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Offline CMR111

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Writing a Lab Report
« on: February 22, 2024, 07:42:37 PM »
I am prefacing with a few things...I'm not a chemistry major, the last time I had chemistry was summer 2022, where I took Gen 1 and 2 during two summer classes so they were condensed...we didn't write lab reports because it was also all online and everything was done at home.  I'm now in a class that is mandatory.  I am trying to follow a rubric for this lab report and one of the steps of the methods section says "Is there a description of the chemicals (with purity and vendor), samples and general reaction conditions?"  I included that "The general reaction conditions involved a change of the pH of KHP as NaOH was titrated into it." (I had the other things listed in that rubric part and they were fine).  Next to this, however, about the general reaction, he wrote "filler."  As in it's not supposed to be there, despite his rubric saying it is.  I seriously failed this report (which is mostly ok because he's dropping 1 of the grades for the reports) and I am trying to be meticulous in this next one...but there are so many inconsistencies and I'm apt to overthinking.  Was this not what the "general reaction conditions" would be? (not specific to this, but in general).  I have another lab report I'm working on right now and am trying to go through step by step.  (it's not the same, not the same chemicals, etc I just need formatting help I guess?)

Offline Corribus

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Re: Writing a Lab Report
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2024, 08:54:42 AM »
It's always difficult for us to put ourselves in the mind of someone grading your work. The best solution is to talk to the professor/instructor so you can find out exactly why they felt your work did not satisfy the rubric. "Filler" could mean a lot of things. You are only highlighting one sentence of your report, so we have very little context to go on.

As to the rubric bit that you highlighted, it is certain that your materials and methods section should include a list of chemicals that you used, who the manufacturer was, product and lot numbers (if applicable), purity (as manufactured), and any additional steps you took with the reagent prior to use. E.g., "Sucrose (98%, HPLC grade, Lot# 2113161) was purchased from Sigma Aldrich and used without further purification". This should really be done with every chemical used, including solvents and even water. The idea is that anyone trying to reproduce your work could use exactly the same supplies that you did. "General reaction conditions" I would interpret as things like the temperature, time, pressure, whether or not the reaction was stirred, what it shielded from light, concentration of reagents, etc. In this case you might say something like "Aqueous NaOH (1.0 M) was titrated into 1 L aqueous KHP (XX molar) dropwise at a temperature of 25 degrees Celcius under atmospheric pressure until the pH of the solution reached 11.0, as measured by a digital pH meter." (or whatever)
What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?  - Richard P. Feynman

Offline CMR111

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Re: Writing a Lab Report
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2024, 03:12:34 PM »
It's always difficult for us to put ourselves in the mind of someone grading your work. The best solution is to talk to the professor/instructor so you can find out exactly why they felt your work did not satisfy the rubric. "Filler" could mean a lot of things. You are only highlighting one sentence of your report, so we have very little context to go on.

As to the rubric bit that you highlighted, it is certain that your materials and methods section should include a list of chemicals that you used, who the manufacturer was, product and lot numbers (if applicable), purity (as manufactured), and any additional steps you took with the reagent prior to use. E.g., "Sucrose (98%, HPLC grade, Lot# 2113161) was purchased from Sigma Aldrich and used without further purification". This should really be done with every chemical used, including solvents and even water. The idea is that anyone trying to reproduce your work could use exactly the same supplies that you did. "General reaction conditions" I would interpret as things like the temperature, time, pressure, whether or not the reaction was stirred, what it shielded from light, concentration of reagents, etc. In this case you might say something like "Aqueous NaOH (1.0 M) was titrated into 1 L aqueous KHP (XX molar) dropwise at a temperature of 25 degrees Celcius under atmospheric pressure until the pH of the solution reached 11.0, as measured by a digital pH meter." (or whatever)

I have all of the chemical info, I guess I just don't understand that last part about General reaction conditions.  I'm working on my next report and it's not going well.  It's difficult to talk to this teacher.  I asked a yes or no question and he replied with a question.  I struggled with that homework assignment for 6 hours...his delaying in giving me information was an hour of that.  I used the word "Burette" for the tube we're titrating with, and he said it's not a burette, and it's a reservoir because it's not as accurate (I've done titrations several times before this class and I have never heard of it being called a reservoir).  He provided instructions that says " For each figure/table, you will write one paragraph that follows the template below" and yet he only wants us to add in 1 figure or table (so I had points docked for having more than 1).  The instructions never say double spaced, he said it in a class I was sick and missed, so I was docked for points (he didn't announce this info in any way online).  The introduction instructions say "The reader expects that you place the upcoming work within some type of context. The phrase often used for this statement is the “big picture”. Using a broad perspective, think about what fields/problems/challenges are best addressed by the work you will present.  Before narrowing down to your specific interests, it is important to to provide evidence that you are not the only one thinking this issue is important, and therefore you will have some reference or citation to the literature to support your big picture."  And when I did this, he said it was irrelevant.  I confronted him and he said "it's more of an interpretation."  So yeah, I'm struggling a lot right now to actually talk to him.  I'm an older student...I'm 44.  If someone talked to me the way he has been normally, I'd have words for him so I've been biting my tongue.  The class is mandatory for my degree, but almost useless for my degree.     

Offline rjb

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Re: Writing a Lab Report
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2024, 05:42:26 PM »
Hi CRM,

I do not aim to provide a definitive answer to your question, but I hope the following will nevertheless be of some help.

Having been both an older student and a person who has taught and continues to teach older students (at UG and PG levels) I can understand both your position and (possibly) that of your lecturer. Whilst in my experience mature students do tend to be less confident in their own abilities, are perhaps more demanding of one's time (there's nothing wrong with that), more questioning and are perhaps fixated on things that we see as unimportant; clarity, consistency, encouragement, understanding and solid pedagogic practice can really help to address those 'issues'.

Sometimes, it is helpful to understand that none of this is personal... Your lecturer is probably overwhelmed with work, resides in a state of near continuous chaos and just wants get grading (of far too many papers - why on earth do some institutions still insist on testing the same learning outcomes again and again!) out of the way. They have given you a mark and some feedback in the hope that you will just accept it and you have called them out because you actually want to improve and need more detail and clarity to do that - Something that should be encouraged.

In the real-world, whilst we might have published rubrics, a lot of marking (at least in my subject area - where papers can diverge significantly from expectations) ends up being done by 'feeling'... i.e. this 'feels' like a 70 something percent paper and is slightly better than a paper I've just given 72% for, so I'm giving it 75%. This of course seems somewhat arbitrary, but it is important to point out that that the mark is based upon having seen 1000's of similar papers over the years ensuring some level of consistency. Interestingly, there have been several academic papers on this approach which broadly show it to be no less accurate than following a definite rubric; nevertheless it does make giving meaningful feedback and providing justification for that mark quite difficult which perhaps helps to explain the vague comments about the 'big picture' you have been fobbed off with.

I have no issues with my team using a 'feelings' based approach where necessary (after all, we double mark and our work is scrutinised externally) but failing to spend time with a student who really wants to succeed and is struggling is something that I would not tolerate. Furthermore, being unapproachable is in my book a cardinal sin.

I have no idea how things work where you are, but in my country, we have student representatives and staff-student meetings where issues with a course or individual lecturers can be aired and can (and sometimes must) be addressed. Presumably you're not the only one feeling this way? Assuming that you feel you have exhausted all options with your lecturer directly, is there a mechanism by which your views can be communicated? If so make use of it, you are after all not just a student, but (perhaps - depending where you are) also a 'consumer' and thus have the right to a quality learning experience.

Just my viewpoint.

R

 



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