Your engineering notebook is the culmination of all your hard work throughout the course of a project or semester. If you can’t keep organized, legible notes, much of that work goes to waste. There are a few best practices for notetaking that help you keep your engineering science notebook organized, effective, and reliable. Make the most of your research with this guide on how to take notes in an engineering lab notebook.
Use Ink and Keep Mistakes
Engineering notes should be permanent. Pencil fades easily, making your notes illegible over time. Writing in pencil also makes it more tempting to erase mistakes. However, all mishaps—from misspellings to miscalculations—should stay in your notebook. If you must correct mistakes, cross them out with a single line so they’re still legible. Deleting mistakes makes it easier to repeat them. By keeping these errors in place, you can look back and easily find what does and doesn’t work for your project.
Don’t Leave Blank Space
Blank pages can mess up your organization and confuse future readers—especially if someone goes back and adds data to those blank spaces. Preserve the integrity of your original work by putting entries back-to-back and eliminating unused space. If you have to leave blank spaces, put a line through them and sign the page so that future readers (including yourself) know you left the space empty intentionally.
Label and Describe All Sketches
Sketches, diagrams, and other visuals are excellent tools to keep in your engineering notebook. Whether you’re drawing your own images or cutting and pasting online printouts, these images can help illustrate an idea or put data into perspective. Sketches are also a great way to present and study early designs. Make sure you take the time to label and describe all images you use in your notebook. Take notes about your designs or diagrams so that you can easily find your thoughts on the subject when you look back at that page. Finally, if you do include printout images or other loose papers, be sure to glue or tape them securely to your notebook so they stay in place.
Learning how to take notes in an engineering lab notebook makes every project more concise and coherent. Don’t let lazy notetaking keep you from accomplishing your goals both in and out of the lab. Put these tips to good use and create an engineering notebook that will serve you well throughout your project, and beyond.