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Durham University

Department of Physics

Report writing guidelines

Page limits

The current page limits for all laboratory reports are as follows. They are all strict limits.

ModuleActivityMain reportAppendices
PHYS1101 Level 1 Experiments 2 1
PHYS2641/3681 Level 2 Skills 2 1
PHYS2641/3681 Level 2 Research-led Investigation 4 1
PHYS3561 Level 3 Computing 6 Unlimited
PHYS3601 Level 3 Laboratory Project 12 Unlimited

Details of how to prepare your report, including the standard formatting used in the Department, can be found on the Skills section of our Departmental Laboratory web pages. Supplementary information particular to certain activities may be given by the laboratory leader. Students with visual impairment or other difficulties should consult their laboratory supervisor.

Available to download below are a number of files to help you produce laboratory reports that conform to our guidelines; these are also available on the Laboratory web pages. It is recommended that you save them all to a single folder in your filespace. The file ExampleLabReportTemplate is a Microsoft Word template for Word 2007 and later editions. The file LatexExampleLabReportTemplate is a LaTeX template. An appropriate LaTeX package and complier is required to use this; the LaTeX package is available on the CIS network (log in to say altair and type latex sample.tex) or for a free PC version go to Texmaker (or TeXworks or MikTeX) or for an online collaborative version requiring no software installation go to Overleaf. A simple user's guide to LaTeX is available on the Laboratory web pages. (Please note that you are not required to use LaTeX to produce your lab reports; students with dyslexia may wish to bear this in mind if they plan to make use of DSA-supported proofreading services, which may require Word format.)


The Skills section of our departmental Laboratory web pages contains a wealth of appropriate resources to help you as you produce your laboratory reports. This includes written content, use of English and the production of graphical material. Also available there is a model lab report, to give you an example of what to aim for. The experiment written up for this example is an old Level 1 experiment we used to run in the Epiphany Term, which is now discontinued. This document should give you a good idea of the content, structure and presentation that we would expect from an excellent Level 1 report; however, please note that reports that do not strictly follow the example may still get top marks – this document merely shows what an excellent report might look like.

Graphical Excellence

Since 2012 the Department has awarded Prizes for Graphical Excellence in laboratory reports. £100 is awarded at each Laboratory Level with nominations made by markers. The prizes are awarded for the optimal presentation of quantitative data to best illustrate a particular physical phenomenon. Optimal presentation should include appropriate choice of data, theory, axis scaling and labelling, and aesthetic value, and may include innovative plotting ideas and originality. In 2017, on the 8th of March, International Women's Day , the prizes were renamed ‘The Florence Nightingale Prize for Graphical Excellence’, in recognition of Florence Nightingale’s pioneering contributions to visual presentation of information and statistical graphics.

Examples of previous winners are available at