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Report writing guidance

 

Level 1 and Other Resources

For Level 1, or if you desire something more in depth, we also have the following resources.

Note that those marked Level 1 will, for the most part, still be relevant to higher years:

Page limits

The current page limits for all laboratory reports are as follows. They are all strict limits.

ModuleActivityMain reportAppendices
PHYS1101 Level 1 Experiments 2 1+1
PHYS2641/3681 Level 2 Skills 2 1
PHYS2641/3681 Level 2 Research-led Investigation 4 1
PHYS3561 Level 3 Computing 6 Unlimited
PHYS3601 Level 3 Laboratory Project 12 Unlimited

 

Abide by the page limit - The length of lab reports is strictly limited to the number of pages given above with a page being defined as a single side of an A4 sheet. That's the maximum length (there is no minimum): any material that exceeds this limit will not be marked. This rule applies whether you are using the recommended 10-pt two-column format or not.

 

Layouts and Templates

The information below gives guides and tips as to how to structure your report for Levels 1, 2 and 3. Please note that for Level 4 students a different formatting structure is necessary.

 

This guide refers here and there to Microsoft WORD, as most students use that word processing software to write their reports and knowing how to produce scientific documents in WORD is a useful skill to have. However, other choices are also possible. The Department does not impose, or even recommend, the use of WORD in preference to other options. You are welcome, for instance, to prepare your reports in Latex, which is a typesetting program widely used by research physicists for preparing publications and other documents, particularly documents containing many equations and mathematical symbols. However, WORD will be completely sufficient for producing all the lab or computing reports you will need to submit during your undergraduate studies in the Department.

 

You can find a laboratory report template, formatted in LaTex and multiple WORD versions, at the bottom of the page. This should serve as a guide when producing your own reports.

 

Presentation & Format

Some of the formatting points stated in this section may appear arbitrary, but it is important to get used to writing in a given style. Moreover, experience shows that certain ways of formatting or typesetting text work better than others. Following the rules closely will help you produce a document with decent standards of presentation. The layout of the report should follow these guidelines:

  • We strongly recommend the two-column format used in the 'Templates' section below and in the model level 1 lab reports.
  • Use 'Times New Roman' fonts throughout your report.
  • The minimum font size for the body of the text is 10 pt (9 pt for the captions, tables, references and abstract).
  • The minimum total margin width is 37 mm. Attempting to circumvent the length limit by using another font than Times New Roman or other means is likely to compromise the quality of presentation of your report.

Further, more general, points to note:

  • Besides your name and the name of your lab partner, do not forget to mention your lab group and your lab day in the authorship information.
  • Your report will look better if you align the text both left and right throughout the document. (Beware that WORD might change the justification between paragraphs. You may want to check that the whole report is properly aligned before submitting it.)
  • For aesthetic reasons, it will often be better to place the “floats”, i.e., the tables and the figures, either at the top or at the bottom of a page rather than right in the middle of a column. (Figures include graphs, diagrams, photos, etc.)
  • Don't wrap text around figures.
  • All figures and tables should have a caption (but no title!) explaining what they represent and a figure or table number (figure captions usually go under the figure, while table captions are usually placed above the table). All figures and tables should also be referred to in the main text of your report.
  • Ideally, captions should be short but also sufficiently informative that someone with the necessary expertise would be clear about what the figure or the table represents without having to refer to the rest of the report.
  • In scientific writing it is acceptable to use 'we' rather than 'I' even if you worked on your own.
  • All parameters should be in italic font, e.g, momentum, p.
  • Labels in equations (e.g. sin, cos, ln, e, etc.) and label subscripts should be in normal font, e.g. sinωt, eiωt and the critical momentum, pc.
  • Exponents (whether in text or on graphs) should be written as 10-8, not 1e-8.

Templates (Word and LaTex)

Recommended templates in both WORD and LaTex are given below that you should follow when producing your laboratory reports. These are applicable for Levels 1, 2 and 3. Please note that for Level 4 students a different formatting structure is necessary.

If you are using microsoft word, please use the Lab Report Template.

The LaTex Lab Report Template gives a .tex file with the same layout (margin, text size etc) and format as the WORD file. Additionally, the LaTex Guide provides advice to new LaTex users.

 

Resources

Sharelatex beginners' guide to LaTeX: Learn LaTeX in 30 minutes.

The LaTeX package is available on the CIS network (log in to say altair and type latex sample.tex) or for a free PC version go to Texmaker (or TeXworks or MikTeX) or for an online collaborative version requiring no software installation go to Overleaf.