Keeping a complete lab notebook is vital part of work in a modern laboratory. The purpose of a lab notebook is to help a scientist keep a clear record of what he or she has done so that:
- They can compare their results to others
- They can repeat their studies to confirm results
- Others can repeat their work to confirm results
- They have documented proof of what they have done for patents and/or scientific papers.
Clearly, the lab work you do this summer has the potential to lead to patents, publication in major journals and presentation at major national meetings. Developing the skills needed to maintain a good lab notebook is an important part of laboratory science and needs to be taken very seriously this summer.
Like many things, there are no one size fits all “correct solution” to keeping a lab notebook. Each laboratory may have different reasonable mechanisms for maintaining lab notebooks. This document will cover only the basics but it is important that you talk to your mentor to understand exactly what is expected in your lab.
Because lab notebooks are “historical” documents, there are a few basic rules you must follow:
- Your lab notebook must be bound with sequentially numbered pages (you will have to number the pages the books we have given you)
- All entries should be made in ink. If you make a mistake, no problem, just cross it out and move on. You should not use correction fluid.
- You should not tear out pages.
- You should not recopy information into your lab book to make it look neat.
- All entries MUST be dated.
What Belongs in your Laboratory Notebook
Scientists should be able to recreate experiments from the lab notebook alone. In this light, enough detail should be included such that one (if needed) could repeat the laboratory
work using just the lab notebook as a guide.
Good things to include:
- Outline of preps with references and descriptions
- Deviations from preps
- Sketches of apparatus
- Hard copies of spectra, gels, etc.
- Tables of measurements
- Hard copies of processed data
- Safety information
- Emergency numbers
- Chemical Hazards
- Lists of Abbreviations