Keeping a Lab Notebook
Please keep a bound composition style professional style laboratory notebook describing what you do in the lab, as well as all observations, drawings and numerical results. It is essential that procedural details and data, including calculations (show all work) be recorded before you leave the lab, so you will have all the experimental information and results necessary to complete the laboratory assignments.
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 at the end of the semester and graded.
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) ALL protocols and how they relate to your experimental questions in outline or flow diagram form.
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.
1) Every page (even empty ones) must be numbered, dated, and initialed.
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 must have titles, total magnification, sufficient information about how the data drawn was generated and relevant labels.
We strongly suggest that you outline every protocol in your notebook BEFORE coming to lab. Then you will only have to make minor corrections or modifications to the protocols and have more time for the results and observations 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.