1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Lab Partners-is it always like this, or is it just me?

  1. Jul 8, 2011 #1
    Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    This is something that has been in the back of my mind which is coming to the forefront as the semester goes on, and that is my experience in labs with lab partners--and I wonder if I am the source of the problem. I notice that in general students like to rush through the labs with very minimum attention to detail as they like to leave class early. But I wonder if I am overdoing things. I will give a few examples for clarification.

    In chemistry lab I have come into conflict with my lab partners about procedures and measurements. For example we had a stoichiometry lab and my partner got very angry that I checked her measurements as we were going through the lab. I was not checking to underestimate her in any way, but I actually think it is normal for both partners to check and agree on the measurements for the experiment. I was surprised that this upset her. I explained my point of view and she later understood. In another lab we were instructed to measure the solution to 3.3 mL--I was working with another partner. I noticed that she kept measuring at 3.0. I reminded her that the measurement was supposed to be 3.3, and she was upset that I was being so specific. Then were were supposed to calculate percentage error between measuring 9mL in a 25mL graduated cylinder versus a 10mL graduated cylinder and instead of reporting our actual error percentage, she filled the 10mL beaker to the 9mL mark to decrease the percentage of error. Then in physics class we were supposed to level the air track and my partners propped up the track with a board to make it level. I told them this may make our numbers inaccurate and we should level the track by adjusting the legs, and one guy really got annoyed with me. They all decided to just prop it up with the board because it was level that way, and our results were very inaccurate.

    I am not rude or condescending with the aforementioned, I just let them know in a matter of fact way. I know that people do not like to be corrected in general, but shouldn't accuracy be appreciated in lab? I have had partners correct me for things I would have potentially done wrong and I was very happy they did. Do you double check measurements with your lab partners? I am still doing lower level classes so I'm not sure if this sort of thing will change as accuracy begins to matter more. I have stayed in lab sometimes a little later than all of the others because I had to redo certain experiments which were executed incorrectly, but my partners were in such a rush they did not wish to correct it. The professors do not lower your marks for inaccuracy as long as you report your source of error and deviation from procedure. Am I overdoing it by caring about accuracy in this scenario?

    Sorry if this is lengthy!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2011 #2
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    I've had similar experiences with lab partners. I always take the time to do it right and understand what's going on. But most importantly, I have fun in lab. I think this confuses a lot of my lab partners, because they look at labs as a chore.

    As for 'correcting' lab partners, I haven't had any issue with it. Usually it's a little painful at first because I usually have a good intuition as to what needs to be done, and people are skeptical at first. Usually they come around to seeing the way I see towards the middle of the semester.
  4. Jul 8, 2011 #3
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    Thanks Angry Citizen. I also have fun in lab :)

    Maybe they will come around :). I have noticed that more people are coming to me for help when they are stuck, but I have not worked with them before.
  5. Jul 8, 2011 #4

    I like Serena

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    Hi again HeLiXe! :smile:

    Obviously working carefully and accurately is at the core of doing science!

    And as sources of irritation and frustration go, working with someone who is sloppy and uncareful is a major source of it!
    Much more so than working with someone you know will be careful and who you can rely on, not even feeling the need to check their work, although double checking is also elemental in doing science.

    That said, it is also annoying to be criticized, and for someone not trusting you to do your work properly.
    (Ever hear someone say: "if you know it all so well, why don't you do everything yourself!").
    That sort of emotions are in the way of the work and that's not what you want.

    To deal with it takes major social and communicative skills.
    There are entire educations for exactly that! :smile:
    It's what any manager needs to learn.

    One of the elemental skills is being nice to your partner, thank him/her, and compliment on stuff (s)he's doing right.
    I think you already know that (seeing other posts from you)! :biggrin:
  6. Jul 8, 2011 #5
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    It's always like this.
  7. Jul 8, 2011 #6
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    Thanks streeters >_<
    Hii :biggrin:

    I have heard this said-- fortunately not to me. You are right it is annoying to be criticised. I considered if I am coming across that way, and I do not think I am being critical. The way I see it we (persons in my classes) are all developing fundamental skills and are not remotely at the level of mastery. Oddly in high school it was the norm to check the things that matter and make sure everything is accurate, so I don't understand why it is seen as offensive in college. I see it as part of the science--nothing personal. As you said it is elemental. It does not bother me if someone makes an error (I once broke a graduated cylinder lol). I just want our lab to have accurate results, and I value learning to do things correctly.

    You are too kind :D Indeed I thank my lab partners and compliment them.

    Thank you for your comments. I will keep these things you said in mind during my next lab lol. It is disturbing to upset someone over these things.
  8. Jul 8, 2011 #7
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    I think you might be going a little too far with this. I've had lab partners that have consistently asked me "You measured 10 ml, right?" and so forth, but if they had actually taken my test tubes and physically measured the 10ml instead of having a little faith in me I would have been very offended. Regardless of your intentions, it comes off as very rude (to me at least).
  9. Jul 8, 2011 #8
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    Thanks JNBirDy. Your response is insightful. I can see how it would be annoying if you feel that your partner has lack of faith in you by looking at the test tubes. I never considered someone checking my measurements as a lack of faith in me, so I was insensitive to this. Thank you!! In these scenarios I actually asked my partner before I checked the measurement or checked the cylinder if it was on the table (while she was doing something else) before mixing it in the solution. I never took it from her and measured it...I think taking it from her instead of just asking would be a bit rude.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011
  10. Jul 8, 2011 #9
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    Why would you be offended, JNB? Most labs don't ask for 10 mL to one significant figure. There is often some subjectivity in the last digit of a measurement. When I took chemistry, my lab partner and I would almost always check each other's measurements. Often, it would be just "yep, I agree." Other times, it would be "10.2? That looks more like 10.4 to me." After a small debate, we'd usually agree to meet in the middle.

