Category Archives: Uncategorized

scientific notebook

Will Your Scientific Notebook Be Valuable for Future Generations?

Roughly 411 million metric tons of cardboard and paper were manufactured around the world in 2016. A significant slice of this tonnage went into creating notebooks for various users, including the scientific community.

Running your experiments and research is, for many people, infinitely more exciting than taking the time to update scientific notebooks. However, it’s a crucial part of the process. Many times, the data you make a mental note to record tends to get lost, leaving you with inferior research information. The following are some tips to assist you in preserving accurate and up-to-date scientific data.

1. Treat Your Scientific Notebook as an Official Item

The one thing you can’t afford to lose sight of concerning your scientific notebook is that it is not a personal item. Rather, the laboratory notebook you are developing is officially the property of the organization or university you are working for. Thus, how you record the information should always take a professional tone and outlook.

To keep the data in your scientific lab notebook professional, avoid incorporating personal critique and comments. Consider maintaining an informal log book, separate from your notebook, where your observations on the matters you are working on can be recorded.

Introducing external oversight can help you maintain the professional tone and input of your laboratory notebook. For example, you can request your supervisor help you spot out any non-professional material that may infiltrate the content. If you don’t prefer regular supervision of the material, at least let your supervisor give it a once over in the beginning. Doing so will assist you to keep it up to the organization’s standard.

2. Capture Greater Detail

When you are in the middle of a procedure, it can be easy to underestimate the amount of detail you need to add to your scientific notebook. Often, you think to yourself that that you’ll remember that small detail and will record it later. In many instances, that seemingly unimportant piece of data might be the turnkey insight you need to have put on record. And without the ability to record it properly in the moment, that information could easily be lost.

To develop a high-quality science notebook, you need to view it as a manual that anyone should be able to follow without needing a translation or other input. At its essence, that is the real purpose of a scientific lab notebook. One approach you can use to help you include as much detail as possible is to note things down as you go along. Whenever you are about to carry out a protocol, first note it down as you plan to carry it out. Then, once you have executed the procedure, you can take note of any alterations that took place. That way, you do not lose out on the extra information by deciding to add it later. Instead of relying on mere memory, you can add greater detail by taking note of it in the moment.

3. Use a Format That Works for You

The format you use to enter data into your notebook should be one that helps you zero in on the data you need with ease. Having a set structure is advisable to help you write your work as a thesis or paper later on. An example you can use for the consistent structure is to include preamble such as the background and aim of the protocol.

A format you easily understand will help you remain focused on the larger purpose of your work. For some people, leaving a few pages after each entry is useful, as this assists them in identifying and following individual experiments immediately.

Remember always to record your work chronologically, as this helps you quickly follow the material later on when you or anyone else comes to look at it. Sign and date any edits you make after the fact to reflect the timeline. If you happen to be using a digital notebook, then ensure you set up daily backups to account for any changes.

Keep All Your Valuable Scientific Data

Maintaining a scientific notebook is, at times, arduous for many in the scientific community — at least when compared to running the actual protocols. The longer you put off recording the information, the higher the chances you will forget or lose the data. Create a notebook that has a set structure that quickly helps you access the material when you need it.


5 Good Reasons You Need a Lab Notebook

Research is the backbone of all scientific work. That research involves gathering lots of data. All the data collected during research needs to be stored somewhere. The best way to store that data is by recording it in a laboratory notebook. Such notebooks are especially popular in the U.S., China, and Japan where laboratories are widespread. In fact, these three countries account for half of the world’s total paper production.

A lab notebook is the primary working document in any experiment or research. All hypotheses, calculations, data, experimental setups, and early analyses are first recorded in lab notebooks before being transferred elsewhere. Doing so is beneficial for many reasons, including providing proof that you went through the required processes to complete the work.

If you’re not in the habit of keeping a scientific lab notebook, here are five top reasons you should start.

