In undergraduate exams, problems sets etc, their are often questions that take the form:

Describe an experiment in which you can measure $x$, $y$ and $z$.

Does anyone known of any resources, covering a wide range of topics, where one can look up e.g. 'Hall coefficient' and find experimental details of how this could be measured (at an undergrad level)?

  • $\begingroup$ very good description of some famous experiments in George Trigg: Landmark Experiments in Twentieth Century Physics, Dover Pubs., $\endgroup$
    – hyportnex
    Apr 7, 2017 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that when a professor asks you that she not generally expecting a polished procedure that would take publishable data. She just wants to know if you understand the pre-conditions and effects of the physic being asked about. I would always encourage students to read more about experiment—the subject is sadly neglected in the standard curriculum due to lack of time—but doing so in hopes of preempting coursework is the wrong motivation and would encourage the wrong kind of study. $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2017 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee you say 'doing so in hopes of preempting coursework is the wrong motivation' - agreed but many university courses nowadays don't appear to be about actually learning physics, just learning what is on the curriculum (at least where I am from). I am looking for the above resource to gain a deeper experimental understanding of the subject as a whole - most text books don't do this in a clear way and if you in books that specifically orientated at experiments they usually give 'a polished procedure' in far to much detail to be of much use. $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2017 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ There's a category for physics experiments on Wikipedia. Some pages describe replication: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Physics_experiments $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2019 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


A classic text recommended in many advanced undergraduate physics lab courses is Experiments in Modern Physics by Melissinos. It covers everything from alpha particle ionization to the Zeeman effect, including the Hall coefficient, and is most suitable for upper-level labs after first year. The 2003 Second Edition by Adrian C. Melissinos and Jim Napolitano is widely available new in both electronic and paper versions, e.g. from Amazon. If you search around you will also find the original 1966 version which may be better for some topics. For example, if you are interested in the Hall effect in semiconductors, you would want to look the 1966 edition, since 2003 edition Hall effect experiment is on bismuth, a semimetal.

Another well known text is The Art of Experimental Physics (1991) by Daryl W. Preston and Eric R. Dietz, also aimed at upper-level labs. This book has more background and less specific experimental detail, but this may be preferable if you only want a sketch of how to measure something, as would typically be expected for the answer to the exam question you give.

There are actually not a lot of books on how to do specific undergraduate experiments, but there is much information available from individual university lab courses. (Melissino's original book was based on material for an experimental physics lab course given to Junior/Senior students at the University of Rochester.) Students working on an experiment often find that looking at descriptions from other universities can be helpful. For example, you can find descriptions of how to make Hall effect measurements (and many others) by looking at lists of experiments from UC Berkeley, Colorado, Toronto (advanced, intermediate), and many other universities. Simply searching for Hall coefficient undergraduate lab will turn up many other sets of instructions. The various professors who author the experiment instructions have different viewpoints and backgrounds, so materials from different universities often complement each other.


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