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General Chemistry Courses with Labs

Frequently Asked Questions for Labs in Chem 142/152/162 and 143/153



How can I successfully complete the lab portion of this course?

Prepare for the lab in advance so you fully understand the purpose of the experiment and how it relates to the rest of the course.  Attend all of the scheduled labs, showing up on time and ready to work.  Complete the lab reports and submit them on time, showing all of your data and calculations and critically evaluating your results.  Read the introductory pages of the lab manual EVERY QUARTER so that you are well-informed about lab-related policies and safety.  Your TA is your primary resource for one-on-one help with the lab portion of this course, but the Lab Instructor (see the syllabus for contact information) is also available to assist you.


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What should I do to prepare for lab each week?

Go to the webpage for the lab (available to registered students by logging into Canvas using your UW NetID) and do the following:

  1. Read through the introductory information and experimental procedure on the following pages, as well as any relevant sections of the textbook for this course.
  2. Complete the online prelab assignment that can be accessed on the course-specific Labs website in Canvas.  Be sure to submit your answers before the deadline – no late submissions will be accepted and a missed-prelab penalty will be assessed for anyone not successfully completing the assignment by the deadline.
  3. Write the required Purpose and Method section on a new page in your lab notebook.  An explanation and examples of what to include in this section are available in the introductory pages of this lab manual (see the section titled “The Laboratory Notebook”).
  4. Prepare data collection tables (and axes for necessary plots) in your notebook to help you record your data efficiently and in an organized way.  This will also help you make sure you have recorded all of the necessary information before the end of the lab session.
  5. Preview the lab report to be completed after you finish the lab procedure.  For some experiments, an in-lab report is required and you will need to bring a printed copy of the report form with you to the lab session.  For other experiments, the report is one that can be worked on after the lab session and submitted at a later date.  The lab report forms, submission instructions, and deadlines are available on the "Reporting Your Results" sections of the course-specific Labs website.

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What should I write for the Purpose/Method section that is required to be in my lab notebook before I go to lab?

It is important for you to understand that this section is your opportunity to demonstrate to your TA that you are truly prepared for the lab.  However, this is not meant to be a re-writing of each experiment's procedure.  Read the instructions and review the example provided in the lab manual. In short, in a page or less, you should address the following:

What is the goal of this experiment?

Explain how this goal is accomplished. What is the general method that you will be using to achieve this goal? Do NOT provide information like volumes, masses, or concentrations. DO provide the equations for the chemical reactions that are involved.

How will you process the data that you record in lab?

What calculations will you perform? What equations will you use? How do you obtain all of the values to plug into those equations? How will you evaluate your results?

For labs with multiple parts, you may need to write more than one Purpose/Method statement.


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What if I forget to do the prelab assignment or do not complete it with the required minimum score prior to the deadline?

Prelab assignments will be completed in Canvas. The prelabs will be available for at least a week before the deadline, so you will always have plenty of time to complete them if you do not wait until the last minute.  Be aware of the date and time of the deadline so that you don’t accidentally miss it.  In order to be considered “prepared” for lab, you must score >0 out of 5 on the prelab assignment before the deadline.  If you do not meet that minimum score, or you forget to do the prelab entirely, then a 15-point penalty will be assessed to your lab score at the end of the quarter for each prelab not successfully completed by the deadline.  This "prelab deduction" will show up as a separate score in the Catalyst GradeBook for your course - you will either see a 0 if you did not incur any penalties or a negative number that is the sum of any penalties you have incurred for the quarter. If you encounter circumstances that prevent you from doing the prelab for the entire time it is available, contact your TA.

Important note: if you do not complete the prelab with the required minimum score, you will still be allowed to participate in the experiment, so please be sure to still attend your regularly scheduled lab session.


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What supplies do I need to have with me for lab each week?

Lab coat, safety goggles, lab manual for the current academic year, lab notebook (with Purpose/Method section already written), pen, and calculator.  For some labs, a ruler may be helpful.  The lab manual is the book containing the lab policies, safety information, as well as the background infomormation, instructions, and procedures for performing each experiment.  The lab notebook is the book in which you record all of your data and observations.  The lab notebook must have carbonless duplicate pages, which you will turn in to your TA before you leave the lab. For labs requiring in-lab reports, please also be sure to bring the report form with you - your TA and the stockroom will not be able to provide copies and you may not leave during the experiment to go print a report.


