When you spend a good part of your day in the lab, you need a notebook in which to keep track of all your hard work. That’s why students and professionals in scientific fields rely on laboratory notebooks to record research, experiments, findings, and more. Keeping an accurate notebook takes more than jotting down a few phrases here and there. Learn how to make your records as accurate and authentic as possible with this guide on what to include in experimental entries in your lab notebook.
The Importance of a Lab Notebook
Let’s start with why an authentic lab notebook is essential. Science and research professionals use their notes for more than just storing and studying information. A lab notebook is a thorough record of procedures—an explanation of why and how you conducted experiments and what results came from your work. Furthermore, a lab notebook is a legal document, especially if you choose to pursue patents in the future. In addition to reliably storing information, your notebook creates a legacy of your work and findings in the lab. As such, it’s crucial to organize your notebook in a way that proves the ideas and work within belong to you.
Organizing Your Entries
Organization is essential in a student lab notebook. The individual entries mean nothing if you can’t comprehend the overall structure of the book. Whenever you begin writing in a new notebook, start by writing your name, contact information, and the course or project name on the inside cover. Next, make sure you have a table of contents. If the notebook doesn’t have a designated space for it, make sure to leave the first several pages blank so that you can create one as you go. Finally, make sure to number the pages (if they don’t already come numbered) so that you can keep better track of each entry as you go.
What To Include in Experimental Entries in Your Lab Notebook
Write your experimental entries as you work to help you keep the information as accurate and timely as possible. Whenever you start a new entry, begin by recording the date and title of the entry. Next, note your hypothesis, goals, and relevant background of the experiment. You want to make your intent as clear as possible, especially for new studies or projects. As you work through the experiment, make a thorough record of your procedures. Include any protocols, equipment, and calculations you use. Throughout and after the experiment, record any observations you make or data you find. Finally, end the entry with a summary of what happened, including data analysis, conclusions, and maybe even ideas for future experiments. If this is a ongoing project, the summary can be extremely brief and indicate that the project will continue in future entries.