Evaluating Organic Chemistry Labs: Formal Lab Report

The advantage of assigning and grading formal lab reports is that they most closely resemble the formal scientific articles which we are trying to education our students to read and write. Formal lab reports emphasize writing skills necessary to communicate scientific content to other scientists and practitioners. The primary problem that I have had with formal lab reports as Sophomore Organic Chemistry laboratory reports is common to any student assignment: the more open-ended an assignment is, the more varied the students’ responses will be. As a result, the student produced prose plus the variety of student interpretations of how to address the assignment make formal lab reports challenging to grade efficiently and effectively. For lab reports during the first semester, I use a “results and discussion” format that asks students to present the data in specific ways and answer direct questions about the experimental procedure and results. This way I can focus on the critical thinking issues that the experiment is most suited for. For example, I ask them to compare the relative advantages of using melting point or TLC to identify an unknown compound once they have had experiences with both techniques. Not all experiments during the first semester Sophomore Organic Chemistry fit nicely into the formal lab report template. Even will formal lab reports, the instructor has to give some directives to elicit the issues that the student should address in their report.


One Comment

  1. Posted January 26, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Great site, I will be back. Well done

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