Howard Black - Eastern Illinois University
Aside from being an important course requirement which counts toward 1/3 of the grade, laboratory reports for an independent study course, such as the one in which you are now enrolled, represents the only written documentation of the work you have performed over the semester. Thus, it is essential that they be prepared in as meticulous and complete a manner as possible. This outline will serve as a guide to the writing of this report.
Use a word processor to prepare your report. Most people use MS-Word7, I know, but other formats are fine (personally, I use Lotus WordPro7). Please draw chemical structures with either ChemDraw7 or ChemWindows7. The former is installed on all the computers in the 4th floor computer lab; ChemWindow is found on the computer in our lab. I also have several CDs that will install ChemWindow on your own computer; just ask me, or, if another group member has one, just use it. Most people who have used both prefer ChemWindow, but ChemDraw is probably used by 80% of the chemistry community. It's your call.
The paper should be outlined
similarly to those found in chemical journals such as J. Org.
Chem., J. Am. Chem. Soc., etc.; you can use one of our publications
as a model. In general, there are six sections, which are (in order of
appearance in the paper) - the abstract, introduction, results and
discussion, conclusions, experimental, and references. In addition, you
should provide a title page with a descriptive title of your paper,
your name, the date, the semester for which the
report is being submitted, and the number of hours for which you
As far as technical requirements, please use 1" margins on all sides, and use an Arial font, either 10pt or 12pt. Headings within the paper should be 14pt, and not bold. References should be 9pt or 10pt. The text throughout should be fully justified and double-spaced. (Actually, the final version can be 1.5-spaced, but the initial draft, which I edit by hand then return to you, must be double-spaced.)
General Outline of
The overall length of the paper is hard to predict, but for a full semester in the lab, five to ten typewritten pages inclusive of diagrams, schemes, equations, etc. would probably be appropriate. It should be obvious that the author should take every precaution to present a paper free of grammatical, spelling, syntax, and other constructional errors.
Please do not attach spectra -
either copies or especially originals - with your report. The data from
these spectra will be in your Experimental Section, so I don't need to
see the spectra themselves. Of course, you should keep them in some
kind of filing system (a three-ring binder is best, where the spectra
will be in the same order as your notebook, and correlated to the
notebook using compound number format).
Since your paper deals with organic
chemistry, it will certainly contain schemes, figures, and/or other
visual components. After writing hundreds of papers, reports,
proposals, etc., I've adopted a system that I suggest for you as well.
Schemes are used
specifically for reaction sequences. Designate schemes
with capital letters, not numbers,
and number the compounds sequentially, starting with 1 in every
scheme. You'll then refer to compounds as, for instance, B3 or A2.
The beauty of this system is that if you suddenly realize, halfway
through writing, that you need another scheme, right in the middle of
the paper, you can just insert it, and all you have to change in later
schemes is the letter for each compound designation. So, if you
had to add a new scheme, called Scheme C, you'd change the sequential
schemes by adding one letter, but wouldn't have to touch the
numbers! For any compounds in the old Scheme C, now Scheme D,
you'd just change the text from C2 to D2, etc. This is FAR faster than
renumbering every structure in the paper!
Figures are used for
diagrams (say, of a reaction intermediate), graphs, and other items
that are not synthetic sequences, and are much less common than schemes. Number them Figure 1, Figure 2, etc.,
and number the structures, diagrams, graphs, etc. sequentially from the
start of the paper.
should be designated by sequential numerical superscripts, and
then gathered at the end of the paper in a separate section called
"References". All word processors have the ability to
automagically assign reference numbers where you tell them to, and then
take you to the end of the document, where you fill in the
citation. You really don't appreciate the beauty of this feature
until you have to insert an additional reference between, say,
references 10 and 11. You just place the cursor where the new
reference should go, tell it to insert a new reference, and it assigns
the new reference as #11, then re-numbers the old #11 as #12, as well
as all other successive reference numbers. Piece of cake!*
Follow the format outlined by the American Chemical
Society or the American Psychological Institute (they're
identical). The best resource for this is the "ACS Style Guide" -
a fairly short, inexpensive paperback available from ACS; the research
group owns one as well.
In fact, if you're headed for graduate school, the Style Guide would be an excellent investment - the current price is $1295. It contains the correct format for every part of a scientific paper, from title to references, with many examples of each type. I still refer to mine regularly.
* Actually, the only way to really appreciate this is to do it the old way - put in the new ref. no., and then, manually, change every single ref. no. after it - both the superscripts in the text and the citations at the end. I've done this - but fear not; I don't think like an M.D. - you don't have to do it just because I did. :-)
Submission of the Semester Report
In an effort to help you all become better scientific writers, the following procedure will be used, which includes a chance for me to make suggestions on your first draft:
During the last week of classes, at the group meeting, you will turn in your reports. Please include copies of spectra only for important or representative compounds. In other words, if you're doing a methodology project which converts one functional group or molecular type into another, just choose one example from each group of compounds.
I will then read and edit your papers and return them to you by the following Friday (the last day of classes) at 3:00 PM (I will leave them on your desks in the lab if I don't see you on or before Friday). You'll then have several days to make corrections, rewrite sections, decide whether to take individual suggestions or not, etc.
By the Wednesday of finals week, by 12:00 midnight, please turn in your edited, corrected, finished masterpieces by attaching the file to an email. I do not need or want hard copies of the reports. Lateness will be gauged by the timestamp on the email. By the way - just because it's due Wednesday at midnight doesn't mean you can't turn it in early! In fact, it would be much appreciated
My deadline to have grades for everyone turned in to the Chair is late afternoon on Friday (two days later!). Obviously, late papers cannot be accepted (no kidding). Since the papers count for a of the grade, this would be a way nasty error to make. No one neglecting to submit a report or submitting a totally unacceptable report has a prayer of receiving an "A".
With the authors' permissions, I have linked to several reports that I would deem at least "very good"; it's my hope that, if current students can have something to aspire to, the quality of the semester reports may increase. The reports are organized by the seniority of the student.