1. A Lab Notebook Helps You Keep Track Of Your Work

The biggest reason to keep a well maintained lab notebook is that it gives you a record of the progress of the experiments you conduct. You can easily access your ideas any time you want to. As long as you carefully record all the steps of your experiments and the results you discover, you can always pick up from where you left after taking a break. The notebook also helps you double check your work before you move on to an important step.

2. A Notebook Allows You to Record Future Tasks

Recording ideas of the experiments you want to do in the future is just as important as keeping a record of work you’re doing or have already completed. Life in the laboratory can get hectic, and trying to keep the ideas you have using your head may not be effective. Instead of risking forgetting the ideas you have, it’s best to record them in your notebook.

3. A Lab Notebook Keeps You Organized

Many scientists plan out their laboratory tasks in advance. The more far-reaching and detailed your plans are laid-out, the less time you’ll need to spend trying to figure out what to do next when your current scientific project is done. When it comes to keeping your future schedule, there’s no better way to do it than by recording it in your trusty notebook.

4. Your Notebook Helps You Keep Track Of Your Partners

Some complicated science experiments involve a group of people working in tandem. That means there may be certain portions of the experiment that you’ll have no responsibility for. Working in a group can make everything easier for everyone. However, it can also mean additional stress in case a member of the group does a mistake.

So how do you minimize the chances of anything going wrong? Well, an ideal way is to make sure that you double check each other’s records as often as possible. Keep a record of the work of your teammates in your notebook. Every once in a while, you and your teammates can review each other’s records and provide feedback.

5. Our Notebook Can Help You Get a Patent

Hopefully, your laboratory work will lead to a new discovery that you may want to patent. In order to protect your intellectual property, you’ll need to go through the patent process where you’re required to provide a record of your work, the process you followed, and the schedule you performed all your experiments on. That’s where your notebook comes in. In case another scientist tries to patent your discovery, you can keep it from happening by providing proof of your work.

Whether you are working in a scientific laboratory for the first time or are performing your hundredth experiment, you need a research notebook to keep data. Not only does such a notebook keep you organized during your current research, it also provides a place for recording ideas you may want to explore in the future. And, ultimately when your work is completed, the same notebook may just be the most important tool for helping you protect your intellectual property.

laboratory notebooks

7 Organizational Tips for Laboratory Notebooks

Now that schools across the country are back in session, students are stepping into labs for the very first time as undergraduate researchers, and are in a valuable position to learn organizational skills in order to ensure that research notes in laboratory notebooks are kept tidy and legible for future reference. Whether you’re a student, a professor, or a seasoned reacher, we’ve comprised some tips on organizing your lab notebooks in order to make the most of your data. An important note before we begin: as researchers move into the professional sphere, scientific laboratory notebooks can be considered legal documents, especially when pursuing patents and attempting to meet FDA guidelines for drug research. It takes 10-15 years to develop a medicine or vaccine, and because of these two factors, it’s important to cultivate good habits early on.

Write in Your Lab Notebook Every Day

If you’re in the middle of research you’re passionate about, taking time to write in your laboratory notebooks can seem like a dull chore. However, it’s important to record the data you have while it’s fresh in your mind. Setting aside even 10 minutes at the end of each day to record your findings will not only make it easier to develop the habit, it will also lay the groundwork for more cogent, replicable research later on.

In Case You Miss a Day: Keep a Backup Notepad

While it should always be a priority to record things in your lab book every day, there are times when this simply isn’t feasible. In order to make sure that your stray observations are recorded, keep a separate notebook on your desk for informal notes that can be transferred to your lab book later on. Make sure that each page is dated, and don’t get in the habit of relying too heavily on shorthand notes, or you run the risk of having to extrapolate your findings from informal notes at the end of the process.

Templates Can Help Streamline the Process

If you’re working in an environment with a set of established protocols, you can save yourself time by creating templates with the protocol already in place. Print it out and keep it with you. That way, you can note changes to protocol directly on the sheet, then insert the completed page in your lab book at the end of the day.

Make Sure Errors Are Still Visible

If you make an error that needs to be crossed out, be sure to only cross through it once so that it’s still visible. Your errors are just as valuable a teaching tool as your successes, and it’s important to keep as full a record as possible.

