Keeping a Lab Notebook. W. Wilson Department of Engineering & Physics University of Central Oklahoma Edmond, OK 73034 http://www.physics.uco.edu/wwilson email@example.com. What is a Lab Notebook?. Complete record of procedures, data, and thoughts to pass on to other researchers
Department of Engineering & Physics
University of Central Oklahoma
Edmond, OK 73034http://firstname.lastname@example.org
In case of Lab Fire…
Grab the notebooks!
LeMonnier, French astronomer who gets no credit for the first sightings of the planet Uranus. His notes were so bad that he thought it was a comet. Discovery of Uranus is instead awarded to Herschel.
Gordon Gould had many ideas related to the production and use of lasers. He foresaw that they could cut steel or ignite fusion reactions. His notes were witnessed by a candystore notary instead of a colleague. He had undocumented meetings with the “maser people.” Years and years of legal proceedings were required to get him some of the credit he deserved.
Written as the work is performed
Dated and signed by author
Each section has a clear, descriptive heading
The writing is legible and grammatically correct
Active voice in first person:
“I added the two ingredients…”
Read by witness and signed/dated
Notebooks have to last 23 years after patent issue.
Patents take time to get, so figure 30 years longevity.
Paper has to be very good (much paper today is junk by the standards of a hundred years ago).
Notebook should be bound.
No spiral notebooks! No loose-leaf!
Page layout easy to graph, date, sign, etc.
Table of contents!
No pencils!! Erasures are a definite no-no!
USE PEN ONLY! Best bet for general use: black pen. Use other color pens for highlighting as appropriate
No white-out!! Just strike through, explain and initial errors.
“It’s a notebook, not a neat book.”—R. Cueto
(But in practice, the neater the better.)
You do NOT own the notebook. Your employer does!
You may ask for a copy. Depending on the specifics of youremployers intellectual property agreement (usually signedby you on the first day of employment), you may be
allowed a copy.
The lab director can and should inspect books periodically.
Once a lab notebook is filled up and no longer needed inthe lab, it is usually kept in the company library.
Good: WJW13.5a This means WJW’s notebook #13, page 5, sample a.
Bad if used alone: Data set for 0.1% TMV solution.
The label should POINT to the detailed notebook page and description.
Library of Congress – Alexander Graham Bell http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/bellhtml/bellhome.html
The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret (2008)by Seth Shulman
This is a page from Linus Pauling’s lab notebook, describing his discovery of the protein alpha-helix.
The following are example lab notebook entries graciously donated by a researcher who wishes to remain anonymous. (Because he doesn’t want anyoneto know that he is a closet experimentalist.)
This is the type of record keeping to which all of us aspire, but that few manage to achieve.
Note computerprintout isglued intonotebook
Note that error is
Note that thisexperimentalist hassome clear opinionson some of the signconventions usedin his programmingenvironment.
The experimentapparatus set-up issketched.
Note careful way thattimes are recorded asapparatus is pumpeddown for first time
Note data circled in red
with line running
off the right margin;next page shows wherethat line connects.
Some problemsclearly noted.
Note graph of finalresults includingerror bars!