A proper research notebook is a key component of your scientific arsenal. When you use it effectively, that notebook can be invaluable to you as you continue in your career. Not only is it a record of your experiments, but it’s a record of how you performed them! Learn how to use a research notebook effectively, and set yourself up for success later on.
You’re not the only one who’s going to read these notes. That book is a resource for everybody in your lab. Scientists and science students learn from one another all the time. Scientific Notebook’s selection of research notebooks boasts gridded pages so that you can draw straight lines more easily and keep your writing neat and legible. When you make mistakes, strike them out with a single straight line; mistakes are learning tools too.
The ancient Roman recipe for concrete was notoriously impossible to recreate for centuries. Only recently did we figure out that when they wrote “water,” they meant seawater, not freshwater! It is crucial to write out every step of your process. Even if you think you’ll remember that little detail, write it down anyway. Somebody else could be reading your notes years from now, and you don’t want them to miss even the smallest detail. If a future scientist wants to recreate your experiment, you want your notebook to give them every element they need.
Choose a note-taking method, especially one that’s easy for others to follow, and stick to it. Each new experiment belongs on a fresh page. Get into the habit of having your lab mates sign or initial your pages to prove that a second pair of eyes looked at your work. When you create productive note-taking habits for yourself, your notebook becomes a reliable source of information and a journal of discoveries. If you decide to patent your work later, your meticulously organized lab notebook will be a crucial piece of evidence that your research is your own. As you keep your research notebook, become a creature of habit. Writing out complete notes can feel tedious, but your attention to detail will pay off in the end. When you’re using a research notebook effectively, future scientists and science students who read your notes will be able to tell.