Number Your Pages

This is a surprisingly simple tip that can save you time and effort later on. Many laboratory notebooks are bound notebooks that are sturdy, but not indestructible. If the worst happens and the binding breaks, you want to be able to easily reorder your pages with as minimal time and effort as possible. Additionally, numbering your pages will allow you to easily refer to other sections of your notebook by page number.

Write More Than You Think You’ll Need

In your rush to complete your lab book entry for the day and get out the door, you may be tempted to only write the biggest or most interesting results of the day. However, it’s often the small details that make for significant findings later on. Always try to err on the side of over-detailed rather than under-detailed, which will ensure that you’re able to refer back to each day with as much clarity as possible.

Always Note the Unusual

Similarly to the previous point, you should always be sure to take note any time your sample looks different or if machinery or testing instruments are behaving in a way they might not normally. While it may seem overzealous, making notes of these unusual occurrences can save you the headache of trying to sleuth out the cause of any odd data points you may get as a result of this behavior, especially if some time has passed.

Maintaining and cultivating good organizational habits makes for stronger, more reputable researchers. Do you have lab book organization tips? Let us know in the comments below.

7 Features that Make Up an Ideal Paper Notebook

As a student your sketches, data records, compositions, musings, journaling, or regular day-to-day notes need recording. A high-quality paper notebook is the best in recording your discoveries, thoughts and any primary information. The education sector is the biggest consumer of notebooks.

To understand the enormous nature of this market, one should look at the large number of students that graduate each year. For instance, 9,550 college students were awarded biochemistry degrees in 2016. All these students need to record and present their analyses, hypotheses, interpretations, experiments, and collected data, and notebooks provide an ideal record for all this information. Poor quality lab notebooks may easily tear or poorly absorb ink and lead to a loss of your information.

This article reviews the features that make up a good lab notebook.

Why is a high-quality lab notebook essential?

A lab notebook allows you to record your laboratory findings and data. These notebooks differ from other notebooks because they have inclusions such as graph grids for drawing graphs and tables for data entry. Their robust bindings and high-quality paper ensure that they don’t get easily damaged or spoiled by ink.

Here are some of the things to look out for when buying a lab notebook.

• Sheet Style

The sheet style determines the use of your notebook. Plain, graph, and lined notebooks are the most common sheet styles. Ruled or lined notebooks are ideal for writing. Visual thinkers and artists prefer plain notebooks, whereas; notebooks with graph grid lines are useful to designers, engineers, and scientists who need to draw graphs or diagrams.

• Spacing of the lines

Many students use the medium ruled 7mm paper. Students with small-sized handwriting should use the narrow ruled 6mm paper. The wide ruled 8mm paper is often used by people who have large handwriting or grade school students. For graph lab notebooks, the standard spacing is 5mm, but there is also a less popular 3mm grid for students that engage in detailed work.

• Binding

The binding of notebooks can be done in different ways, and each binding style determines how easy or hard it is for a notebook to tear. Notebooks can be bound by rings, spirals, threads, staples, glue, or a combination of any of these binding styles. The style of binding determines how sturdy and flat a notebook can be. Staple and glue binding are often the weakest, but they are preferable for students that would like to pluck a leaf of their work from the notebook. On the other hand, ring, spiral and stitched binding are the strongest and they can hold papers together strongly.

• Paper Weight

Paperweight is often expressed in grams or pounds per square meter. As a rule of thumb, heavy notebook papers are thick and durable. They have less show-through and they can withstand erasing. Students writing on both sides of the paper should prefer lab notebooks with heavier paper.

• Number of sheets

Some students prefer thin laboratory notebooks with few pages, whereas; others prefer thick notebooks with a high page-count. If you have lots of information to record, then a thick notebook would be preferable. Otherwise, a thin notebook is ideal if you have to lug around many of them for different purposes.

