Reports must be typed and double spaced. Start with a title page. Number every page in the top-right corner. Always use significant figures in data obtained in the lab and in calculations. Remember to reference sources for all paraphrased literature information you include in your report. Use a superscript number to identify the citation. If a statement is copied exactly as it is found in the source, the statement should be placed in quotation marks. Not doing so, is considered plagiarism. Even with proper citation, only a small percentage (<5%) of the lab report should be 6 copied “as is” from a source since you are expected to learn writing through this exercise. Names of chemicals are not capitalized. Pay attention to grammar, spelling, style, and word usage. Bold or underline section titles. Avoid using words such as I, we, you, etc that personalize the experiment. Don’t start a sentence with a number unless it is written out (two instead of 2 is acceptable) because the period may be confused with a decimal point. Some common abbreviations include g (grams), mg (milligrams), mL (milliliters), and L (liters). Leave a space between the number and unit (i.e., 20.5 mL). Write concisely and proofread your report before handing it in!
Title: Should reflect the report’s content, and should be both brief and specific.
Abstract: Include a statement (2-3 sentences) about the main purpose of the project. Mention the main technique(s), instrument(s), and reaction(s) being studied. Indicate how the product will be characterized.
Introduction: Provide a brief background (theory & current knowledge in the field on the subject) of the experiment. Define any “new” term (such as a new technique you learned) in a sentence or two. Include important chemical and theoretical equations. Chemical structures must be prepared using ChemDraw. This software is available on the computers in the first floor of the Buley library and the Adanti Student Center, or can be downloaded to your computer (see Blackboard for instructions). Never copy and paste any reaction or mechanism. Define each term in theoretical equations. Cite any sources used.
Experimental: Provide a brief, but specific summary of the procedure, reagents used, weights, times, temperatures, etc. Use your own words, do not copy the lab manual. Use third person (passive voice) and past tense: “The reaction mixture was heated at 50 oC for 2 h. Then the benzoic acid was recrystallized from 20 mL of H2O.” Since you will be following a procedure, always cite the source at the top of the section. Don’t start sentences with numbers.
Results: Include all relevant data collected such as amounts of chemicals (pure, impure, reactants, and products) used. Don’t give weights of flasks or beakers used to weigh them. Organize data in tables or figures when necessary. Tables and figures should be numbered and include a descriptive heading (i.e. Table 1 – Results from Part A: Melting Point from Each Sample). There are other examples in the lab manual. Always calculate Rf values when TLC is used. Sample Calculations: Show one sample calculation of % yield, % recovery, Rf and any other significant calculation. Use significant figures. This section is not required if there are no calculations.
Discussion: This is the most important section of the report. The purpose of the discussion is to interpret and compare the results. Discuss every piece of data collected. Always comment on compound appearance (unknowns and products). Comment on purity every time you take a mp or other technique that gives an assessment of purity. Whenever possible compare your results with literature data. Include the literature value as well as the source. Discuss sources of error. Be specific on the cause of the error. Mathematical error is not an acceptable answer. Discuss all spectral data (IR, NMR) in detail correlating every peak to a structural unit. For 1H NMR, discuss 7 splitting pattern, integration, and chemical shift. For IR, assign every major peak to a functional group (OH, C=O, etc). Discuss retention times and peak area for GC data. Discuss TLC data (purity, separation, extent of reaction, id of spots). Please see the report section at the end of each experiment in the lab manual for specific items that must be discussed for each experiment.
Conclusion: This is a concluding statement (4-5 sentences) that summarizes the key results and errors. Comment on the success or failure of the experiment based on the goals of the experiment. Did you accomplish your goals? Be objective; point out the features and limitations of the work. Relate your results to current knowledge in the field and to your original purpose in undertaking the project: Was the experiment successful or not? Suggest further study or possible improvements to the experiment if warranted.
References: Cite any source using consecutively numbered footnotes. The citation should be placed at the end of the report. Include a complete reference: All authors or editors, title of journal or book (italics), publisher (if it is a book), year (bold if in journal), volume (italics if in journal), and inclusive pages:
Demko, Z.; Sharpless, K. B. Journal of Organic Chemistry, 2001, 66, 7945-7950.
Coca, A.; Karatjas, A. Laboratory Manual for CHE 260 Organic Chemistry I, 2 nd ed., W. H. Freeman and Company: New York, NY, 2012.
Brown, H. C. Boranes in Organic Chemistry; Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 1972.
http://www.sigmaaldrich.com (accessed April 14, 2011).
Resources for physical data: Whenever possible use published reference books such as peer-reviewed journal articles, Aldrich catalog, Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, and the Merck index. Only use the following websites as a resource: Aldrich.com and chemfinder.com. Never cite Wikipedia.com in your reports.
Attachments: Always attach a copy of any analytical data (IR, NMR, and GC). Hand draw a structure of the compound(s) involved in every printout and label every important peak with a structural assignment (functional group or proton). Also mark every printout with a figure number and figure heading so that you may refer to it in the report. Also draw a full-size copy of your TLC plates when used.
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