Guidelines for Creating and Grading EE351 Lab Reports

revised August 19, 2008

These are the guidelines for students performing laboratory exercises and for lab instructors grading the lab reports. These are kind of rough right now and will be revised as issues develop. The main purpose of lab is for students to have hands on experience with the concepts discussed in class. There is enough equipment for six lab stations of two students maximum.  Unless there are extenuating circumstances, the lab instructor is instructed not to allow more than two students per lab station.  The lab report should be neat, complete but concise, and informal. The lab report may be a joint effort by each two-member lab team although individual reports are fine too.  Although some joint effort and data collection is fine, each member of a lab station should have individual experience with each aspect of the lab.  It is not permissible to let another student do your work. Laziness is not allowed. Part of your grade may be based on perceived participation.

Basic Format

The lab should have a cover sheet with the following information: EE351 Lab Number __, Title of Lab, the date of the lab, the name of the individual(s), and any other information the lab instructor asks for. The lab instructor should provide an example sheet for everyone to use as a guide.

The text of the lab should grouped and titled according to the major titles for each section of the lab. Since all the labs consist of numbered paragraphs with fairly detailed instructions there is no point in rewriting all the steps or the figures - just refer to the paragraph number(s) as needed. Since many of the steps will involve observing something, you should write what you observed and include relevant information such as a hand sketch (does not have to be a work of art but should not be sloppy) of the oscilloscope trace with important features identified. The key is to write enough information so that you can recall later what happened or was done - you might need that information on a test. It is normal in real engineering for informal lab reports to have terse sentences - extra wordiness just makes it harder to find salient information. So the lab report is not intended to be a literary masterpiece. But, do spell all words correctly, use the correct units, and in general do not look foolish. The question is, could an electronics engineer (i.e. your lab instructor, but in real life it would be your boss or perhaps a valuable customer) look at your lab report in conjunction with the instructions and understand what you did? If the answer is yes then you have done a good job -- A or B. If the answer is no then you need to improve your communication skills -- C or less.

Basic grading

Here are the basic questions that determine your grade:

Is cover sheet in right format?

Does each section of the lab report have all required information such as data, sketches, plots?

Is there enough text or information in each section so that a knowledgeable person could see that the circuit was built and appropriate data taken? The text should brief as practical but complete. It is fine if the student wants to do more than this - that should never count against them.

Is presentation of the report generally neat? Ripped pages are a no-no.

If a portion of the lab can not be made to work then are the problems documented? What efforts were made to try to get the lab to work as intended? What reality tests were done on the equipment or components? If a portion of the lab does not work then the students should not be penalized if they have made a reasonable effort to document what was done. In some cases from the past, I was able to determine the technical problem from the data supplied.

Did each student participate in all the lab activities? Not every subtle step has to be repeated by everyone and some data taking is best done as a team effort, but it is important for everyone to have their hands in the circuit - finding parts, building, turning knobs, taking measurements, etc.  The lab instructor can take points off for lack of participation.


It is probably best to use a scale of 100 for lab scores. In general, it is not likely that a lab would be perfect - a few minor errors are normal and acceptable.

An "A" lab would have at most only a few errors or missing information.

A "B" lab would have notably more errors than the best labs but is otherwise good.

A "C" lab is missing a fair amount of information - particularly plots and unanswered questions. Perhaps not neat.

A "D" lab is pretty bad - lots of missing or wrong information. Perhaps very sloppy.

An "F" lab is missing so much information that it is not likely that the student got anything out of the lab experience.

If a student has made a mistake repeatedly but has otherwise done the work then limit how much is taken off so that the student does not receive a too low grade. A "C" is probably the absolute lowest to go if the student is making a good effort.

If it appears to the lab instructor that a student is in danger of failing the lab, the course instructor should be notified as soon as possible so that there is time to attempt to correct the problem. The student must pass the lab in order to pass the course.

Missed labs:

It is my intention that students be allowed to make up a missed lab without penalty if there is a valid reason for missing the lab - such as illness, accident, unexpected job situation, etc. and the student has made a good faith effort to inform the lab instructor as soon as possible of any conflict.  If something happens and you can not attend a lab, see your lab instructor and try to arrange a time (probably a future lab period that has spare time) when you can make the lab up. It is permissible with the consent of the lab instructors affected to attend a different lab period perhaps once during the term - this would be due to something important (not just out of convenience) that conflicts with your lab schedule. This should not routinely happen. One or more lab periods may be completely filled and this arrangement may not be possible - do the lab at a later date.

It is very suspicious if a student repeatedly misses labs - anyone can have an occasional problem but multiple problems tend to be problems of convenience rather than real. In such cases the lab instructor can refuse and your grade would be zero. The options for making up a missed lab are as follows: (1) Schedule with the lab instructor to do the missed work in any EE351 lab session that has space either during a normal lab or in remaining time after other students are finished - this may be difficult since the labs tend to be full. (2) At the lab instructor's option you can do the lab anytime he allows and is in the building to let you in the lab - but in general you would be on your own and the lab instructor would not be available (he has his own issues in life to deal with) to help with any problem unless he so chose - he should at least spot check so that he can confirm the lab is being done and that all is well.

End of term instructions for the lab instructor

For each of the lab assignments the lab instructor should select a representative high, medium, and low score lab to keep for the ABET files. Turn these in to the EE office as soon as they are ready and mark for ABET.  Give the student a photocopy of the lab.

Lab grades should be given to the course instructor at the end of the term. The best format is just a printed list of the names and the individual lab grades for each lab - there is no need to do any averaging or other computation as my spreadsheet will do all calculations. It is best to send this via email as I will probably not be around my mailbox at UAB near the end of the term. Please use some kind of generic text format instead of a spreadsheet or word document file since I do not always have access to the most recent software. This data will be entered into a spreadsheet that will do the appropriate averaging.