Many people can get really worked up about the language of a physics lab report.  I’ve seen many students write in the way that they think a physicist sounds.  They use way too many big words and really long sentences.


A woman with a microphone.

There are two voices, active and passive.

For my courses, you do not have to write physics lab reports using the third person point of view or using the passive voice. For example, it is fine to write “We measured the period of a pendulum”.  This is better than “The period of a pendulum was measured”. Note that for the active voice, the subject does the action. For the passive voice, the subject is acted upon.

The use of third person and/or passive voice varies among the different sciences, and within the separate branches of each science. Your chemistry or biology professors may have instructed you differently. If this is the case, use the method your professor prefers in those classes. When writing, try to avoid mixing active and passive voice.

Type of Language in a Physics Lab Report

Make sure that you write the lab report in language that shows you understand what is going on.  For example, in a lab with oscillations, you should say that the masses oscillate up and down, not bounce up and down.  Describe what you see in understandable language.  Use some big words, but don’t wear out your thesaurus looking for long ways to say simple things.

The language of a physics lab report helps show your understanding of the material

Proofread and Edit

You do need to make sure that you spell check and use proper English. Most professors will deduct points for each for spelling error, grammatical mistake, etc.

To avoid mistakes, make use of the tools in your word processor. Some programs will read the text aloud to you. This is a great way to catch mistakes like run-on sentences and repeated words.