Why Use a Laboratory Research Notebook in the Classroom?
As educators, our job is to prepare our students for either further learning at a higher level facility, or for the career field they hope to enter. The science curriculum and subsequent career fields are areas where passion abounds. Though we may have a love for science, that does not mean we or our students have a natural ability to recall, or a knack for recording data.
By introducing students to the laboratory research notebook in the classroom, studies have shown greater academic achievement. Students are also better prepared to function in their chosen career field where these notebooks are often in use. Some of the benefits of providing each student with a laboratory research notebook are:
- Highly organized data helps students enhance their analytical skills
- Teachers can use the notebooks to assess student’s progress
- Notebooks can improve the teacher-student relationship
- The opportunity for cheating is eliminated
- Students are better able to understand scientific concepts
- Understanding larger concepts becomes a much simpler task
When choosing a research notebook that will allow you to bring these benefits to your classroom, look for products that offer white, carbonless paper. This affords you the best clarity without smudging. Both the front and back covers should be laminated to help protect the contents.
Since the research notebook may become a valuable tool for any budding scientist, understanding its importance should be introduced in the classroom. It is the best way to prepare students for a successful career in science. In addition to having a written record of a project, the student also learns to stop and think about the steps unfolding in the lab as they are recorded. The experience is priceless.
Science majors may be familiar with what a scientific notebook is and how it is used, but those taking science as a minor or elective may not be as familiar. It is a special notebook used to preserve data from experiments and the observations made throughout the experimentation process. All the entries in the notebook must be recorded in a manner that is clear, concise and complete. This includes even unsuccessful experiments, so that the journey to success is well documented.
If you are unsure about what or how much to write, a simple guideline is to provide enough detail that someone else would be able to read your notes in the future and replicate the procedure. They should be able to follow your written directions and read your observations in order to achieve the same results. You should also be able to look back at your own notes from some point in the future and be able to understand fully what transpired.
Once this information has been recorded, it can be used as a basis for analysis, discussion and interpretation of results. From here, the student can use the scientific notebook to write reports, theses, technical papers and other written documents based on the research. A familiarity with these notebooks and how they are used will be helpful if the student goes on to a career field where they are used regularly. Some companies maintain these notebooks for years, as a way of substantiating their research or discovery in pursuit of a patent.
Journaling Your Past for the Future
Journals have been used for hundreds of years and for many reasons. For instance, the earliest known journals date back to 6 AD in China. In the 10th century, Japanese ladies used “pillow books,” which they kept in their bedrooms to record dreams in poetic or pictorial form. During the Renaissance, when the idea of “self” became more prominent, journals or diaries became more prominent. Throughout time, many famous people have kept diaries or journals. Most notably among these are Anne Frank, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Ronald Reagan.
Today journaling is very popular. It is sometimes used for therapeutic reasons to help individuals work through some troubling issue. Others use journaling to record a personal journey, such as one’s first pregnancy or the process of working toward a career goal. Others document things like the steps to developing a new product or starting a business. Still others simply keep a daily accounting of their life for personal reasons.
Our ancestors did not have the benefit of archival pens to help preserve their thoughts. Who knows how many other journals might have been preserved, if the proper ink had been available. Older inks and non-archival inks can, over time, lead to a breakdown of the paper used. This can have the opposite of the desired result. It can degrade the writing, rather than preserve it.
Archival pens use special ink designed to be waterproof and resistant to chemicals. These pens will not smear or bleed through the paper, leaving your words intact and legible for many years to come.
If you are taking your first science course or working in a laboratory for the first time, you may be unfamiliar with lab notebooks and how to fill them out. They serve an important purpose, and keeping good records is imperative, in the areas of science and research. Follow a few simple tips, and your lab notebook will be a useful resource for your project.
You need to keep a daily record of why experiments were begun and what they accomplished. You can never rely on your memory alone. If your work leads to an important discovery or patent application, you will need to be able to prove what you did.
Maintaining your notebook gives you one place to store your data. You can keep your statistics in it, along with graphs of your hits and misses. Gone are the days when you could simply jot your notes on a Post-it note or piece of scratch paper. A lab notebook lets you be accountable. With your notes neatly collected in one place, you can review them easily and brainstorm new ideas.
In the event you want or need to pass on your research or project, you will be able to do so in an orderly fashion. While you may not think this is a realistic possibility, you never know when genius will strike. In the event you are unable to complete your work, a well-kept notebook is your legacy and your successor’s roadmap to the completion of the project. Never underestimate the power of good record keeping.
Help Your Student Prepare for a Science Career with the Right Notebooks
If you have a high school or college level student who is pursuing an education that will support a career in science, or are a teacher of science at the high school or college level, there are some simple things you can do to help students move seamlessly into this academic and career field. You may think one notebook is like another. Some are wide ruled, and some are college ruled, but that’s as far as the differences go, right? You would be surprised.
In science, there are specialized notebooks that help researchers record all the data unique to the type of work they do. These scientific notebooks are important because, in some cases, they are used to support a request for a patent or to substantiate the scientific process used to achieve certain results. By supplying these notebooks for your students to use, you will be helping him or her get used to doing things correctly, the way their peers in the field will be doing things.
