The Significance of the Simple Scientific Notebook

scientific notebook

Science impacts an astonishing array of things in our lives — and we may not even realize the full extent to which this is true! Any genetically modified food we eat, for example, is the work of scientists and researchers. Our medicine, fuel, and manufacturing processes are also impacted by the work of scientists. Much of this work has been going on for years. For example, genetic modification started almost 10,000 years ago, when farmers began to save seeds to more selectively breed crops. And biotechnology can find its roots in 1919. But one thing is a common thread — scientists need to record their hypotheses, experiments, and outcomes. Today, there are special scientific notebooks for just that purpose. There are laboratory notebooks, research notebooks, and even specialized student lab notebooks available. 

What are the Primary Kind of Scientific Notebooks? 

Scientific notebooks tend to be rather plain and practical — no-nonsense looking and made for a singular purpose. Most are slim volumes that have a quarter inch grid and signature block. They often come with an issuance page, an instruction page, and table of contents page. 

They’re also usually chemically resistant, to keep any spills or accidents in the lab from ruining data, and are permanently bound and paginated for the best possible data security and traceability. 

Though there are certainly digital scientific notebooks out there, many scientists still use a hard copy notebook — it’s harder to tamper with or alter, and serves as physical proof for what you’ve accomplished in the lab, should you need to defend your claims. 

For those that come after you, they may use your scientific notebook as groundwork for their own experiments, or to try and replicate your experiments. 

What are Some of the Main Principles of Setting Up a Scientific Notebook? 

Your scientific notebook is not the place for personal thoughts, even if they pertain to your work. Above all, you should consider it a legal document that can be used as such. You want a complete record of what you’ve done in the lab, the observations from your actions, and then items that would help another scientist replicate the work. However, brainstorming or a variety of hypotheses that are not substantiated by a specific experiment do not belong in the notebook. 

Nor should you be jotting down conversations or ideas with your colleagues or keeping protocols from product manuals there. Do remember too, that your notebook while in your possession, belongs to the place you work, not you. 

You should include your name and the year, the name of the project you’re working on, the mailing address of the lab, and then, of course, the necessary table of contents and entries. Entries should include the date and title of the project, a statement of purpose, and the background. Then the way in which you went about trying to attain this purpose, observations, data, data analysis and processing, and future experimentation ideas should follow. 

Where Can I Find Scientific Notebooks? 

In some cases, your lab or institution may provide the notebooks for you. In that case it might be as simple as going to the stockroom or asking someone who handles supplies for extras. 

However, if you need extra or are required to provide them yourself, there are many places online — both on bigger retailers and on specifically scientific retailer sites that provide these notebooks. 

Your institution may also be able to direct you towards the specific kind of notebook they want used or places to find them, as many colleagues who work with you. 

Scientific notebooks play an important role in the recording of data and are used by scientists everywhere. It can play a major role in the issuing of a patent, defend you in the case of fraud allegations, and cement your legacy and work at the lab, even if you’ve moved on.