• Design and cover material

Sturdy covers are always the best if you’re seeking for durability. The options you may have include leather, luxurious leatherette, flexible plastic, hard chipboard, and thick cardstock. Always go for covers with rounded corners because they don’t wear down easily. Some notebook manufacturers offer covering materials in the form of built-in pockets or sleeves. It’s recommendable to buy such notebooks because you’ll be sure that they can last for long.

• Perforations

Perforations allow you to tear pages from your notebook to submit homework or share content. Always go for lab notebooks with closely perforated lines so as to get a clean tear whenever you want to remove a page from your notebook.

If you want to accurately record your information and prevent losing your content, then choose a high-quality notebook that will not easily lose shape through wear and tear as it gets lugged around in your backpack.


Pathway of Discovery

A Student’s Journey in Science

Throughout the ages people have grown to discover new and exciting technologies to enhance humankind. Productions in soil nutrients and organic methods of bug repellant to molecular structures of the human body and cellular decomposition are just a few to name in this learning curve. As these fields of study grow, so does the need for educational facilities for the student to be taught and participate in scientific lab work. Universities are expanding their fields of study and increasing departmental staff to accommodate young minds eager to learn.

One of the enlarging divisions is the exploitation of biological processes which is the foundation of biotechnology. A student who is gathering a degree in this area will have multiple territories to endorse and loads of laboratory notebooks to maintain. As for the purpose of a biotech diploma, one primary use is in the genetic manipulation of microorganisms for the production of antibiotics, hormones, and many other molecular structures. This helps physicians to better understand how the human body produces and processes products for a specific use.

Along the pathway of discovery and experiments comes the research and development department. As each student begins their journey in science, they may soon learn their passion is laying between the pages of their research notebook. Rather than moving towards building compounds and chemically structuring medicine, their preferred path is uncovering the mysteries of DNA structures and chromosomes. Also, applying the knowledge gained in previous courses to the research and reconstruction of organic compounds.

Continuing on the course with chemical components, another area of study belongs to pharmacy/pharmacists. Typically this area of study will take a student eight years of college education to earn their Pharm.D. Upon graduation, it becomes their responsibility to understand how each medication is chemically crated and how this coincides with the molecular breakdown in the human body. Each student will usually keep their science notebook(s) to remind them, and assist them, of different formulas and compound structures; gaining new knowledge as the years pass.

In research universities there are endless discoveries to unfold. Each facility containing the proper instruments, equipment, and bio-hazardous/biomedical samples so each individual student can gather and retain information. As their progression proceeds and mysteries become solved, they give advancements toward the medical and organic economic worlds. This creates a universal connection from one end of the spectrum to the other.

When you pause and think about how the world functions, how organic materials can be reused, how the human body processes food, how some animals heal faster than others, all are connected by research. It took a student, or multitude of students, to dissect a theory and discover a mystery; and then break down each component till there were no more questions. From those questions, either being solved or disproven, taking theoretical to possibility and developing the research. At this point a single student can crate massive change for the world we live in, possibly uncovering one of life’s greatest mysteries; how do we turn back our metabolic clock, our personal fountain of youth.


How a Laboratory Notebook Can Protect Your Intellectual Property

For students who aim to become laboratory scientists or embrace other positions within the biomedical field, protecting one’s research and experimentation is vital. In an age when it’s never been easier to share information and refrain from attributing creations to their rightful owner, it’s perfectly understandable that you’d be concerned about safeguarding your original ideas. Ultimately, that could come down to the security of the lab or your ability to distinguish trustworthy individuals in your personal or professional life. But did you know that your choice of scientific lab notebook might make a big difference?

In 2016, there were 411 million metric tons of paper and cardboard produced worldwide. Just some of that paper and cardboard is used to create the laboratory notebooks that students and scientists utilize every day. But these notebooks can do more than allow you to keep track of pertinent observations and experimental results. Used correctly, laboratory notebooks can also ensure that you (or your company or school) can obtain and maintain patent approval associated with your documented research.

