CHMB16 Formal Report – Fall 2011
Due Date: Wednesday, November 30 , 5:00 pm in SW640
(Optional Early Draft Due: Friday, November 11 , 5:00 pm in SW640)
The formal lab report for this course will be written on Experiment 4: Determination of Iron
Content in Ore. The goal of a formal report is to clearly document the experiment that was
performed while providing a detailed discussion of the results, explaining how or why they are
important. It should be written with a particular target audience in mind. For this assignment,
assume that your reader is a fellow undergraduate student of chemistry who has taken CHMB16,
but who lacks any specific knowledge of this experiment.
Your formal report should be divided into the sections listed below:
• Title Page
• Results and Discussion
• Supporting Information
This format mimics the one used in scientific journals such as Analytical Chemistry and Analyst.
A more detailed explanation of each section is presented below, followed by some additional
points on writing style and formatting.
Title Page (1 page)
Your title page should clearly display the following information:
• An accurate and informative title for your report
• Your name
• The date of submission
• The course code
• Your assigned practical section and bench number
Abstract (0.5 page)
This should be a one paragraph summary of your report. It should contain a clear statement of
the experiment’s purpose, the methods used and a brief summary of the overall findings. The
abstract should be written in complete sentences, not in point form.
Introduction (2-3 pages)
This section of your report aims to achieve two very important goals:
• The first goal is to provide some context for your research. This means highlighting its
importance in terms of the “big picture.” Your aim should be to convince your reader that
this was a worthwhile study and that the topic has importance (beyond just teaching CHMB16 students how to titrate!). Included in this section should be a clear statement of
the experiment’s purpose.
• The second goal is to provide enough background information on the analytical methods
used so that your reader will be able to understand the rest of your report. Remember, you
are assuming that your reader is a second year student who has taken the course but has
not done this experiment. They’ll likely need some background theory in order to
understand why you did what you did in your experiment.
Experimental (1-2 pages)
This section will outline to your reader how you carried out your experiment and what
observations you made while doing so. Enough information should be given so that the reader
could reproduce your experiment precisely as you performed it and anticipate the results of each
step. NOTE: Since you are assuming that your reader has taken CHMB16, you can also assume
that s/he knows the basic volumetric techniques commonly used in analytical chemistry
(pipetting, diluting, titrating, etc.). This means that details on these steps can be omitted.
• It is customary in chemistry to write the experimental section using the past tense and
passive voice. The past tense is used because you are writing about something which has
already taken place; the passive voice is used to place emphasis on the chemistry taking
place, rather than the chemist performing it. Some examples of how to structure a
sentence in the past tense with the passive voice are shown:
- The sample was placed in a hot water bath and gently heated until the sample
- 25 mL of solution X was pipetted into a 100 mL volumetric flask.
- The mixture was quantitatively transferred into a 250 mL beaker using
• In published journal articles, the Experimental section often begins with a subsection
titled “general notes” (or something similar). Here, authors put details which are common
to all parts of the experiment so that they don’t have to repeat them throughout the rest of
the section. Examples of information one might find here include the type of water used,
the grade of glassware, the origin and purity of the chemicals, instrument model numbers,
etc. You may wish to include such a subsection at the start of your Experimental section.
• A sample experimental section has been posted on Blackboard (Content Laboratory
Formal Report). I wrote this for experiment 6 so that you can see the level of detail and
writing style that I expect for this section of your report.
Results and Discussion (1-2 pages)
This section is where you present the results of your experiment and discuss what they mean.
Start by presenting your data – both in words and with tables. Wherever appropriate, numerical
values should be reported with their units, an appropriate number of significant figures and their
associated error. Once the results have been presented, they need to be analyzed. Your analysis
should include a discussion of how accurate and/or precise your data is, whether there are
differences between your results and what you might have reasonably expected, the inherent
strengths and weaknesses of the method (not just what you did right or wrong, but what’s good or bad with the actual method when it is carried out perfectly), as well as reasonable explanations
for any unusual data points.
Conclusions (0.5 page)
Provide a concise summary of your findings, making sure to refer back to the original purpose of
the experiment. All conclusions should be clearly stated and supported