What is a source of error? Use of Scientific Language in Writing
Keep this sheet for reference. Use for all lab write-ups, as well as when responding to
When asked to find a source of error, you are searching for likely causes of inaccurate, questions on quizzes, tests or the exam.
imprecise and/or inadequate results that were beyond your ability to control.
Colloquial or Slang Expressions often Equivalent (if applicable) of proper
Potential Sources of Error Not a Source of Error used by teachers and students when formal writing appropriate to science
(variables beyond your control that have (variables within your control or speaking or in informal writing (ex. reports or test papers
appreciable effect on data) variables that do not have an novels).
appreciable effect on data) INAPPROPRIATE IN SCIENTIFIC
- limitations of equipment/tools, i.e. - improper measurement taken due to WRITING
centigram balance can weigh only to the carelessness or lack of knowledge of how ...a lot of copper (II) sulfate was needed. …a considerable amount of copper (II)
nearest 0.01g to read the equipment (solution: re-do lab) sulfate was needed.
- the fact that when requested to add 10mL (“a lot” is informal/ colloquial)
of a substance, some students may add We then mix the solution. The solution was mixed.
9mL, and others 8mL I thought the lab was pretty poorly The design of the lab experiment was
- the fact that if requested to use ~2g (to designed. inadequate because…
0.01g) of a substance, one student (“pretty” is colloquial. Your “thoughts”
accurately masses 2.38g and another must be justified.)
accurately masses 1.53g. I thought the lab was pretty good. The lab performed successfully verified
- dirty glassware (solution: re-do with clean the law of conservation of mass.
glassware) Then u add the salt. *** Use of internet chat slang
- limitation of the procedure. The procedure - procedure followed incorrectly (solution: inappropriate.***
makes an assumption which is not entirely re-do lab) Instead: The salt was added.
true (i.e. the procedure may assume that all I liked the lab. It was fun. I learned a lot. Inappropriate for lab.
product of a reaction is being massed, when The lab shows that science can be fun and
some inevitably escapes) educational at the same time.
- the procedure assumes a condition which People didn’t always care about emissions. Emissions were not a concern throughout
is not entirely true much of history.
- purity of reagents (i.e. chemicals) used. - variables out of your control that usually *** Do not use CONTRACTIONS (ex.
Note: usually this is not the major source of have no appreciable effect on the data (ex. didn’t, couldn’t, hasn’t).
error in high school labs and should not be a small room temperature fluctuation from “What is ecology?” you may ask. I will tell Ecology is the study of….
stated the time you started to the time you you. *** Rhetorical questions or “attention
- non-calibrated thermometer or other finished the lab, usually the purity of grabbers” used in stories/novels
instrument that is providing you data that reagents, position changes of stars in the inappropriate in science.
effects the quality of the result sky)
In the body of your document At the end in a separate Reference
In lab write-ups: ex. – part of introduction section of lab ex. – part of reference section at back of
State the source of error explicitly explain how result is effected Introduction
Ecology is the study of how all References
organisms, including plants, animals,
insects and microbes function and interact Wilkinson, John; Jeffreys, Donald;
in their environment (Wilkinson et al.). It is Williams, Sue. Principles of Ecology.
important to understand ecology in a time Nelson Publishing, 2003.
when the earth is experiencing many
environmental problems (Wilkinson et al.).