Lab Reports. Why?

Students wonder why they are required to take certain classes. I would be questioning the required courses if I had to learn information not needed in the work field.

Throughout the course of an undergraduate career, there are many required courses that the undergrad must enroll in. Engineers have to take courses such as math 121, math 122, math 223, math 224, chem. 111, engr 131, and engr 145. The courses are required because these classes prepare the undergrad for work to be done in their field and courses taken later in the undergraduate career. There also are certain required classes that force the undergrad to learn unnecessary information such as the lab associated with physics 121. The student is forced to write a lab report after most labs, something that is not used in the work field. The conference paper and journal article are better alternatives to the time consuming lab report.
The physics department uses lab reports to make sure students understand the purpose of the lab. The procedure students go through to make the lab report is long and strenuous. First the student is instructed to refer to a five page lab manual which instructs the student on how to write and format a lab report. The report must consist of a cover page, header, abstract, introduction & theory, experimental procedure, results & analysis, conclusions, acknowledgements, references or citations, and appendices. The manual gives a short description of each section of the lab report and provides the student a checklist to help make sure everything is included in the lab report. The student is forced to learn the style and format of a lab report that the student will not use in the work force. The physics department should use a report that students are likely to use in everyday situations.
Students complain of the lab report taking several hours to complete .Why should students spend several hours a week working on material that will not be used in the work field? Professor Frank Merat from the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department (EECS) states, “The lab report should be eliminated, because it has no use in the field. Instead students should write either conference paper or journal article.” The conference paper and journal article are common means of producing research or information in the electrical engineering field and other disciplines of engineering. With the implication of writing a journal article or conference paper to summarize the purpose and results of the lab, the student would learn the format and style for both the conference paper and journal article. Either paper serves the original purpose of the physics department (described above), but allows the students to obtain knowledge of common papers used in the engineering discipline. The physics lab should switch from a lab report to a conference paper or journal article, which is utilized in the work field.
The information about the lab report was taken from: http://physicslabs.phys.cwru.edu/MECH/Manual/8b_Appendix_II_Reports.pdf

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