Monthly Archives: March 2014

Steps Involved in Conducting Research

True scientific research follows a strict protocol and well-established processes. The type of “research” one might conduct in the library for a paper is not the same as the type of research done for scientific purposes. Research aims to observe and describe, predict, determine the causes and explain. All of this data is typically recorded in some type of research notebook.

It begins, like an hourglass, with a broad set of questions, and then narrows to focus on one particular point. From there, research is designed to analyze and observe this point. Finally, the hourglass widens again to encompass conclusions and generalizations based on the findings.

In all disciplines, the research must start by setting a goal, clearly defined and usually in the form of a hypothesis. The entire study will focus on this hypothesis and targets one unique aspect of it. Results are then interpreted. That is, the researcher offers an explanation as to why the results appear the way they do. There needs to be a clear procedure so that the process can be duplicated. This allows for independent verification of the results.

Great care should be put into the planning the steps of the experiment to keep it focused on answering the hypothesis. If done properly, the results will spur the researcher in another direction in search of more answers. It will also make it easy for those who follow to test the theories put forth in the research notebook with a great level of accuracy and credibility.

Who Owns Your Research Notebook?

There are conflicting arguments over who owns a research notebook. Is it the person responsible for the research? If the research is done by a student, does it belong to the school that funded the research?

The answer to this problem is complex, and there really is no right or wrong opinion on the subject. Before you begin a research project at a university, it may be a good idea to ask about ownership of the research material and results. This can prevent some uncomfortable conversations in the future.

Many universities claim ownership of all research notebooks, and they insist that the books not leave the research facility. This means that any and all work you do must be performed at the facility, as it is not proper form to work on projects in a different notebook and transfer them to the official document.

If you are the lead researcher for a project—and you are not an undergraduate student—you may be able to negotiate your ownership of the material. The most important objective should be—aside from your research itself— to protect your intellectual property. If you make a breakthrough, you want to be able to claim ownership of your own work.

Talk to your university or research facility before applying for grants, assembling a research team, and starting a project. If the terms don’t meet your requirements, you may want to consider doing your research independently, to protect the ownership of your research.

Three Critical Mistakes People Make with Lab Notebooks

Laboratory notebooks serve to protect your ideas while helping you stay organized throughout your research. While they may seem pretty easy to use, many people make errors in their notebooks that can render their original ideas impossible to defend in court. Here are three mistakes to avoid:

Tearing Out Pages

If your notebook is missing pages, someone could argue in court that the missing pages contain proof that the ideas in your research are not your own. Never remove pages from your book. Your lab notebook will be your proof of work for years to come, so treat it like the legal document it is and preserve its authenticity. 

Crossing Out Mistakes

All of your notes are critical, not just the ones that prove your ideas are successful. Always leave everything in your laboratory notebooks—even the mistakes. Sometimes, you can see the right path to take based on your failures, which makes keeping track of mistakes all the more important.

Using Scratch Paper

Sure, scratch paper is useful for figuring out a quick formula, but the point of your notebook is to show all your work. This is why you should put all your math in the book, even if it’s a simple addition problem. Don’t be worried that someone will judge your work based on your math problems. They will just be jealous they didn’t come up with your idea first.

Now that you know the three biggest mistakes to avoid, you can keep your lab book meticulously; so all your research will be valid and accurate.

Basics of a Design Notebook

If you have had an idea for designing something, you know that your ideas, thoughts and plans can come to you at odd times and in unusual places. Writing these things down in a variety of places could prove to be problematic if you ever choose to move beyond the idea phase. Very seldom does an idea drawn on a napkin, as were some of Michelangelo’s sketches for the Sistine Chapel, work as an efficient method of record keeping. That is why engineering notebooks were invented.

A design or engineering notebook lets the inventor keep a written record of the design project from concept to completion. As the project progresses, research, observations, sketches and questions that arise can be recorded in the notebook, making it easy to go back and find these details later. By keeping everything in one place, recorded in neat, chronological order, you or a contemporary can go back and retrace the design process and get the same results or find the errors.

If you are not sure what to put in the design notebook, include everything. It should begin the moment you first conceive of your idea and record every step, thought or idea that occurs from then on. In some instances you may need to attach other documents and drawings by means of tape or glue. As long as all the background research, interviews with experts and potential consumers, drawings and photos end up in the book, it will form a complete record of the design process. This is what engineering notebooks were meant to accomplish.

Great Science Fair Lab Notebooks

The science fair is coming and you have a great project in mind. Science fair participants often win great rewards, such as bonus points in school, and maybe scholarship money for college. With so much at stake, it is imperative that you always put your best foot forward. Judges, teachers and other science fair participants are likely to ask many questions about your project, from how you started it, to what steps you took in developing it. Keeping your research, ideas and findings in laboratory notebooks can not only help you develop your project smoothly, but can help you answer the questions and win the prize!