Students may not need full blown scientific notebooks, but there are student versions available at a reduced price. They still offer many of the same features that professional scientists need, but are organized for use in the classroom. They contain a table of contents students can use to organize their notes. Pages contain grids for recording data, and a signature space at the bottom is very similar to notebooks used in scientific labs across the country.
For teachers, this is a helpful tool. When it comes to grading notebooks, it is easier to do if all the students are using the same type of notebook. You will spend less time trying to decipher what the student recorded and how it was organized.
When you do a research project at the graduate level, you have to look at it as a professional project, rather than another homework assignment. Not only does your research project require more in the way of in-depth research; it may be published by the school. This can lead to many professional opportunities for you, but it can also be your downfall if you do not go about it correctly. Below are some tips to help you navigate this project.
Use the right tools. Do NOT even think about sourcing places like Wikipedia. You need peer reviewed journals and other sources that are recognized by the academic world. You should also use a laboratory research notebook to keep track of your notes. Your laboratory research notebook is important because it provides a legal document to reference the progress of your research. If you are also saving data online, be sure to use a cloud service so that you have your data even if your computer crashes.
Don’t be afraid to refine your hypothesis. Before you get too far into writing your paper, make sure you have several sources to back up the facts you use to develop your hypothesis. If you don’t, you may want to rethink your hypothesis to do the research to back up the hypothesis you wanted to work on. Keep in mind that this frequently happens when you do qualitative research that tends to evolve as you work your way through the project. You may want to stick with quantitative research if you are in a hurry to complete the project.
Plan for the Details of Your New Engineering Project
If you are working on a new engineering project, you are probably pretty excited to start this new endeavor. New projects are always fun, but if you don’t take the right steps, all that fun can cause you to destroy the fruits of your own labor. Make sure you take the steps below to protect yourself.
Research your staff. If you have people working with you, do some in-depth research so that you know you are working with a trustworthy group who is not going to steal your designs or ideas. Even with a patent, you are at risk when you work with people who are not fully trustworthy.
Set your materials up for protection. You probably already know to use engineering notebooks, but do you know how to set them up so that your ideas are safe? As you take notes throughout the day, if you have someone else put those notes in your engineering notebooks, you need to assign them a specific code for the day and divide the work so that all of the information is entered, but no one person has access to all the information.
Put a non-disclosure agreement in place. Before you let anyone into your lab or office, they need to sign a non-disclosure agreement that says they will not use or share any of your work, including your ideas, whether they are developed or not. This gives you some legal ground to stand on if you ever need to deal with the issue of someone taking your work or ideas and claiming them as their own.
Earning a patent on your work takes a great deal of time, effort, and documentation. The process for getting a patent requires that applicants keep detailed, chronological notes that are clear and concise. They must show specific dates along the path of development. In addition, the applicant must also have someone who is not an inventor of the patentable item corroborate the data. He or she is required to sign and date the “Disclosed to and Understood by” blocks for each event. This documentation, complete with the non-inventor documentation, is the purpose of recording in an engineering notebook.
With an engineering notebook at your disposal, you will be able to prove the date you conceptualized the invention and the date you first made a working or physical prototype of your invention. The notebook will also contain your notations regarding your efforts to diligently bring your invention to fruition. Other details contained in the notebook include an explanation of how to make and use the invention.
This information, when properly recorded and corroborated, is adequate for submission to the patent office. It can also be used to substantiate your claims of ownership, should your patent ever be challenged. This notebook creates a legal document that will support your efforts and your rights. For this reason, it is imperative that you follow the proper procedures for notating dates, important data and signatures. Just as important is the need to protect its cleanliness and take care of the notebook. Without this documentation, your request for a patent will most likely be denied.
Clean Room Basics
In a manufacturing application, a clean room is an environmentally controlled space where goods are manufactured. There are specific limits to the number of airborne particles that are acceptable in this environment, and eliminating their presence is a matter of extreme control. Contaminants to the space can have a detrimental effect on the goods being produced. These contaminants can come from a variety of sources, such as the facilities, equipment being used, people, and the process employed. These contaminants have to be removed from the air as quickly as possible.
The easiest way to exert this type of control is to set aside a designated space that conforms to these requirements. Great care must be exercised in clean rooms. This includes controlling what is brought into the area, as it could contain contaminates. Specialized tools and supplies are often used to help reduce the potential for contamination.
Even the tools used for documenting processes, taking notes, and keeping track of inventory must pass muster. Cleanroom notebooks and special pens are often used because they do not shed as many fibers as standard pens and paper. Even these supplies must often meet state, industry or federal regulations.
There are suppliers who deal exclusively in providing materials such as cleanroom notebooks and pens. They can provide the specific materials needed to keep a cleanroom in compliance, as well as the documentation to prove their goods meet the necessary specifications. With the appropriate documentation and supplies, a cleanroom can remain within the acceptable levels of pollutants and perform its designated task.