With the widespread availability of cloud computing solutions, tablet devices, and document capture technology, it’s easy to assume that scientific and engineering notebooks have gone the way of the slide rule. Like many assumptions, rumors of the demise of bound notebooks in scientific research are incorrect.
Bound notebooks remain an indispensible tool for scientists and engineers, giving them a durable, reliable and adaptable platform to record important information concerning their work and share it with others. According to a recent study by Atrium Research and Consulting, about 75 percent of research academics use paper notebooks for recording results. The high degree of loyalty academics have to this simple, but useful method of recording data attests to the continued relevance and usefulness of this medium.
Scientific notebooks are often the institutional memory of research organizations, preserving the work of researchers long after they’ve moved on to other organizations or projects. By using these notebooks, future researchers not only get a look at the data recorded by past researchers, but they also gain insight into their methodology and thought processes from the handwritten notes jotted down by their predecessors.
Benefits of Scientific & Engineering Notebooks
- Legal – Engineering and scientific notebooks often prove invaluable in disputes regarding patents. Because they are bounded, signed, and dated, these notebooks provide critical information about when and how concepts, ideas, and inventions were developed. Also, the handwritten word retains a lot of psychological impact among the general public, often making handwritten notebooks more compelling than printouts and spreadsheets.
- Reliability – A key disadvantage of using technology to record lab notes is the possibility of device or software failure. Power outages, computer viruses, and failure of devices to work properly can cause researchers to lose data stored electronically. This possibility does not exist with hard copies of lab notes recorded in engineering or scientific notebooks.
- Compatibility – Storage mediums are always changing. Researchers or engineers who record their findings on one medium and fail to update it when mediums change may have a difficult time accessing their data years later. Paper stays the same over time, and scientific and engineering notebooks provide a method of storing information that will be accessible in the future.
- Tangibility – Paper notebooks provide a medium very conducive to human creativity. They are easy to manipulate and their users seem to enjoy the freedom they provide to draw and write.
- Discipline – For students and young researchers, the task of writing down results in a notebook helps develop the habits they need to be effective scientists. Dutifully recording and logging information by hand helps young researchers learn attention to detail, the importance of documenting results, and the benefits of clear and concise writing.
Research Backs Paper & Pen Notebooks
Recent research by UCLA psychological scientists appears to back the notion that people engage more deeply with information they’ve recorded by writing than they do with information they type into a computer.
A recent study tracked students who took written notes and those who typed notes into a laptop to observe how well students were able to recall information and understand it. The study’s findings showed that both groups memorized the same number of facts, but students who used laptops to record information did not do as well as those who took hand-written notes when tested on the information.
The study reported that while laptop users were more likely to take notes verbatim, they did not engage with the information as deeply as students who took handwritten notes and who had to condense information to keep up with the lecture.
Even when given a week to review their notes, students who took handwritten notes were more likely to do well on tests than those who typed their notes. Researchers found that typing notes was akin to mindless processing, while writing notes in longhand fostered more engagement with the information presented. Researchers gave some credit to “motor memory” and the amount of time spent taking handwritten notes for the students who took longhand notes’ success.
For organizations that want their researchers to deeply engage with information, paper notebooks appear to be a great tool for encouraging that engagement.
Types of Notebooks Available From SNCO
Scientific Notebook Company is a well-established leader in the research notebook and engineering notebook industry. Since the late 1950s, SNCO has been a trusted name in research and engineering notebooks, providing quality products researchers have used to document projects and protect their intellectual property. The company offers the following lines of notebooks:
- Laboratory notebooks – These notebooks are designed to meet the needs of laboratory researchers. Permanently bound and configured to host archival materials, SNCO’s scientific notebooks are ideal for logging important research notes. SNCO scientific notebooks are manufactured to industry standards and have often been used as evidence in court and administrative proceedings regarding patent and intellectual property.
- Student notebooks – SNCO student notebooks are ideal for use in classroom settings by young scientists and engineers mastering the discipline of correctly logging results and research notes. Instructors can provide a more realistic learning experience by having students log their information in notebooks resembling those they will use in industry and academia.
- Engineering notebooks – SNCO also produces notebooks for engineers. These notebooks provide the format engineers need to record their notes, pass their findings down to other engineers, or use in court to defend intellectual property rights. Sketches in engineering notebooks also work well when presenting information to authorities to secure a patent.
- Cleanroom notebooks – Scientific cleanrooms have very exacting requirements regarding the avoidance of contamination. SNCO manufactures notebooks made specifically for work in cleanrooms. Manufactured with synthetic cleanroom bond stationary, these notebooks are compatible with cleanroom environments where particle and fiber generation must be kept to a minimum. The notebooks are specially packaged to avoid any pre-use contamination.
Paper and pen may be an old technology, but it retains a high degree of utility for recording scientific research. The benefits of this tested medium – as well as its popularity among researchers – makes its continued use in research and engineering endeavors worthwhile.