There are several lab notebooks to choose from today. It is mostly a matter of preference whether you select a bound composition notebook, an official lab notebook, an electronic lab notebook, or a duplicate-style lab notebook. Some are better suited to students in certain grade levels, while others are better suited to certain types of projects. Before choosing yours, try to evaluate how well it will serve your purposes.

The advantages of a bound spine make it hard for pages to be torn out and lost. They have hard covers which protect the contents. Students from kindergarten through middle school often use these. Official lab notebooks come with features such as places for a table of contents and page numbers. Some provide quick reference materials, like a Periodic Table or conversion charts. These can be used by anyone of any age. Duplicate-style notebooks rely on carbonless paper to make copies of pages. These are great when lab partners are working together on a project.

Electronic lab notebooks can be kept using software on a PC or on the Internet and are becoming more popular in the scientific community. Any of these laboratory notebooks can help you record your science fair project in a meaningful way.

Considerations for Your Personal Research Notebook

Regardless of the subject matter you are researching, a well-maintained research notebook can be your most valuable tool. It gives you a place to organize your materials and thoughts, plus it gives you a place to track what you learn throughout the process. Your notebook helps coordinate your efforts and keeps the daily problem solving to a minimum. If you are still in doubt about the benefits of a lab notebook, read on.

Use a Notebook for Personal Goals

Without a place to record your ideas, they can be quickly lost or discarded. If you take the time to record the different ideas you find as you research, it is easier to see a pattern emerge. Thoughts begin to come together in a way that allows for the complete development of the paper or project. This may not occur if the seemingly random thoughts and ideas are not contained in one place where they can be reviewed.

A research journal allows the user to better organize all phases of the research. By recording source material and notes on progress, the information is forever at your fingertips. Neglecting to record these things can cause you to forget where you intended to go with a line of thinking or to forget what has been tested and accomplished. You can also track the attempts that resulted in negative outcomes.

When you start your personal research journal, you should include notes, references, experiment data, results, and any math problems you have used—regardless of whether or not you arrived at the correct answer. Even mistakes are useful when researching.

Your research notebook is your best tool when trying to complete a paper or research experiment. Be sure to use it properly so you have all the documentation you need for your final, published results.

Artists Now Use Archival Pens to Preserve Work

Ink as an art medium has been around for a long time. Technically speaking, even the early hieroglyphs and cave drawings used a form of ink to create their images. As evidenced by the fact that we can still appreciate their beauty, ink can last quite a long time. However, those drawings exist primarily on stone, which breaks down rather slowly. Artists who use paper need to use archival pens in order to ensure their work lasts as long as possible.

Some artists prefer to work in black ink only, while others prefer a palette as diverse as any painter. Fortunately, pens with archival-quality ink are now available in a full spectrum of colors.  Of course, color isn’t the only quality an artist should consider when choosing these pens. The term “archival” means the pens must also be fade-resistant and lightfast. No amount of exposure to light should diminish the intensity of the color or fade the artwork, assuming archival-quality paper was also used.

As ink artists work close to the paper with their hands, smudging can be a problem. The ink should also be smudge-proof and quick drying in order to help reduce instances of smudging. Most archival inks are also waterproof and bleed-proof. Should water get on the paper, the colors won’t leach away or be washed out. Controlling the bleed of the ink is important. Paper tends to be absorbent, and ink can spread into other sections of the artwork, which can ruin a piece.

When choosing medium for the ink artist, archival pens are an excellent choice. They help to create artwork that will last for years.

Authors Benefit From Sturdy Notebooks

While authors are known to jot down ideas and write a few lines on anything from a store receipt to a napkin, a bound notebook is the best way for them to track their ideas. Those scraps of paper are cute, and, yes, for many they are a symbol of having an active imagination and being a “writer.” But they are far from an efficient and organized method of making notes.  From well known authors to after-hours scribblers, ideas are always flowing, and, without an organized method and dedicated place to get those thoughts on paper, many wonderful lines are forgotten.

A writer’s bound notebook is the ideal way for authors to carry around a handy book to jot their ideas into as well as develop characters and map out timelines or storylines for a book. Having all their ideas in one place makes it easy when they sit down to do the actual writing. No more having to dig in a bag to find that slip of paper with a character name idea or wondering what that wonderful profession was that the main character was supposed to play.

The main thing is that writers should write as much as possible.  Any author who is found out and about without a pen and paper knows the turmoil of attempting to remember an idea until they can get somewhere and get it down. Carrying a specific writer’s notebook with them will help them focus on what they are doing instead of repeating a line over and over in their head while they search for paper. All they have to do is whip out their notebook, jot it down, and continue with what they were doing.