Will Your Scientific Notebook Be Valuable for Future Generations?

Roughly 411 million metric tons of cardboard and paper were manufactured around the world in 2016. A significant slice of this tonnage went into creating notebooks for various users, including the scientific community.

Running your experiments and research is, for many people, infinitely more exciting than taking the time to update scientific notebooks. However, it’s a crucial part of the process. Many times, the data you make a mental note to record tends to get lost, leaving you with inferior research information. The following are some tips to assist you in preserving accurate and up-to-date scientific data.

1. Treat Your Scientific Notebook as an Official Item

The one thing you can’t afford to lose sight of concerning your scientific notebook is that it is not a personal item. Rather, the laboratory notebook you are developing is officially the property of the organization or university you are working for. Thus, how you record the information should always take a professional tone and outlook.

To keep the data in your scientific lab notebook professional, avoid incorporating personal critique and comments. Consider maintaining an informal log book, separate from your notebook, where your observations on the matters you are working on can be recorded.

Introducing external oversight can help you maintain the professional tone and input of your laboratory notebook. For example, you can request your supervisor help you spot out any non-professional material that may infiltrate the content. If you don’t prefer regular supervision of the material, at least let your supervisor give it a once over in the beginning. Doing so will assist you to keep it up to the organization’s standard.

2. Capture Greater Detail

When you are in the middle of a procedure, it can be easy to underestimate the amount of detail you need to add to your scientific notebook. Often, you think to yourself that that you’ll remember that small detail and will record it later. In many instances, that seemingly unimportant piece of data might be the turnkey insight you need to have put on record. And without the ability to record it properly in the moment, that information could easily be lost.

To develop a high-quality science notebook, you need to view it as a manual that anyone should be able to follow without needing a translation or other input. At its essence, that is the real purpose of a scientific lab notebook. One approach you can use to help you include as much detail as possible is to note things down as you go along. Whenever you are about to carry out a protocol, first note it down as you plan to carry it out. Then, once you have executed the procedure, you can take note of any alterations that took place. That way, you do not lose out on the extra information by deciding to add it later. Instead of relying on mere memory, you can add greater detail by taking note of it in the moment.

3. Use a Format That Works for You

The format you use to enter data into your notebook should be one that helps you zero in on the data you need with ease. Having a set structure is advisable to help you write your work as a thesis or paper later on. An example you can use for the consistent structure is to include preamble such as the background and aim of the protocol.

A format you easily understand will help you remain focused on the larger purpose of your work. For some people, leaving a few pages after each entry is useful, as this assists them in identifying and following individual experiments immediately.

Remember always to record your work chronologically, as this helps you quickly follow the material later on when you or anyone else comes to look at it. Sign and date any edits you make after the fact to reflect the timeline. If you happen to be using a digital notebook, then ensure you set up daily backups to account for any changes.

Keep All Your Valuable Scientific Data

Maintaining a scientific notebook is, at times, arduous for many in the scientific community — at least when compared to running the actual protocols. The longer you put off recording the information, the higher the chances you will forget or lose the data. Create a notebook that has a set structure that quickly helps you access the material when you need it.

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