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Advice on Organizing Your Lab Notebook
In scientific research, the lab notebook is often considered a legal document, such as for the purposes of patents or to meet FDA guidelines for drug research. Therefore it is important to start good habits that will make your notebook as efficient and accurate as possible. Some more commone tips include:
- Use permanent ink
- Initial and date every page
- Leave a blank page or two at the beginning of your notebook so you can create a Table of Contents
- Draw only a single line through all errors written, so they still can be seen
- Create a table of important chemicals and their relevant properties at the beginning of each experiment
- Record what you have done, not what your lab manual says
- Record all observations and explanations of why they happened
- Be as descriptive as possible with titles and headings for your experiments; for example do not write "Chemical Synthesis," instead write "Preparation of Alum"
- Cross out all blank space at the bottom of the last page of each experiment; start a new page for each experiment
- At the end of each lab, ask yourself, "Can I recreate this experiment/my results with what I have written down?"
Sample Lab Notebook Pages
Sample Lab Report #1
In this version, the procedure is written out and then followed by the data and observations. [Courtesy Univ. of Colorado]
Sample Lab Notebook #2
In this version, the procedure and the data & observations are presented in a two-column table, so that an observation can be placed directly to the right of the corresponding step in the procedure. [Courtesy Univ. New Mexico]