    That's nothing to get offended about.
  11. Jul 8, 2011 #10
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    I'd not get offended, but especially for introductory labs, it's probably a little OCD to worry about doing everything exactly right. Lots of science/engineering types can be perfectionists... but it probably wouldn't hurt to work at gauging the seriousness of the situation and adjusting your level of interest to an appropriate level.

    That being said, it never gets any better. A bunch of really smart colleagues in my lab tend to sort of "wing it" when it comes to "setting up" and getting everything together. I try to voice my concern when I feel it's important... but otherwise, I find that going with the flow tends to work out about as well in the end.
  12. Jul 8, 2011 #11
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    I think I see it your way Jack.

    Just wanted to clarify that for the 3.3 mL scenario above we were using the 10ml grad cylinder, which as you know is certain to the tenth.
  13. Jul 8, 2011 #12
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    Thanks so much aegrisomnia :) If the accuracy of the measurement is not important I do not worry about it. For example we had a halogens lab and the 1ml measurements were taken using the 20 drop method. I didn't even think to ask my partner if she put 20 drops in the tube, but I think the measurements for stoichiometry and determining the density of a solid were important. In any event you are right about being OCD and gauging the seriousness of the situation. :)
  14. Jul 8, 2011 #13
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    You're just being accurate, and I think that's a very good thing. Checking your partners result is necessary, in my opinion. Whenever I worked it groups with people, I would always check other people's result, I'd point out the mistake and let them correct it. Fine, some people were definitely annoyed with me, but I don't really care.

    Keep that accuracy, HeLiXe, you'll benifit a lot from that attitude!! :smile:
  15. Jul 8, 2011 #14


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    Just to add some perspective, it seems like these are mostly introductory labs, no? In that case, most of the students probably are not too engaged in the experiments (as they are somewhat silly, like the carts on the air track you mention). That's why most people just want to get in and get out and move on to more important work.

    In an upper division lab course, the kind of rigor you have is extremely useful, and indeed almost necessary. So while you might be wading through a sea of unmotivated fellow undergraduates, I echo micromass' advice: keep it up.
  16. Jul 8, 2011 #15
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    Part of the reason that I would get offend while others might not is that I haven't had a single lab partner who wasn't a friend of mine. To think that a friend had little faith in my ability would be quite disheartening, however, if it was a stranger who I had met just that day, I would understand that they might not know how competent I am and that they are just being careful.

    Also, I've only finished my freshman year at university and all of my labs so far have been introductory-level and quite basic. Meaning that although accuracy was important, being a little bit inaccurate really didn't affect the results or my mark.

    That being said, I think that you should still be extremely careful during your labs and try to be as accurate as possible. If to be as accurate as possible you need to check your lab partners measurement and results, then so be it.
  17. Jul 8, 2011 #16
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    I think it'd be better if you had a little less blind faith in your own ability to distinguish between 9.6 mL and 9.8 mL in a 10 mL graduated cylinder, or the exact wavelength on an oscilloscope. There's no harm in getting two sets of eyes on a reading, and you need to stop taking it as a personal attack when somebody wants to question your imperfect eyes and imperfect judgment.
  18. Jul 8, 2011 #17
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    Ok. Point taken. I think my posts may have made me come off as someone who thinks they're perfect and can't stand any sort of criticism, which isn't true. In all honesty I'd welcome and hope that I had a lab partner who was so concerned about the accuracy of the lab measurements and results, that they would be willing to take the extra time to double check the measurements, but I haven't. I've only finished my freshman year and I generally pick lab partners based off of friendship - not whether or not they'll help me get a good mark. Also, my lab partners have generally been people who'd rather finish the lab early and leave than stay a bit later but have more accurate results.
  19. Jul 8, 2011 #18


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    It sounds like you're learning one of the more important lessons you can learn in labs - how to collaborate with others.

    Keep working at it. There's a reason why 'project management' has become a profession of its own. These aren't the kind of skills that you'll learn over night.
  20. Jul 9, 2011 #19
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    If possible I always check it behind his or her back.
  21. Jul 9, 2011 #20
    Re: Lab Partners--is it always like this, or is it just me?

    Thanks micromass :). It really does annoy some people. One girl was yelling at me in lab for checking the graduated cylinder :uhh:
    Thanks so much Nabeshin. Yes these are introductory labs.
    Ah okay that explains it a bit better. Still you brought up a good point before, some people may think that checking their work is an underestimation of their ability. The way I see it, if we are working together in a lab we should agree on the data. I'm finishing up my sophomore year so the labs are still basic. Inaccuracy does not affect our marks providing we detail the source of error in our lab reports, but I really think the labs teach us fundamental skills. I would like to work in research one day so I try to get the most from my labs as I can, but I understand others do not have the same goals and labs are not as important to them.
    Thanks so much Choppy :)
    :rofl: lolol
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Threads for Partners always
Studying Is learning derivations of formulae always very important?