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What happens if I am not dressed appropriately for lab or forget my goggles and/or lab coat?

Your safety is our #1 priority!  If you are not dressed appropriately, you will not be allowed into lab.  If you forget your lab coat or safety goggles, new ones may be purchased at the undergraduate stockroom (BAG 271, in the hallway outside the labs).  You need to have long pants and sturdy shoes to protect your feet and legs from splashes or broken glass, should someone drop something like a beaker containing acid on the floor behind you.  If you remove your safety gear while in the lab, you will be asked to leave. If you are sent out of lab because of incorrect clothing or safety gear and you do not return in time to complete your work, the absence will be unexcused..


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What happens if I am late for my lab?

Lab periods start with a safety and procedure overview from the TA.  If you are late, you miss that information and also make your lab partner wait for you unnecessarily.  As such, if you show up more than 10 minutes late for lab (according to the clocks in Bagley Hall), you will not be allowed to do lab with your section and will you will receive a zero for that lab experiment.  The full text of the current policies is provided in the "Lab Info and Schedule" document on the course-specific Labs website in Canvas.


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What do I do if I miss my lab session entirely?

The current policies regarding missed labs are provided in the "Lab Info and Schedule" document on the course-specific website in Canvas. Read these policies and know where to find them should you find yourself in a situation where you miss your lab. 


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When is my lab report due?

Depending on which experiment you are doing, reports may be due in lab before the end of the lab session or by 5 p.m. on a future day. The "Reporting your Results" section associated with each experiment provides the specific details about when each lab report is due. Reports not handed directly to your TA should be submitted in the locked mailbox for your TA in the hallway outside the Chemistry Study Center (BAG 330). Reports submitted after the deadline will be penalized 20% for each day they are late. The Late Lab Report Policy is provided in the introductory pages of the lab manual for your course.


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Do I work with my lab partner to complete the report?

You will be assigned a lab partner to work with for the quarter.  However, the work you do together should be restricted to the experiment itself and the recording of data.  All lab reports should be your own work and the answers to questions should be in your own words.  Yes, your data will be identical, but the rest of the report should be completed independently.  You are required to sign an acknowledgement statement on each lab report you submit, stating that the work you are turning in is your own original work.  Issues of suspected plagiarism will result in referral for possible disciplinary action as described in the UW Student Conduct Code.


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What do I do if I don’t understand or don’t agree with how my lab report was graded?

Your TA grades your work based on a grading key provided by the Lab Instructor.  If you have questions about why something was graded a certain way or what you can do to improve your lab report scores, talk with your TA – he/she is the person who has first-hand knowledge about why you lost points.  Re-grade requests must be submitted within 48 hours of the graded lab report being returned to you.  The purpose of re-grades is to address mistakes made when reports are graded.  These are not opportunities for you to correct your work, add additional information to answers originally provided, or make any other changes to your graded report submission. If, after you talk with your TA, you still have questions or cannot get a situation resolved, contact the Lab Instructor (see the syllabus for contact information).


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What do I do if I don’t finish the lab or I cannot collect a complete set of data that makes sense?

All data collection events are designed to be completed within the time allowed for the lab session.  Students who prepare for lab, focus on the tasks at hand during the lab session, and work carefully will have no problem collecting all of the necessary data.  Students who are not prepared for lab, do not use their time well, and make time-consuming mistakes (usually resulting from inadequate preparation) may struggle to complete experiments in the allotted time.  The penalty for this outcome will be the loss of points associated with any calculations that cannot be performed or questions that cannot be answered in the lab report because of the lack of usable data.  Should you encounter technical problems during the lab, talk with your TA to resolve them.  If the problem cannot be resolved in enough time to allow completion of the experiment, your TA may provide you with data to include in your report.  However, DO NOT just use someone else’s data without permission from YOUR TA AND you MUST include a statement in your lab report that indicates that the data you are reporting is not yours, where the data is from, and the reason for this exception.  Using data that you did not personally collect, without permission from your TA and without this written acknowledgement, will result in a grade of “zero” on your report and considered falsification of data and/or plagiarism, which will result in referral for possible disciplinary action as described in the UW Student Conduct Code.


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