Laboratories often serve as the birthplace of incredible ideas. They’re where scientists investigate hunches, perform experiments, observe results, collect data, and potentially develop innovations that could change the world. But while you might be ethical enough to be concerned only with your own ideas, the same cannot be said for everyone within your industry. The unfortunate reality is that someone could be heavily influenced by your work to the point where they attempt to claim it as their own. If you fail to protect your ideas, your career could be jeopardized.

That’s why it’s so important for students and professionals alike to make a habit of using a laboratory notebook for all of the work you do. By documenting your research, observations, and other data in a bound notebook with numbered, dated, and signed pages, you’ll ensure your intellectual property can be properly attributed to you. That way, even if you have to defend your invention (and your ownership of it) in court years down the line, you’ll have the evidence necessary to show you should be the rightful patent holder.

To that end, you’ll want to use laboratory notebooks that are pre-printed in the proper page format in order to comply with patent law requirements. These notebooks should be bound so that pages cannot be added or taken out without leaving obvious traces. You should always use ink, rather than pencil, to record data in your notebook. Each time you record any information in your notebook, you’ll want to make a point to sign and date the pages you’ve worked on; it’s even better if you can have professors or coworkers sign and date those pages to provide additional evidence, if necessary. If you need to make any changes, cross out the incorrect information (rather than using white-out) before signing and dating those changes. Any unused notebook space should be crossed out with a diagonal line.

You should never document privileged or personal information in laboratory notebooks. If you need to discuss other patents or document information from your lawyer, you should keep track of this information in a separate document or notebook. When you make discoveries, test theories, or record results, you should also take care to document the importance of these findings with remarks. Memorializing these reactions in print can be of great benefit when attempting to obtain a patent. Documenting your progress and a general narrative within your laboratory notebook will be helpful for the same reason. It’s best for students and scientists to remember their lab notebooks should be treated as formal records, rather than as journals or notepads. To that end, inaccurate or incomplete ideas should not be included, as this could make it more difficult to obtain or defend patent protection later on.

By keeping these documentation tips in mind and making a point to always use a high-quality laboratory notebook, you can successfully safeguard your original ideas. For more information, please contact us today.

engineering lab notebooks

Why You Need Engineering Lab Notebooks In The Workplace

As of 2016, there were an estimated 9,550 biochemistry degrees awarded to graduating college students. These students are accustomed to using engineering lab notebooks to properly work on their research. There are many benefits to continuing to support their work ethics. As you begin to hire entry-level workers, keep in mind three key benefits to encourage its usage.

Paper Trail: Using engineering lab notebooks helps maintain the all-important paper trail. When you’re working in a development or research setting, there is always a risk of things going wrong. There must always be a plan if something happens. For instance, you may lose access to research because the system goes down. If that ever occurs, there is always other documents to use if you need to refer to previous information. Since many notebooks come in different formats, you can pick different styles for your needs, such as loose leaf or bound notebooks.

Aiding Future Research: A great benefit of engineering lab notebooks is how it can help future research. More often than not, the first experiment is not the best. There’s always room for improvement. As scientists and engineers further their research, they learn the ins and outs of their own experiments. It’s thanks to the failures recorded in notebooks that further projects to their success. Instead of constantly writing it in different places, keep it in one place. Best of all, if evidence of success is written in the notebook after multiple tests, then it can be used for other experiments outside the original.

Organization: Perhaps the most underrated benefit of engineering lab notebooks is organization. It’s very easy to lose track of your information and research once you use different sheets of papers. The last thing any scientist or engineer needs is to come up with a great idea to fix a solution, writing it down on a piece of paper, and then losing it. It’s a simple issue because the fewer documents there are, the easier it is to find what they’re looking for. Once engineering lab notebooks are filled and no longer used, they can be shelved and labeled accordingly. If there’s a system in place early on, everything will be simpler to find and reuse when necessary.


4 Reasons Why Students Should Be Involved in Research

College is an experience, for better or for worse, that many of us go through. And while the work can be overwhelming, it can also be life-changing. For plenty of students, a career is only something they are tentatively exploring during young adulthood, while others have known what path they wanted to pursue since they were children.

