Laboratory courses can be magical.They can be enlightening experiences that open your eye to a big picture. A laboratory experience should work in tandem with a lecture course, and fully realize concepts, techniques and reactions that you have heard of. Unfortunately, they can also be discouraging experiences. One of the key factors that dictates which experience you will have, is preparation.
A rewarding aspect of a well-prepared experiment is that it can firmly cement the information that you have obtained through studying in a way that is far superior to simply reading about it. Your knowledge evolves beyond routine memorizing to real understanding, because you have seen the reaction and principles with your own eyes. The synergy between a lecture course and a lab component should not be underestimated.
In this chapter I outline a systematic way of preparing for any organic chemistry experiment to ensure that you succeed in the laboratory and that you leave with an optimal experience. Seeing, after all, is believing. I discuss how to make and use the flow diagrams, how to obtain relevant safety information about the chemicals you are handling, and how to use your note-book to prepare efficiently.