GUIDE & COMMENTS on Lab Project, Technical Report Writing and Presentation
for Prof. Kostic's courses (originally developed for MEE 390 & 490 Students)
This was originally developed for "Experimental Project Report" writing, but is universally applicable for Design Project if related adjectives, "measurement," etc., are replaced with "design" and similar where appropriate.
* [BACK to Kostic's Home page] * Writing Guidelines for Engineering Students * (©1997-2004 M. Kostic)
Any verbal change/info announced in class supercedes any printed or Web posted Info!
"A graphics is worth a thousand words"
Here are the general instructions. Some may not apply to you. Any change is and will be given and clarified in class.
In general, (being excited about what they learned) the beginners/students overemphasize theory and not the experimental set-up, instrumentation and obtained specific results. It should be the other way around. The whole write-up should center around the specific objectives and experimental results. If theory/equation is not used to obtain a result do not give it. Rather make a reference to where the appropriate theory is given. Instead of giving a general, topic-like title, be specific to-the-point and emphasize the experimental nature of the course. For example, "Measurement of " is more appropriate than "Determination of "
When you present the experimental results, they usually scatter randomly around some relationship (pattern). Such results should not be presented as (zigzag) line through the points, but rather as scattered symbols with a curve-fit function or against some reference function. In any case you should compare your data with the closest reference data you could find, and interpret and justify the discrepancy found.
Desired page limits are 10 pages if not specified otherwise (including MEE 390), and 10-15 pages for MEE 490. Single spacing is fine, but font size should not be smaller than 11 points. Every section starts immediately after previous one to save space, NOT on a new page. The following comments are to guide you in preparing and writing your report on Laboratory Project. I suggest the following layout, i.e. contents:
Title page (sample included at the end; the title should be specific and reflect project objective and experimental nature of it)
Abstract (to be written after the project is done, see below)
(Task and Purpose: only for MEE 490 Project Reports)
Nomenclature (complete, unique and with units)
2. THEORY (be brief, only what you need for your project/calculation, make references instead of derivations, etc.)
3. APPARATUS AND INSTRUMENTATION (Emphasize this section with appropriate graphics: layout, schematics and/or drawings of apparatus/test-sections/specimens/instrumentation)
4. EXPERIMENTAL PROCEDURE (Be specific so that others could do your experiment following your report only)
5. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION (with uncertainty/error analysis and justification and interpretation of the results)
6. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS (summary and interpretation/judgement of the results and specific suggestions for improvements for the future work)
Acknowledgments (if appropriate)
References(as per the ASME recommendations)
A good "Abstract" should be straight to the point; not too descriptive but fully informative. First paragraph should state what was accomplished with regard to the objectives. The abstract does not have to be an entire summary of the project, but rather a concise summary of the scope and results of the project. It should indicate to a reader whether to read or not the full text. By its nature an abstract should be short, usually about 150 words but never more than 500 words. NOTE: Since Abstracts are also published separately from the articles/papers, they should be self-sufficient (no specific references to paper details, like Fig.1, etc.) and without graphics, tables, complex equations, and similar. Abstract (specific to-the-point) and Introduction (general, descriptive) are quite different.
"Task" (for MEE 490) should describe specific assignment of the project to be done by the student (group of students if so assigned). Project task is to design an experiment with a specific data "reduction" method(s), i.e. algorithm, so that average skilled professional could successfully carry out measurements and calculate results without any doubtfulness or need to consult the references. The "Purpose" (for MEE 490) should emphasize importance of the project and what the class students should learn and do. Task and Purpose should be written concisely without unnecessary words and should provide answers on "What?, How?, and Why?"
The"Nomenclature" should comprise all symbols used in the Report (equations, figures, tables. etc.), listed in alphabetical order with small letters after capital ones (i.g.: A, a, b, C, c...) first all Latin then Greek. Each symbol should be briefly defined and/or referenced to appropriate equation or the source along with the units of measurement (i.g.: D outside shaft diameter [m]. Do not list units in the nomenclature as separate items). Common subscript or superscript should be listed at the end. Nomenclature should be unique (one symbol to one quantity and vice-versa), and complete (all symbols in the report [text, equations, tables, figures appendices, etc] should be listed in the nomenclature)
"Introduction" usually describes the background of the project with brief information on general knowledge of the subject. Remember to paginate your report.
"Theory" elaborates all necessary principles, laws, and equations used in the report later; and defines any unfamiliar terms or refers the reader/user to the references for further explanations.
"Apparatus" section should provide full and precise identification of all equipment and instrumentation used. A sketch of the test setup, photographs, assembly drawings, and sketches, together with names, rating, classifications, and sizes, will aid in establishing full identification.
