Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Intermediate Physic

Intermediate Physics Lab (P440/441) – Preparation of Manuscripts
Rather than a conventional lab report, the group will produce a manuscript in the form required for the
research journal Physical Review Letters. The only difference will be the length: your manuscript will be
no more than nine pages total, including abstract, text, references, figures & figure captions, and tables.
The purposes of the manuscript are the same as for the final presentation, which we repeat here:
(a) To tell us what you did and why. Do not assume that your reader already knows the new physics that
you have had to learn to do the experiment. Do not assume your reader knows anything at all about the
experimental setup. Show at least some real data to make your reader believe you really did an experiment.
(b) To convince your always-skeptical reader that you understand the main sources of uncertainty in your
(c) To present your results in an honest, straightforward way. Do not oversell by pretending to measure
results that you really didn't; do not undersell by failing to extract all the possible value from your data and
observations. Of course, any omissions or errors that came to light during the final presentation must be
dealt with correctly in the final manuscript.
(d) To present raw data as well as the results of analysis. Large data tables are not helpful; usually a plot
will suffice. The text can provide, for example the parameters from a curve-fitting analysis (in which case
the best-fit curve should be shown on the plot).
The journal Physical Review Letters (PRL) provides guides to style and formatting, to which you can refer.
They are available on the web (along with the journal itself) at You can also find
information on the PACS numbers here or use Google. But please do not worry about details of font type,
and do note that the length limitation that we use (specified on the next page) differs from that of the
1. Get a copy of a recent article in PRL, either electronically or at the library, to use as a guide to follow.
NOTE: As printed, the manuscript is two columns, single spaced, with figures embedded. As submitted to
instructors and your peers, the manuscript is one column, double spaced. To facilitate editing, place each
figure on a separate page at the end of the manuscript. Each figure must have an informative caption ("Fig.
1. Diagram of the apparatus. The blah, blah, blah...."). See the following page for details.
2. The designated first author will produce a manuscript using a word processor (or Latex/Revtex, if you
know how and wish to). The draft must include all necessary elements: Abstract, PACs numbers,
references, figure captions, and figures.
3. Print one copy for the instructors and give it to them in person or to the designated place. These
manuscripts are due on the designated date and must meet the style requirements. Using the form on
the next page, the instructors will do a quick “editorial style check”. Major noncompliance with the style
guidelines must be repaired immediately before further consideration of the manuscript. Once the
style guidelines are met, we will review the draft and add our comments.
4. At the same time, distribute copies of the draft for the other group members. (Use the ILab file cabinet
and email notices to aid in distribution to your colleagues.)
5. The other group members will mark up their copies of the draft, suggesting changes both minor and
major. We expect substantial editing from each group member, not just a few minor changes.
6. The final version of the manuscript is due one week after comments on the edited drafts are
received. (This is specified in the course schedule.) IMPORTANT: Please bring the first drafts with the
written comments to the lab or to the instructor’s office, along with a single copy of the final manuscript.

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