Undergraduate Teaching 2018-19

Part IIA coursework & labs overview

Part IIA coursework & labs overview

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Module-related coursework

All Part IIA modules in Groups A-G and M have associated with them at least one lab experiment or written assignment. Experiments typically involve 2 hours in the lab, working individually or in pairs, with a 2-3 hour individual write-up (although some modules may have special arrangements). 

You are strongly encouraged to complete coursework for all your modules from Groups A-G and M. If you do complete more than eight eligible pieces of coursework, your best eight marks will be carried forward towards your Part IIA coursework credit total.

Modules in Groups I and S will be assessed by examination (and in some cases coursework as well) but all marks achieved on these modules will contribute to your overall Part IIA examination mark and will not count as part of your Part IIA coursework credit.

The management modules (in Group E) each have a single piece of coursework instead of a lab experiment. Details of their scope and arrangements for submission will be announced in lectures.

Preparation for the lab

In most cases, Lab Leaders will provide lab handouts online or on paper before the lab. You are required to read these handouts before lab sessions, and perform any activity required by the Lab Leader as a preparation for the lab. This is essential to complete the activity in the allocated time. Lab demonstrators are invited to check that students arrive prepared, and might penalise students who come unprepared. 

Lab reports

Students are required to provide their own lab books and paper for recording and/or plotting data during the lab sessions when appropriate. It is best practice to plot graphs (on paper or computer) while you are still at the lab bench so that you can see if you have enough points in the right places to define the required curve – or if you have any readings which look suspect and should be repeated. We are especially insistent that all original readings are retained and submitted in your report.

Writing the report should take no more than two to three hours after the lab. There is no generic guidance regarding constraints on report length or whether hand-written documents would be accepted or not, but word-processed documents with properly typeset equations are recommended. A total length of 3-5 pages would be considered standard. Please check the guidelines from the Lab Leader for that respect. Any instruction from the lab leaders takes precedence over departmental guidelines. Lab leader might apply penalties if students do not comply with the lab report rules of their module.

Guidance on report writing

Part II coursework is assessed not only on technical content but also on report-writing and exposition skills.

See the report writing guide for generic guidance.  The lab handouts will outline the technical aspects of the problem you should address when writing your lab report or FTR, and may provide guidance on the required content and structure of the report: specific instructions given in the lab handouts always take precedence.

Feedback sheets

If submitted on paper, all reports (or essays for Group E modules) must be submitted with a coversheet attached. The coversheet highlight the criteria for marking and guides the marker during the assessment of the report. The department provides a generic feedback sheet, but Lab Leaders are encouraged to provide a module specific feedback sheet if they would like to use different criteria. In such cases, the new coversheet would have to be made available to students at the time of the lab.

Markers will be looking for a clear record of the practical work you have carried out, together with appropriate discussion. Readings taken jointly in the laboratory may of course be shared with your lab partner, but reports must be written individually.  See the guidance on cooperation and cheating.

Extension Activity (ExA) 

Most ExAs are designed to introduce you to various measurement and test procedures in your chosen professional area, but non-technical options also exist, such as the Language ExA. The commitment is 16 hours total, including up to 12 in the laboratory or the field.  The form of the report will vary from area to area.  Timetable arrangements also vary, but in all cases they only run on certain specified dates. 

You should sign up for your ExA first and then fit your regular module labs around it. Sign-up may be on-line or on a signing sheet. Please consult the ExA page for more information.

The deadline for booking your ExA (for either Michaelmas or Lent) is Wednesday of week 1 in Michaelmas Term

Full technical reports (FTRs)

You must submit a total of two full technical reports, at least one of which must be in the Michaelmas term.  You must register your choice of full technical report by the end of term in which the module takes place.  These reports are based on an expansion of a module experiment, and each should involve a further 10 hours work.  Some modules may substitute a written exercise or essay for the full technical report.  Lab handouts explicitly state whether they are suitable as the basis of an FTR. 

