An organized and reliable notebook is an essential tool for engineers at any level. You need somewhere to record, store, and validate your research, ideas, mistakes, and inventions. However, an engineering notebook is only as good as the individual who keeps it. You need the right note-taking habits and techniques to create a successful record of your work. To help you along the way, here are four tips on using an engineering notebook.
Create an Organization System
Your engineering lab notebook is going to hold a lot of data. You need a solid organization system to help you keep track of your information as you go. Leave a few pages blank at the front of your notebook, so you can build and continuously expand a table of contents. Additionally, try to keep a standard page format for all of your entries. This should include page numbers, dates, and a consistent template for your written notes, diagrams, and images.
Annotate All Figures and Images
One of the best tips on using an engineering notebook is to include images to help demonstrate your research and ideas. As you add sketches, charts, and other images, make sure you label them clearly. A drawing that makes sense to you now might mean nothing when you or someone else looks back on it after a few months. By labeling these images, you flesh out important notes and details of the ideas behind them.
Keep Pages in Good Shape
Your notebook is bound to see a little wear and tear as you work your way through it. However, it’s important to keep your pages as pristine as possible, so they can continue to serve you well. Don’t tear out or add pages. Avoid using markers that could bleed through the page. If you have loose-leaf inserts of additional information or images, make sure you attach them to the pages of your notebook rather than keep them tucked loosely between pages. This will make sure all of your information stays permanently in its spot, rather than falling out and getting lost.
Never Erase or Remove Information
Removing information from your notebook removes the integrity of your research. If you make a mistake and need to correct it, don’t erase or remove it. Cross it out and make your corrections in a way that keeps the original information legible. Mistakes are an important part of your process that you should keep alongside the rest of your notes.