For those who may be untethered to a career path, the right push from an attentive professor is just the nudge they need. And for those eagerly following their chosen paths, a professor’s encouragement is just the thing to launch their ideas to the next level. The benefits of having students involved in scientific research aren’t one-sided; certainly, there are many great reasons for students to get involved at the benefit of themselves, but it’s also in the professor’s best interest to have student assistants in their laboratory. Let’s explore four reasons why.

Students Offer a Fresh Perspective

The brain is limitless in its power to think, but oftentimes that power stagnates in repetitive thought patterns without the correct stimulus to advance beyond that rut. A fresh perspective from an eager mind is just the thing to expand a traditional way of thinking. It takes 10 to 15 long years to develop an effective medicine, and science and research play a huge part in that medicine coming to fruition, but without minds that can think outside of the box, it could take even longer to develop. A student asks questions that makes a professor think outside of their usual realm of understanding, which can lead to incredible discoveries.

A Student Is Eager to Learn

Some professors are experts in their field because they’ve worked very, very hard in it for countless years, but that tried and true method of working isn’t always very exciting. A student’s eagerness to learn can be a breath of fresh air that inspires their fellow students as well as faculty to look at problems and questions in a new light, and perhaps take on a bit of that eagerness for themselves. Human beings will never be at a point of knowing everything, and no one is ever too old to learn something new. Follow in that student’s example and find out something new.

Student Researchers are Exposed to a Lab Setting

Laboratories are different than traditional classrooms for a host of obvious reasons. What your student may not know before entering a research environment is just how cautious they must be for the sake of their experiments, their results, their peers, and themselves. By exposing a student to a lab environment sooner rather than later, and allowing them to work in an environment that more or less imitates the setting they’ll find themselves in after graduation gives them a huge leg up in the business, while keeping themselves safe from harm.

Interaction with Their Peers

Classmates and professional peers are in two different categories, and not every student understands this. By allowing student researchers the chance to interact with professors and assistant researchers, they are given to chance to learn how to collaborate, experiment, and simply learn in an environment that is extremely conducive to their success and to successes in the world of science and medicine.

The Importance of a Laboratory Notebook

lab notebooks

Lab notebooks? You have probably heard about them, right? If you have been conducting laboratory tests regularly, you have already realized that you could forget many discoveries and procedures without proper organization. Lab notebooks will play a vital role in organizing your life as a lab technician. The following are benefits of using lab notebooks.

1. Record Your Data

This is so obvious, but it’s worth mentioning that a lab notebook is a convenient place to record your data. In laboratory experiments, you will probably do thousands of procedures. Everything becomes chaotic around you, and you could be in serious danger of forgetting what you are doing. With lab notebooks, everything will be kept in check. You will be able to record all the necessary information around you. Your data will be kept safe, and you will remain in control of your business.

2. To Do List

In a laboratory, there are several procedures that you need to follow for an experiment to be successful. However, these procedures are very many, and most of the times they keep on changing depending on the experiment. A laboratory notebook will detail all the things that you need to do after entering the research room so that you can be successful. The notebook could be important, especially where there are innumerable tasks to carry out. Having a guide of what needs to be done and then creates a good course of action and helps in avoiding trouble.

3. Protocols

Every science experiment has everything to do with protocols. You cannot achieve reliable or authentic scientific results without following a laid down procedure. Each experiment has its protocol, and it’s difficult to substitute one protocol for another. If you are preparing to have an experiment in the future, you can have its protocol already lined up in your scientific lab notebook. If you need to repeat any experiment, you will only need to refer back to your notebook.

4. A Reference for Others

In most cases, scientific research is carried out by teams. However, some of the members are not conversant with scientific studies, and they highly depend on the guidance that comes from the experienced researchers. With a scientific notebook, other members can reference for important data, details, and protocols. You don’t have to keep answering hundreds of questions from amateur researchers. Just direct them to your notebook and the entire research will move smoothly towards its objectives.