"Experimental Procedure" should state the nature of test runs, with reasons. Special precautions for obtaining accuracy and means for controlling conditions should be described. Chronological procedure and so called "data sheet(form)" should be included.
"Results and discussion" section includes all necessary calculations and presentations of the data in graphical and/or tabular form. The uncertainty/error analysis must be performed on the basis of known or estimated instruments' and measurement uncertainties and statistical analysis. Gross plotting may be advantageous. The findings are to be summarized according to the significance to the stated objectives. Bulky details and repetitive tasks should be presented in Appendices.
"Conclusions and Recommendations" are to be drawn with reference to the previously stated objectives of the project. Conclusions should be supported by specific data and results, and wherever possible compared with theory and data obtained by others. Recommendations are often more important than conclusions. We always know how to do better after we finish a project, i.e. after we obtain an appropriate experience. Particularly students experiments are hampered due to lack of experience, time, methods and equipment as well as insufficient attention to accuracy and details. Recommendations should be given for any further changes or work that would better accomplished the project objectives.
The above is by no way complete instruction for report writing. Please refer to Appendix B in the Textbook, and other numerous publications in the library for more information on effective (TECHNICAL) report writing.
The final version of report should be written in accordance with the ASME practices:
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"An ASME paper should be clear, concise, and complete, with assumptions plainly identified and data presented (including their uncertainty) with precise logic, with relevance to practices described, and with actual accomplishments of the work clearly stated and honestly appraised. It should be technically sound and free from personalities or bias, especially of a commercial nature."; please see the following Web sites:
ASME-Author's Kit: http://www.asme.org/pubs/toc.html
You have to perform the full experiment (Remember,IN LAB SAFETY FIRST!) as per your project report and calculate the results, write an appropriate conclusions and recommendations (the way you want the class students to do it later, before your second mandatory appointment with me. The quality of the work and whether you met the schedule will determine your final grade.
This is to remind you that your assignment is also to make a 45-minute appointment with me in order to discuss your project and the first draft of the report with me, and then another 45-minute appointment in order to discuss the final draft of your project report with me. If you have better version of your project report later you may always bring it on the meeting day.
Your Lab Projects, Experiments, and Final Exam
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(see also "Final Instructions: Lab Projects, Experiments, and Final Exam")
Here are the general instructions. Some may not apply to you. Any change will be given and clarified in class:
The class will be divided in sections (a,b,c,...) of up to seven or eight students in each, one student from different (each) project group, see below.
The students within a section will form a "lab family" and will perform all projects together, each time under supervision by the student who designed the particular experiment (lab-project leader), but the remaining students will be performing the experiments.
You need to sign up for a particular section with a section-leader (as designated in class) and to schedule your lab with the other students in the section by the due date, when all experiments schedules are to be submitted to me by the section-leaders. You need to schedule about one-and-a-half hour experiment, half of an hour for your section presentation and video taping plus time needed for the experiment. The whole set of (6 or so) experiments must be performed with no more than three projects per day, but before the last week of lecture.
Each student must submit a short report (data and calculations with results, conclusions with recommendations, and abstract which should reflect obtained results) to his or her lab leader 24 hours after each experiment or before the beginning of the next experiment. The lab leader will grade those short reports and submit them to me together with the enclosed Lab Leader Report form, within 48 hours after the students' due date.
We will have the final exam as per the official schedule (unless it is waived). The final exam is comprehensive and will, in addition, test your knowledge and understanding of all lab projects (experiments) within your section.
A) Your final project report has to be a complete report on your project including your measurements, calculation of the results, conclusion and recommendations and the abstract, plus the blank data sheet (form) for the students who will follow your work as an example.
B) The scheduling must be strictly followed and for any changes afterwards the permission ought to be obtained in advance, so that TA and/or I could be present and check on your work.
C) Any ambiguity or clarification of this class memo must be worked out during our regular class schedule, i.e. immediately after its distribution. Please read carefully and understand everything.
*) Lab Family Leaders (responsible for Lab Family Scheduling).
Final Instructions: Lab Projects, Experiments, and Final Exam
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(see also "Your Lab Projects, Experiments, and Final Exam")
Here are the general instructions. Some may not apply to you. Any change will be given and clarified in class:
Some of you have shown a substantial effort while doing our design-experiment projects, while most of you have gained unique (hopefully invaluable) experience, and I hope you've enjoyed it. In order to make your work even more valuable it is extremely important that you prepare your presentation and lab demonstration the best you can. Here are some suggestions:
Have a "title page" with your name, class and semester designation, to begin your presentation and taping, and clearly state the basic physical phenomena behind the experiment, and objectives to be achieved.
Prepare posters, overheads, slides and/or computerized presentation and other demonstration items.
