Appendix I

The Formal Report

Course Support
Lab Contents



This section 'introduces' the reader to the concepts and theory that underlies the objective of the report and analysis of the experimental data. The introduction is written for someone who understands physics but was not present when the experiment was done. The introduction must include enough detail such that a person reading your report can clearly understand all aspects without referring to any other document (such as your lab manual). The Introduction often contains figures, pictures, and diagrams that garner the interest of the reader, and help clarify concepts and definitions.

Note: it is easy to fall into the trap of plagiarizing or paraphrasing the manual here. Aside from being in violation of ethical standards, this does not lead to a good Formal Report Introduction. The introduction in the manual is not of Formal Report quality and detail.

Theory may be presented as a separate subsection of the introduction. Theory deals with concepts that are not specific to the experiment but which might be useful as background to the report.

PhysLab Specifications

All equations that are used in the formal report must be defined in the introduction and derived if appropriate. Symbols must be defined before they are used in equations.

No data is contained in the Introduction section. Procedural details do not appear in the Introduction. Results do not appear in the Introduction.

Expected Practice

Introductions read like a well-written essay. Introductions start with a statement of general context. The context is then narrowed to the specific one. This process is typical of most publications. The intent is to draw the interest of the widest audience. Colourful and interesting pictures are often used here to help garner interest.

Equations and theory introduced here relate directly to the objective of the report. General theory need not be derived, the reader can be referred to another source. However the specific theory and equations used in the results section are detailed here. It is expected that no new theory or equation is used in the rest of the report that is not properly introduced in this section.

Drawings and figures are used to help clarify the objective and theory that is to be used in the report. Figures and diagrams are titled, labelled, captioned, and uniquely identified. The figures of modern publications, together with their titles and captions, can be read in isolation from the article and still make sense.