keeping a lab notebook l.
Skip this Video
Loading SlideShow in 5 Seconds..
Keeping a Lab Notebook PowerPoint Presentation
Download Presentation
Keeping a Lab Notebook

Loading in 2 Seconds...

play fullscreen
1 / 34

Keeping a Lab Notebook - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Uploaded on

Keeping a Lab Notebook. W. Wilson Department of Engineering & Physics University of Central Oklahoma Edmond, OK 73034 What is a Lab Notebook?. Complete record of procedures, data, and thoughts to pass on to other researchers

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.
Download Presentation

PowerPoint Slideshow about 'Keeping a Lab Notebook' - emily

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation Transcript
keeping a lab notebook

Keeping a Lab Notebook

W. Wilson

Department of Engineering & Physics

University of Central Oklahoma

Edmond, OK 73034

what is a lab notebook
What is a Lab Notebook?
  • Complete record of procedures, data, and thoughts to pass on to other researchers
    • Why experiments were initiated, how performed, and results, comments
    • Place to compile data/charts/photos/ideas
    • Place of clues, to troubleshoot problems
    • Place to observe whole picture and think
    • Legal document, to prove patents
    • Defense against accusations of fraud or lawsuits
purpose of lab notebook
Purpose of Lab Notebook
  • The purpose of a lab notebook is to keep a record of the experiment so you or someone else could repeat your work or understand exactly how it was done.
  • Each laboratory notebook must be written as an individual effort, never as a group project.
how important
How Important?

In case of Lab Fire…

Grab the notebooks!

physical characteristics of a good notebook
Physical Characteristics of a Good Notebook…
  • Large- >= 8.5x11 at least (attaching stuff)
  • Bound (stitched) pages to ensure integrity
  • Numbered pages
  • White gridded
  • Acid free paper (30 years)
  • Duplicate pages (differing opinions)
  • Written in Pen. Felt tip is bad.
preparing a new lab notebook
Preparing a New Lab Notebook
  • Create a table of contents
  • Two facing pages
  • List experiments by:
    • Title
    • Date
    • Page Number
attached materials
Attached Materials
  • Computer generated data
  • Photographic data
  • All other data
  • Printed graphs (make as you go)
  • Datasheet templates
  • Product labels
  • Who provided plasmids, etc.
  • Notes (or pasted copies) of discussions, conversations, emails, readings related to exp’t design or goals
  • Archive locations of plasmids, probes, etc.
  • X-rays and other large items may be kept in a separate folder if they don’t fit in the lab notebook.
  • Always write on these materials the date and other identifying information in case they get separated!
the importance of timing
The importance of timing…
  • Always record, update, review…
  • Record as you go
  • At the LATEST, insert data the next day!
  • Do a weekly checkup
    • 1 hour to review
    • Make sure everything is attached securely, all summaries written, future directions written, record in table of contents
tips to preserve data integrity
Tips to Preserve Data Integrity
  • Never, ever, remove a page
  • Fill consecutive pages
  • Cross out unused parts of pages
  • Record all info as accurately as possible.
  • Do NOT omit any result, no matter how odd.
  • Cross out mistakes lightly (might need to recover)
  • Write legibly
  • Put a full date (international date problems…) with month spelled out.
more helpful tips
More Helpful Tips
  • The institution owns “your” notebook
  • Do NOT remove your notebook from the lab (unless this is an acceptable lab practice)
  • You may get permission to take copies, but do not take original pages
  • Do NOT read another person’s notebook without permission (even the PI won’t look at advanced researcher’s notebooks secretly).
  • Should be kept for at least 5 years
bad record keeping costs

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.

Bad record-keeping costs.

a proper notebook page
A Proper Notebook Page

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

the right stuff
The Right Stuff

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!

what to write with
What to write with?

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.)

sticky situations
Sticky situations
  • It is better to glue or tape that original paper snippet into the lab book than it is to copy the result.
  • Glue: acid-free white glue is best. I think this means Elmer’s?
  • Rubber cement is not recommended (but used to be, and I think it works pretty well).
  • Tape:
  • Have you ever seen the 3M research complex?
  • There are various qualities of tape. Use the best.
legal matters
Legal Matters

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.

lab notebook checklist
Lab Notebook Checklist
  • Black, ballpoint pen used?
  • Legible handwriting?
  • Table of contents up-to-date?
  • Entries signed/dated (October 13, 2002 better than 10/13/02)
  • Clear headings saying what this page is about?
  • Written in first person?
  • Complete sentences?
  • Could the work be followed by another scientist?
  • Is the researcher correctly “thinking in the notebook”
  • Are entries witnessed appropriately?
  • Is the notebook stored safely when not in use?
what goes in the notebook
What goes in the notebook?
  • Plans
  • Realities (deviations from the plan)
  • Observations
  • Sketches and photographs
  • “Links” to the notebooks of others in your group
  • “Links” to instrument logbooks and data on disks
  • Ideas: a notebook is a repository of creativity
  • E-mails from collaborators (tape or paste them in)
  • Plot-as-you-go graphs: do it!
  • Summaries of papers you have read
  • Hints and tips you may get from science friends
  • Concerns and personal info …. but be careful to delineate fact from opinion. …. and remember all info could become embarrassingly public!
labeling samples
Labeling Samples

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.

LABNOTEBOOKSGREATEST HITS Discovery of first Computer Bug. What else would you do but glue it into your notebook?HarvardSept. 9, 1945
Merry Christmas, Ma Bell! First TransistorAT&T Bell Labs Note prestigious witness list (some signed), dates, schematic.

Library of Congress – Alexander Graham Bell


Linus Pauling1954 Nobel Prize

  • One of only 4 to have won multiple Nobel Prizes.
  • Only one to win two in unrelated fields (Chemistry & Peace)
  • Only one to have been awarded each prize withoutsharing.

This is a page from Linus Pauling’s lab notebook, describing his discovery of the protein alpha-helix.


Charles Darwin

example lab notebook entries

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 that pagehas the date

Note computerprintout isglued intonotebook

Note that error is

clearly marked


Note that thisexperimentalist hassome clear opinionson some of the signconventions usedin his programmingenvironment.


Method hasbeen shamelesslifted from another.

The experimentapparatus set-up issketched.

Note careful way thattimes are recorded asapparatus is pumpeddown for first time


Some theoryandcalculations

are shown.

Note data circled in red

with line running

off the right margin;next page shows wherethat line connects.

Some problemsclearly noted.


Note graph paperused for plotand glued onto page.

Note graph of finalresults includingerror bars!

  • Kathy Barker, At the Bench: A laboratory Navigator. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory press. 1998.
  • Guidelines for Keeping a Laboratory Record. David Caprette, Rice University.
  • Guidelines for Keeping a Laboratory Notebook. Colin Purrington, Swarthmore Univ.
  • Laboratory Record Keeping. Todd E. Garabedian, Nature Biotechnology v. 15 (August 1997) pp.799-800
  • Office of Research Integrity, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
  • Responsible Conduct of Research Online Study Guide. Julie Simpson, University of New Hampshire
  • Francis L. Macrina, Scientific Integrity: An Introductory Text with Cases. ASM Press. 2000.