influence it)

v.      Conservative Forces (What are they and what do they do to the amount of mechanical energy an object has?)

vi.     Non-Conservative Forces (What are they and what do they do to the amount of mechanical energy an object has?)


4.      Procedure

A.     A description of what you did during the lab

i.        It’s a description of what you did – not a recipe for what you made

ii.       DO NOT copy each step word-for-word from the lab write up

B.     Summarize the procedure so that someone reading the report who is familiar with science would be able to reproduce your experiment

i.        You don’t have to tell someone to measure using a graduated cylinder.  You would only have to say “Add 25 ml of sample A”.  Someone familiar with science should know how to obtain 25 ml of the sample.

ii.       You don’t have to tell someone to clean a piece of equipment.  People familiar with science should know to start with clean equipment

iii.      If it is important that the equipment is dry, you should state that.

iv.     If it is important NOT to clean equipment (i.e., you are adding something to a container that already has contents), you should include that.

v.      Sometimes, it is important to pre-rinse equipment with a certain substance.  You should include that.

vi.     You don’t have to include clean up instructions or a description of what you should do in case of an accident (i.e. clean up acid spills with NaHCO3, discard waste products in the container at the front of the room, etc.)

C.     Each small experiment should have a separate, brief paragraph explaining what was done and the necessary equipment.  Remember, you are telling me a story about what you did in your lab, not giving me a recipe for “making an experiment”.  Include details, but not in “bullet form”.

D.     No need to include the discussion of calculations performed from the data collected

E.     No need to include instructions on how to set up the LabQuest to take data using the photogate.  You just need to mention that you used a photogate and what you used it for.


5.      Sketch of Experimental Setup

A.     Include a computer generated piece of art or photograph to show the setup of the equipment used during the lab.  Be sure to include proper sequencing and relative size.

B.     One for each setup.


6.      Data & Observations

A.     Provide data in table format with correct SI units (if necessary).

B.     Make sure that all observations are included, even if they don’t seem correct or accurate

C.     This would include the data you collected for the mass of the object being used, the time measured by the photogate, the width/diameter of the object being used, and the time measured by the photogate

D.     Separate data table for each experiment


7.      Calculations

A.     In many labs, calculations will need to be completed with the data collected.

B.     Show at least one FULL calculation for each type that was performed.

C.     Be sure to include all units and make the calculation easy to follow

D.     This is the only section of the lab report that CAN be hand written, but it can also be done on the computer.

E.     Show a table with the Initial PEg, Measured Speed, Measured KE, and Theoretical KE for values for each trial for each experiment.

i.        Two separate tables with five rows each

F.      Under the table, show ONE SET OF CALCULATIONS for each trial

i.        Four separate calculations for each marble for a total of eight values


8.      Graphs

A.     Include hard copies of any graphs that were collected or produced with a spreadsheet program.

B.     If there is more than one graph to be made (in Excel, or some other spreadsheet program), try to include them on the same page with the data showing.

C.     Graphs made from data should include titles, axis labels with units, trendlines and equations, etc.

D.     None for this lab


9.      Error Analysis

A.     Discuss places within the experiment where things could have happened to make your data less than ideal.

B.     Don’t include human error…we all know that we’re not perfect

C.     Include some discussion on what effect this source of error would have on your results

D.     Discuss how the experimental setup and the method used to make measurements (especially those of  height) may have contributed to invalid data


10.   Conclusion Statement

A.     A short paragraph summarizing what was done during the lab and what conclusions can be drawn from your data analysis.

B.     When writing a conclusion statement, include some discussion about why the activity was performed and how it relates to class.

C.     Here are some guidelines when writing your conclusion statement:

i.        Write in third person (Don’t use pronouns like I, we, us, etc.)

ii.       Don’t repeat the procedure of the experiment or list the results.

iii.      Don’t include personal opinion or bias.  Stick with the facts and your interpretation of the data, not your opinion of the lab, your feelings about the class, etc.

D.     Write one, cohesive paragraph that summarizes the questions from the lab data sheet (questions shown below).  Make sure to address each question and give a practical example from your data.

E.     This is not two separate paragraphs (one for each experiment) or five separate paragraphs (one for each question)


1.      Is mechanical energy conserved in this lab?  How do you know from your measured data?

2.      Should mechanical energy be conserved in this lab?  Why or why not?  What forces are acting on the objects as they travel?

3.      Is gravity a conservative or non-conservative force?  Explain.  How would you be able to show this with experimental data (not necessarily the data you measured in this lab)?

4.      Is friction (from contact with a surface or air resistance) a conservative or non-conservative force?  Explain.  How can you tell from your measured data?

5.      How does the force of air resistance compare to the force of friction?  How can you tell from your measured data?




A.     A short discussion about what you liked or disliked about the lab

B.     Suggestions to improve the procedure are always helpful

C.     It’s OK to include you feelings here so I know what you are thinking and how I can help you out!