This semester sucks! Can I just say that right now?
If you have ever taken a lab class for chemistry, biology, physics or any other science class you may know what I mean. The lab is the fun part, seeing how chemicals mix together, how a reaction works or really seeing what you learned in lecture actually happen in front of you, chemically or physically. The write up on the other hand isn’t as fun.
I mean in general chemistry it was easy, answer the questions, do the simple calculations, and write a simple conclusion stating how much magnesium was oxidized or something. I’m sure they tried to ease us into it, making us do prelabs in quantitative analysis, and have us write out more thoughtful answers but right now it seems like an all or nothing kind of deal. Our reports have gotten a lot more complicated, upper division labs take a whole lot more time, I can tell you that much.
I guess you could say we are growing, expanding from what we did as freshman and now look at rubrics to figure out what to put into the report and how to format everything. Everything needs to be in excruciating detail, step by step procedure, because I’ll admit it, the procedure I write down for a pre-lab isn’t always exactly what ends up happening once I get to lab because sometimes things just don’t work. So, write up a fancy detailed procedure so that someone reading it could actually understand what you are saying, and do the lab they way you did, with possibly the same results. Maybe also explaining the machines you are using, yes no more just putting in the machine and saying this is what it gave me, now how does the machine work, what can go wrong, and you have to be thankful that when something does go wrong there are other machines in the department that may be slightly different, but still work.
So to all you freshman out there starting with general chemistry, good luck and brace yourselves. It’s coming and it is not something you can really avoid. There is a way to spread it out a little, but it would mean waiting until next fall to finish and that isn’t something I’m interested in doing. It wouldn’t be too bad if I was just taking one lab, but this semester it is two and both of them require a lot of writing and work for the reports. I’m taking physical chemistry 1 lab, which has 8 experiments, 6 which have formal reports, and the other 2 which are communication reports which might be more like what you see on the ACS publications site. I am also taking Instrumental analysis, a lab which has 10 experiments, where at least a few labs have things in common so I might be able to copy and paste some of the instrumentation information, but obviously the procedures are different.
I really shouldn’t be complaining because I’m sure in a few years when I have a job and working in a lab and they ask for reports with lots of details I can come back to the ones I wrote this year and be thankful they were hard and required so much time and effort, but right now they just seem like a pain.