Table of Contents
NotebookA major advice for successful experiments, besides learning the theoretical background, is keeping accurate report of your manipulations. Set up a lab notebook into which every experiment will be documented from the stage of planning, up to conclusions. The continuous development and improvement of it's shape and content will assist you far beyond the scope of the laboratory course.
A good way to prepare yourself and your notebook for each day's lab
is to translate the procedure into a step-by-step check-list in the notebook,
leaving room between steps to enter observations and changes in procedure.
In all your decisions about what to put into your lab report, remember this guiding rule:
Your report should be a complete, stand-alone record of the experiment and its results. Anyone with at least your background in chemistry/biology should be able to go into the lab with nothing but your report to guide them, carry out the same experiment, and compare their data, calculations, graphs, and final results with yours.
BEFORE you prepare your lab report, your lab notebook should contain the following:
A graph should be able to stand alone as a description of an experimental system and its behavior (further insights).
Follow these guidelines for all graphs:
Estimating Experimental Variation
(Sometimes Called Experimental Error)
This appendix can be used to assess the reliability or precision of any laboratory results.
Experimental variation is a measure of how reliable your lab results are, assuming that you carried out the procedure properly, and made all measurements with proper technique and care. It is sometimes called experimental error, but that term is misleading, because experimental variation tells you how precise your results are if you made no errors. Experimental variation depends only on the precision of your measuring tools. For more insight in experimental measurement and significant digits see active learning module at the Antoine project.
In the experiment on Kc for [FeSCN]2+, you used 5-mL graduated pipets to measure volumes, and you can read these pipets to a tolerance of about +/- 0.02 mL, in a 1-mL volume (assume this is the smallest volume you measured). This tolerance would introduce a maximum error of 0.02/1.00 = 2%. Because of drift in the last decimal place on the Spectrophotometer, you can read absorbance to a tolerance of about +/- .005 OD, in a reading of say 0.200 OD. This introduces a maximum error of 0.005/0.200, or 2.5%, in your smallest measured absorbance.
After you calculate Kc, if you calculate it again, but you increase [FeSCN2+] by 2.5% (because you determine it from A) and decrease [Fe3+] and [SCN-] by 2% (because these molarities depend mostly on volume measurements), this will compound the errors in the worst way possible, and give a value of Kc that contains the maximum expected error or variation. Try it for one of your calculated values of Kc. Here is an example:
Kc = [FeSCN2+] / [Fe3+] [SCN-]
A parenthesis here on the correct notations of chemical formulas of ions (e.g. Fe3+, SCN-, written without brackets), and ionic complexes (e.g. [FeSCN]2+, written in brackets with the final charge outside); however, their respective concentrations ([Fe3+], [SCN-], [FeSCN2+]), are all written in brackets with the charges inside.
Without error: Kc = (3.84 x 10-5 ) / (9.62 x 10-4 )(1.61 x 10-4 ) = 248.
Adding 2.5% to the numerator, and subtracting 2% from each molarity in the denominator gives this result:
With error: K'c = (3.94 x 10-5) / (9.43 x 10-4)(1.58 x 10-4) = 264.
The difference between Kc and K'c is 16, which is about 6.5% of 248. The maximum expected experimental variation in Kc is therefore 6.5%.
This example shows how to use the precision of lab instruments to estimate the expected variation in results. This method gives the maximum error you can expect in Kc if you make no blunders in lab.
Finally, the final calculated values should be reported as Y +/- DY.
Sample AbstractSummaries (or abstracts) should be writen informally in your notebook. You do not hand them in with your report, it helps you "extracting" the most relevant conclusions, trimming out the superfluous (often irrelevant and even erronneous) self-chat. Here is a sample summary:
Empirical Formula of a Compound
Note that the abstract includes no specific details of procedure, and no specific intermediate quantities. The only quantities that Vivian provides are the results that constitute the goal of the experiment (the molar ratio of O to Bi), along with an estimate of its precision. The abstract ends with a brief interpretation of the meaning of the results, and a comparison with known values.