Writing Lab Reports

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Reference Materials

<latex> \documentclass[]{article} \usepackage[top=1in,bottom=1in,left=1in,right=1in]{geometry} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{verbatim} \usepackage{graphicx} \usepackage{natbib}



\section{A Typical Outline for a Scientific Paper}

A typical scientific paper is divided into sections, subsections, and subsubsections. The global outline for a typical scientific paper looks like the following. Note, however, that there are wide variations from this, which depend on content, subject matter, and individual style. \begin{enumerate}

\item {\bf Title} Should encapsulate the contents and meaning.

\item {\bf Abstract} A short summary of the paper including the most important

 results. Purpose is to tell a prospective reader whether it is worth
 spending more time on article.

\item {\bf Introduction} Sets the context: summary of the current state of

 knowledge, how that state can be improved, what this work does to
 advance the field. What did you hope to accomplish? Briefly, what did you

\item {\bf Observations or Experiments} What you observed, who did it, when you

 did it, what equipment you used, how you recorded data, any particulars
 or peculiarities.

\item {\bf Data Analysis} The theory according to which you analyze the data,

 how you actually did the analysis, the results of your analysis. Provide
 the essential numbers---the distillation of your original data (often
 millions of numbers) into a set of essential numbers or results. This is
 what we mean by ``data reduction!

\item {\bf Interpretation} What the results mean in terms of astrophysics or

 your previous state of knowledge. How your results relate to specific
 issues that were mentioned in the introduction.

\item {\bf Conclusion} A summary of important results and points made in the

 paper, including pointing to the particlar sections so that the reader
 can easily learn more detail. What aspects are lacking? How would
 you have done things better? Prospects for future work.


\section{Scientific and Interpretive Issues}

These are {\it most important} because they related directly to your scientific and experimental work and interpretation. \begin{itemize}

\item When you derive a result or calculate something it's important to be {\it self-critical}. This is known as a {\it reality check}. Various forms of reality check include the following (a limited list): \begin{enumerate}

\item {\bf Generate fake data} Run your software on them ({\it note the plural use of ``data!}) and check for consistency.

\item {\bf Check your fits against the data} When doing a least-squares fit, plot the {\it data}, overplot the {\it fitted curve}, and plot the {\it residuals}. The data and fitted curve should look similar. The residuals should exhibit no systematic trends and should look like noise clustered around zero. If not, why not?

\item{ {\bf Think about the answer you expect to get} Before deriving a result with fancy numerical techniques you should first make a guess, using your physical intuition, about what the answer is. If your fancy numerical technique gives something wildly different, then either your physical intuition is no good, which means you don't understand the basic fundamentals {\it or} your numerical technique or software is no good. Which is it? (Or is it both????) Talk to people, ask questions, or whatever, but {\it resolve these discrepancies!}} \end{enumerate} \end{itemize} \begin{itemize} \item When you plot some data, {\it look at the plot and think about what you see}. For example, when you observed the Sun with the interferometer, the Campanile shadowed the dishes and the signal went away for some time. Ask yourself: what happened to the data during that time? In your lab report, such things are worth comments!

\item Abstracts should contain essential information---{\it including the important numbers that you derive}.


\section{ Grammar, etc.}

Some grammatical-type issues: \begin{itemize}

\item The word `data' is {\it plural}. Use it as you would use the word `datapoints'. The singular of data is {\it datum}. Use it as you would use the word `datapoint'. For example: \\ \begin{enumerate} \item The data {\it indicate} (not {\it indicates!}) that the system doesn't work... (Similar to saying ``The datapoints indicate...)

\item This datum {\it is} a bad measurement and we will discard it. \end{enumerate} \end{itemize} \begin{itemize} \item Capitalize proper names. This includes `Fourier', `Gauss' or `Gaussian', `Sun', `Moon', `Orion', etc.

