Recording your results in a table

Neat tables should always be used to present the results of your experiments.

    There should be a column for

    • each set of readings taken (never omit these!)
    • each set of calculated values from the experimental data (these may be derived for you to calculate values or plot a graph)


    Headings should

    • be at the top of a column of numbers (this is preferable to on the left of a series of results).
    • give the physical quantity measured in words (eg. current, potential difference, length, time) . Abbeviations (I, V, l, t) can be used only if it is clear what they stand for in the text - it is best to include both! Do not use 'amount of' or 'quantity of'' - use 'volume' or 'mass'
    • include the unit the physical property is measured in. This should preferably be the S.I. unit (as this is the one that will be required in calculations).e.g. Current I (A)
    • have an indication of the error involved in taking the reading (if applicable). This can be given as a + value or percentage and indicates the uncertainty you have in taking the measurement - the reading is usually taken to about the nearest of a half a sale marking.
    • have border lines drawn around them.


    Columns should

    • contain only numerals (your units are at the top already.... it would be a mistake to put them in again!)
    • contain numbers to the correct number of significant figures. This should indicate the accuracy to which you can read the instruments you have used. (e.g. 0.20 m indicates a reading taken to the nearest cm whereas 0.2 cm indicates you can only read to the nearest 10 cm and 0.200 m to the nearest mm). Therefore a column representing a set of readings taken with the same instrument should all have the same number of significant figures.
    • have border lines drawn around them


    Word-processing results can lead to errors. You should be very careful to check your final draft carefully

    Common errors that lose you marks:

    • Using the wrong font: remember the symbol allows you to put in greek letters such as , , and .
    • Puting numbers in to the wrong number of significant figures (especially if worked out on a spreadsheet without thought to formatting the numbers in the column.
    • Missing out the columns with readings taken - only including columns needed to calculate the conclusion value or plot a graph is a major error - you must include the columns of results you took during the experiment!
    • Incorrectly calculated derived values because you have put in the wrong formula - always check at least two values in a 'fill down' column with your calculator!
    • Not drawing a border - making it a list of numbers not a table of results.



L O Jones (October 2001)