Chemistry » Essential Ideas in Chemistry » Skills in the Laboratory

Skills in the Laboratory

Skills in the Laboratory

To carry out experiments in the laboratory you need to know how to properly present your experimental results, you also need to know how to read instruments and how to interpret your data. A laboratory (be it for physics, chemistry or other sciences) can be a very dangerous and daunting place. However, if you follow a few simple guidelines you can safely carry out experiments in the laboratory without endangering yourself or others around you.

laboratory

Experiments

When a scientist performs experiments the following process is followed:

  • Observe an event and identify an answerable question about the event.

  • Make a hypothesis (theory) about the event that gives a sensible result.

  • Design an experiment to test the theory. This includes identifying the fixed factors (what will not vary in the experiment), identifying the independent variable (this is set) and the dependent variable (what you will actually measure).

  • Collect data accurately and interpret the data.

  • Draw conclusions from the results of the experiment.

  • Decide whether the hypothesis is correct or not.

  • Verify your results by repeating the experiment or getting someone else to repeat the experiment.

This process is known as the scientific method. In the work that you will do you will be given the first three items and be required to determine the last four items. For verifying results you should see what your classmates obtained for their experiment.

In science the recording of practical work follows a specific layout. You should always present your work using this layout, as it will help any other person be able to understand and repeat your experiment.

  • Aim: A brief sentence describing the purpose of the experiment.

  • Apparatus: A sketch of the apparatus and a list of the apparatus

  • Method: A list of the steps followed to carry out the experiment

  • Results: Tables, graphs and observations about the experiment

  • Discussion: What your results mean

  • Conclusion: A brief sentence concluding whether or not the aim was met

To perform experiments correctly and accurately you also need to know how to work with various pieces of equipment. The next section details some of the apparatus that you need to know, as well as how to correctly work with it.

As you work through the experiments in the book you will be given guidance on how to present your data. By the end of the year you should be able to select the appropriate method to show your data, whether it is a table, a graph or an equation.

You will also need to know how to interpret your data. For example given a table of values, what can you say about those values. Also you should be able to say whether you are performing a qualitative (descriptive) or a quantitative (numbers) analysis.

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