Keeping an Experimental Notebook
Each team (or individual) must keep and present their own notebook!
The final abstract/conclusion should be based on the data of all participants.
The goal of a laboratory notebook is to capture everything done during experimentation. It is not a finished composition. Someone skilled in that particular field of science should be able to use what is recorded in the notebook to exactly reproduce the work that was done.
Type of Notebook
A notebook should be dedicated exclusively to recording experimental details. Ideally, a bound notebook (not spiral bound) with numbered pages should be used. A composition notebook may be used instead, but the pages should be numbered sequentially before you begin using it as an experimental notebook.
1. All entries should be made in ink!
2. Every project has a title, which should be at the top of every page. (See also # 9)
3. Each day’s work has a stated purpose written at the beginning of the day’s entries. This purpose may not be the same as the overall project purpose, but might be a subdivision of it.
4. All equipment and materials are listed.
- a. Equipment used.
- b. Materials used.
- c. Special safety equipment used.
5. A brief description of what is to be done should be at the beginning of a day’s entries.
6. All experimental activities are recorded.
- a. Record activities in chronological order with specific mention of the time of day.
- b. Sentences or phrases can be used.
- c. Record observations and measurements with a time reference.
- d. Printed output from instruments should be fastened into the notebook using cellophane tape. Printouts that are too large for the page can be reduced in size with a photocopier before attachment to a notebook page. A description of the instruments and its settings could be written next to where the printout is fastened, or refer to your entry in 4a.
- e. If a fresh page is needed to continue recording the day’s work, make a reference at the bottom of the page that recording will continue on the next available page and note the new page number. Sign the bottom of the completed page. At the top of the new page, put the project title, a reference to the previous page that had just been completed, and resume making entries.
7. Sign and date every page near the bottom at the end of the day’s experimentation. If more than one person is using a single notebook for a team project, each person should initial and date their entries.
8. For a new day’s work, start on the next clean page in the notebook.
9. Continue to title every page as experimental work proceeds on the project.
10. If work is being resumed on a different project, follow the points listed above and also give a reference to the most recent page where experimental work on this project was recorded.
11. Incorrect entries should be stricken with a single line. Do not obliterate the mistake with multiple marks. Write the correct entry after the mistaken one.
The experimental notebook should capture all activities about your project. It will not be pristine, but should be easy to follow as the work progresses. You will use the recordings in the notebook to write any reports relating to your work. Record everything!