There are no FTRs associated with modules in Groups E, I, M or S. 

Having checked that a lab is suitable, you should complete the experimental work early in the term and submit the lab report no later than week 6. This gives time for it to be marked and returned to you before you write your FTR. FTRs rarely require you to carry out additional experimental work, but they do usually require a significantly more extensive analysis of the experimental findings, and/or further reading and discussion of the technical literature. The report itself should be typed or word processed to a professional standard – FTRs are assessed for quality of presentation as well as technical content.

The object of the exercise is to enhance your technical communication skills – your ability to explain to others what you have done and to provide appropriate concise discussion.  The main body of the text must be your own work.  The marked module lab report should be included as an appendix to the completed FTR. 

Your FTR should not exceed 10 pages (including title page, diagrams, appendices etc., but excluding the original lab report if included as an appendix) and be written in a sensible font size (minimum 11 pt) with appropriate line spacing. Generic FTR feedback sheets are available online, but Lab leaders may provide instead a module specific feedback sheet adapted to the needs of their lab. 

FTR deadlines

The Michaelmas term FTR must be submitted by 4pm on Wed 6 December 2017, and will be marked over the Christmas vacation and available for collection at the start of the Lent term.  The Lent term FTR must be submitted by 4pm on Wed 21 March 2018 and will be marked over the Easter vacation. 

Most lab leaders would allow you to submit your report electronically on Moodle. If paper submission is allowed or requested, FTRs must be handed in directly to the group centre for the relevant module, to the designated person or a secure mailbox. Do not leave your report in an open unattended tray, and do keep a copy. Collection is from the group centre where you handed it in.

Signing up for labs

Most labs have a booking system but a few have a restricted rota or experiments that are available only for a limited period.  Any special arrangements for module practical work will usually be described during the first module lecture.  Sign-up may be on-line or sheets located in group centres. Some modules offer a choice of lab, but you may only sign up for one lab associated with the module. You may sign up only for labs associated with modules you are taking. Please remember to remove your name from lab signing sheets if you change your module choice.

Study the booking sheets for all your modules before signing up.  Sign up for your ExA and get any fixed commitments sorted before signing up for the remaining experiments.  For most labs in Groups A, C, D and G you will usually work in pairs (formed for each experiment), but for labs within Groups B, F and M you will usually work singly.

NB: the first lab period is on Friday 6 October 2017, so sign up for at least one experiment before then.  Lab handouts will be available and the booking sheets posted by 9am on Wednesday 6 October 2017.


Completed reports must be submitted for marking within 2 weeks of carrying out the experiment. The default latest time for handing in coursework on the deadline date is 4pm (unless you are specifically told otherwise in the coursework instructions for a given activity).

Marked reports should be returned within 15 term days (inclusive) of a hand-in date (or by the Friday of week 1 at the start of the following term, if there are fewer than 15 days remaining in term). Arrangements for marking may slightly vary from lab to lab. In most cases, reports are collected in, marked and returned with a feedback sheet. Group feedback sessions might also be offered in order to cover most common issues with the reports and provide students with an opportunity to discuss specific aspects of their report.

Plan ahead: any experiment that you are considering writing up as a FTR should be done early enough in the term for the marked lab report to be returned well before the FTR deadline at the end of term.

For details of the mark schemes and penalties see the table in the structure & balance of work.

Coursework mark records

Some lab leaders display marks alongside the lab booking sheets, but it is important that you retain all your marked coursework, in case of later query, and for scrutiny by the external examiners.  During the Easter term, a consolidated list of coursework credit marks will be displayed in the foyer of the Baker Building and there will be an opportunity to rectify any clerical errors that have arisen.  Students will be emailed to check the list, and any queries must be made by Wednesday 30 May 2018 at the latest, by email to the relevant lab coordinator: Dr D Liang

Last updated on 15/12/2017 12:40