Do not try to cover everything about your project, but rather emphasize the most important items. For details refer to your project report or references, or just briefly mention them. Try to motivate students to read your project and ask questions; they cannot remember all details from a short presentation. Emphasize theory in your presentation and refer to "technology," and emphasize "technology/hardware" during the lab presentation and refer to theory. Always discuss sources of errors and emphasize what you have done to minimize them. Make your presentation and use of time as effective as possible.
Label components of the apparatus, put arrows and use colors for different flows, clearly identify measuring points and instruments/transducers, inputs, outputs, etc.
Learn how to improve your presentation and effectiveness by carefully listening to your class-mates' presentations. Avoid "things" you didn't like from them and enhance "things" you did like from them. Let your mind work at its best all the time.
Choose the best position for the video camera (never towards a window or very bright light), use the zoom to emphasize details. Avoid prolonged taping of the same phenomenon (it's boring when reviewed later). The limits: maximum 15 minutes for lab presentation and up to 5 minutes for the most characteristic measurements are the MUST!
The lab leader has to record (with ball-pen) absent students if any in the Leader Report Form before the lab presentation, and if someone comes late, append the time and reason. I will check these when I come for inspection.
At the end of the lab presentation taping, please tape briefly all students present in your section while they are clearly saying their names (and I am sure smiling)! Labs are meaningful and should be a joyful experience.
I would like everyone to be involved and exciting. Informality and humor is desirable during the video taping. Do not be shy, just be yourself and always try to do your best.
Here are some additional instructions and schedule for our MEE 490 course:
Your lab section presentation (while you are lab leader) should be performed in the following way: You should present your project in 15 minutes and leave another 15 minutes for questions and clarifications. Then experiment will follow afterwards. You should videotape 15 minutes of your presentation and 5 minutes of the most characteristic parts of the experiment. You should sign up and borrow a video camcorder and a tripod stand from the department secretaries Joanne and Joy or our technician Bill Vickers, or you may use your equipment if you have one (most convenient). If the battery is not recharged you may tape by connecting the camcorder to the A/C power-line outlet. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the equipment. For example, a camcorder may automatically go into "standby mode" to save batteries and you may need to press a corresponding key to turn it on again. You must provide your own videotape.
Every student has to submit to me "after-all-is-done" the filled in Lab Leader Report form, the new final Abstract, Conclusion and Recommendation, and two questions and/or small numerical problems with answers pertaining to his/her lab project by the last class lecture, out of which I may compose the final exam (this is mandatory even if the final exam is waived). Quality of the questions/problems should reflect your appreciation of the project and will contribute to the project grade. Finally, you have to evaluate and rank (in writing) all presentations and projects of your classmates in your group (yours excluded) in order of your preference. Give justification and reasons for your judgement for the first two and the last two ranked projects (a paragraph for each).
Before the final exam you are required to clean and put in original order all equipment and accessories you have used in the lab and return all lab manuals and other literature to original place or to me (or our lab TA). If something is broken or not in working conditions you need to report it in writing in order for it to be repaired/replaced for the next semester. You need to get signed clearance from me (or our TA) about these.
In addition to the quality of your project report, appropriate weight will be given to the quality and effectiveness of your project and lab presentations, and your instructional leadership. These will be evaluated on the basis of my assessment of your presentation and video-taped material, student evaluation of your project and overall student performance on final exam in the area of your project. I will try to give similarly difficult problems/questions from each project for the final exam. Therefore, try to motivate students and prepare appropriate overheads, posters, etc for your presentations. Plan and prepare yourself well for the taping of your lab presentation (maximum 15 minutes) and the most characteristic parts of your experiment (actual data measurements- maximum 5 minutes).
Please provide with your lab report your own measurement data and calculations with uncertainty (error) analysis for other students. Try to divide students in groups and let them repeat some of your measurements. It is better to do couple of measurements thoroughly with full data reduction and analysis and take other results from your measurements, than to do in a hurry complete data set without full understanding. It is the best if all calculations and analysis is done by all students immediately after an experiment and checked by the lab leader, so that only Abstract and Conclusion and Recommendations are left to be done by each student individually, and later graded by the leader of the experiment.
PROJECT SUBMISSION NOTE: If more than one student worked on the same project (approved team project), still each member must submit individual project report for individual grading (they may get the same or different grades on the same project). The individual project report of a team may be exactly the same for all team members or each member may choose to submit his/her own different Abstract and Conclusion/Recommendation parts (your choice and you have to inform me), or I may choose to have individual exit interviews and grade each student based on common team work and individual interview. If the project report is exactly the same for all team members, only one electronic submission has to be made but still individual (multiple) printed copies must be submitted. The same policy applies to the Poster and/or Presentation submission.
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