BISC209/S12:Guidelines for maintaining your lab notebook

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Wellesley College-BISC 209 Microbiology -Spring 2012

Keeping a Lab Notebook

Please keep a bound, professional style laboratory notebook describing what you do each time you work in lab on your project. Your notebook should also include a careful, visual record of all observations and results and labeled drawings or photomicrographs of your progress. It is essential to record reagent source information, media recipes, procedural details including effective concentration calculations (show all work), etc. before you leave the lab so that you will have all the experimental information necessary to easily construct a Materials and Methods section for your final paper when it is time to do that work. You should also take the time to carefully record results, observations, conclusions and notes about the progress and final findings in your experimental work.

There are more detailed suggestions on how to organize your notebook for this project and a lot of specific dos and don't for good notebook keeping in a downloadable document available at: Media:Labnotebookguide_209_4.doc. You should download and print this document and paste it into your lab notebook for reference.

A Table of Contents should be included at the beginning of the book. Leave space for this when you start your notebook.

Lab notebooks will be collected and evaluated.

Why Keep a Lab Notebook?
If you pick up a lab notebook years from now, anyone should be able to figure out what you did, why you did it, and how your data led to your conclusions to well defined experimental questions.

Your lab notebook should include:
1) a complete title or brief description of each lab and its goals (rather than just the descriptor LAB 1).
2) an outline or a brief flow diagrams of your lab work. DO NOT PRINT OUT THE WIKI PROTOCOLS AND PASTE THEM IN YOUR NOTEBOOK!
3) how to make any reagent (with concentrations of all ingredients in stock solutions). Include all calculations with units for any dilutions from stock solutions.
4) raw data in tabular form with table title and legend describing the data, how it was generated.
5) data processed into a form that illustrates experimental conclusions (showing all calculations and units). Include a clear explanation of how and why the data were processed at each step (i.e. to account for a dilution factor or molar extinction coefficient, etc.).
6) personal observations, including notations of any mistakes and what was planned or done to correct errors.
7) conclusions, if conclusions can be drawn and/or remaining or new questions with proposed protocols for resolving issues.
8) with whom you worked on each experiment (if you had one or more partners).

Remember your lab notebook is designed to be a legal document. You can not use erasable materials anywhere, nor can you use “white out”. If you make a mistake, mark through the entry ONCE, making sure that the original entry is legible. Note why you made the correction, then initial and date the correction.

Miscellaneous:
1) Every page (even empty ones) must be numbered.
2) It is a good idea to skip pages when you aren’t sure how much room you will need for results and observations, but when you have determined that a page is not needed, strike through it once and date the strike through.
3) Everything should have a title. Protocols, observations, results, etc. should be labeled as such and then all related entries subtitled. Give your partner’s name next to any protocol you did with assistance.
4) All drawings/photos must have titles, total magnification and/or size information, information about how the image was generated (stain,etc), and labels of important/relevant sub-cellular structures.

We strongly suggest that you outline every protocol in your notebook BEFORE coming to lab. DO NOT print out copies of the protocols from the wiki and paste them in your lab notebook!!!! Instead, you should distill the relevant protocols into flow diagrams and prepare tables for your data with titles and legends and leave space for your observations. If you do this preparatory work well, you will only have to make minor corrections or modifications to the protocols and have more time for recording the results and observations in the prepared sections of your notebooks during lab.

Never leave lab without completing the lab notebook record for that lab day. It is considered scientific misconduct to try to recreate what you did later or try to remember your results and enter them after the fact.

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