5. To Support Future Publications

You may need to publish lab results, papers, patents, and findings of a particular research study. However, you need to justify and show evidence that you own the results before publishing. Without documented evidence, you cannot justify that the results you are likely to publish belong to you, and therefore, you’ll not have any merit. A notebook is, therefore, one of the most important books, especially to the researchers, who have the intentions of publishing their findings in the future.

6. Data Audit Trail

An experiment is characterized by hundreds of errors that need to be adjusted as the process continues. However, for the sake of data security, any changes made to the data need to be noted and highlighted on the notebook. This gives other team members a clue of what is happening and why you have changed data. Data integrity is an essential aspect of any scientific research.

7. Record Ideas

Besides everything that has to do with research and planning the experiment, you will also come up with your ideas. These thoughts are very useful in future as they could help make the experiment better. You need to make sure that you record them somewhere. Lab notebooks are the most secure area where you can record such ideas and harness them to find out whether they are beneficial in any way.

Current trends indicate that the pharmaceutical market will reach $1.12 trillion by 2022. However, before that time and figure are reached, thousands of experiments will have to be done to improve the drugs currently available in the market and the best area to record those experiments is on a lab notebook.

How to Safely Write on Archival Photographs

archival materials

Did you know that China, Japan, and the United States are responsible for over 50% of the paper being used globally?

When sorting or putting away photographs in archival materials, it can be tempting to scribble down notes directly onto the back of photos as you go through them.

And while you can do this, it’s only wise if you’re using the right kind of writing tool. (And, ideally, you really shouldn’t write on photographs, period.)

To learn how to write on photographs without damaging them, read on for four tips on writing on photos for archival purposes.

1. Do NOT Use a Standard Ball-Point Pen

Photographic evidence or documentation can have enough trouble staying intact during its lifetime in archival materials—especially if the photos are old. Honestly, photographs usually aren’t that sturdy. So it’s best not to add to its instability by writing on it with a standard ball-point pen.

While it’s perfectly appropriate to label photos with important relevant information, you should never do so with a ball-point pen. This is because the kinds of ink used in ball-point pens tends to smear on photographic surfaces, defeating the purpose of writing with them in the first place. Additionally, the non-archival oils and solvents used in the cheap ink can cause the ink to bleed through the photo paper to the front.

Obviously, it’s also unwise to use most kinds of markers, as they can smear, as well.

2. DO Use a Pencil

Instead of traditional ball-point pens, professional archivists often use soft #2 pencils to write on the back of fiber-based photographic prints.

Note that this applies to fiber-based prints specifically—results of a method no longer in use everywhere. More modern plastic- or resin-based prints have a shiny, slippery back to them, which can’t be written on effectively with a pencil. But for older photographs, using a pencil works well, and is commonly recommended.

One reason to use a pencil for fiber-based photos is that writing in pencil is easily erasable. Besides that, pencil leads are relatively inert—they contain none of the oils in ink pens that can ruin photographs.

However, even when using pencils, it’s necessary to use a very light touch when writing on the back of an important photo for archival materials. Pressing too hard can cause considerable damage to the photograph.

3. Use a Stabilo-All Pencil

Stabilo-All pencils are specially-designed for archival materials. They are water-soluble, and they can be wiped off of practically any smooth surface with a wet cloth. They are also highly erasable on paper.

Best of all, they allow you to write clearly on many surfaces typically resistant to writing, including modern photographs, film negatives, and even glass and metal.

Stabilo-All pencils come in three colors—black, red, and white—so you’ll always have one for any colored surface.

4. If Possible, DON’T Write on Photographs

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta do what you’ve gotta do. For some purpose or another, whether you’re a student or a laboratory researcher, there may be times when you need to write legibly on a photograph.

But in a best-case scenario, you should use other archival materials to avoid writing on photos altogether.

Some materials you can use instead of writing on photos are photo sleeves, bound lab notebooks, index cards and boxes, and acid-free envelopes.

As another quick tip, you should always write on the envelope, sleeve, or card before inserting the photo—just to be sure you avoid damaging the print.