\item{ Check spelling! From the UNIX prompt, type \\ \begin{verbatim} ispell -t mylab.tex \end{verbatim} \noindent which runs an interactive spell checker. The -t means "ignore TEX-related commands". Spell checking isn't a panacea because a typo can produce a properly spelled word that isn't appropriate. Example: "These data are like ship."} \end{itemize} \begin{itemize} \item When referring to a figure, equation or table, you must capitalize the object you are referring to. For example: \begin{enumerate} \item As you can see in Table 6... \item Using the relationship given in Equation 78 \end{enumerate} \end{itemize}

\section{ Plotting Considerations and Issues} \label{plotting}

Some plotting-related issues: \begin{itemize}

\item Axis labels and annotations on plots need to be large enough to be legible. Also, you really ought to use nice fonts: don't underestimate the value of good looks! And you usually want thicker lines.

\begin{figure}[b!] \begin{center} \leavevmode %\includegraphics[scale=.7]{simple.ps} %\includegraphics[scale=.8]{nicer.ps} \includegraphics[scale=.55]{simple.ps} \includegraphics[scale=.6]{nicer.ps} \end{center} \caption{Left: Titles are too small, lines too thin, font doesn't look good. Right: Nicer! (But it could be even nicer!!) See \S \ref{plotting}. \label{simple}} \end{figure}

\item When plotting datapoints, it's usually a good idea to plot the points themselves, and sometimes it is a good idea to then connect them with a line to highlight trends. Or---especially when you do least squares fits---you want to overplot the datapoints with a fitted curve; to do this, plot the datapoints and then plot the line of your fit.


\section{TEX hints}

Some TEX hints: \begin{itemize}

\item Mathematical convention says to usually write $(R^2-x^2)^{1/2}$ instead of $\sqrt{R^2-x^2}$. In TEX, these scripts are:\\ \begin{verbatim}

 (R^2-x^2)^{1/2}     and      \sqrt{R^2-x^2}

\end{verbatim} \end{itemize} \begin{itemize} \item{ When you're doing complicated parenthetical expressions, it's nice to use embedded sizing. TEX does this automatically for you. Instead of the not-very-elegant $x = \cos [2\pi({B_y \over \lambda} cos(\delta))sin(h)]$, you can write $ x = \cos \left[ 2\pi \left( {B_y \over \lambda} cos(\delta)\right) sin(h) \right]$. In TEX, these scripts are:\\ \begin{verbatim} $$ x = \cos [2\pi({B_y \over \lambda} cos(\delta))sin(h)] $$ \end{verbatim} \begin{verbatim} $$ x = \cos \left[ 2\pi \left( {B_y \over \lambda} cos(\delta)\right) sin(h) \right] $$ \end{verbatim}} \end{itemize} \begin{itemize}

\item Note in the above example the (double) use of \verb"\left" and \verb"\right". Also, note the Roman letters for the trig function, i.e. convention prefers $\cos(ha)$ instead of $cos(ha)$; we accomplish this in TEX by writing \verb"\cos(ha)" (note backwards slash in \verb"\cos") instead of \verb"cos(ha)".

\item You can print a Table of Contents by writing \verb"\tableofcontents" in your TEX document (usually at the beginning, but you can do it anywhere). This is very helpful when organizing your lab report into sections and subsections.

\item You can get the proper looking quotes, either `single' or ``double, by writing \verb"`single'" or \verb"``double" .

\item You can get a proper ``times sign, as in $2 \times 3$, using \verb=$2 \times 3$=.

\item You can get equations numbered 1a, 2b, and 3c instead of 4, 5, and 6 by using the \verb"mathletters" environment like this:\\ \begin{verbatim} \begin{mathletters} \begin{equation} x = \sin (y) \end{equation}

% any amount of plain text can go here...

\begin{equation} z = \tan (y) \end{equation} \begin{equation} u = y^{1/2} \end{equation} \end{mathletters} \end{verbatim}

\item And finally, you can insert things verbatim into TEX, without the TEX translations, by using \verb=\verb|verbatim into TEX|= (all must be on one line) or, for multiple lines, get into the \verb"verbatim" environment by typing \begin{verbatim} \begin{verbatim} Now we are in the verbatim environment Here is a multiple line situation which we would end with /end{verbatim} with the slash in the opposite orientation \end{verbatim} \end{enumerate} \end{document}