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A Use of Laboratory Notebook

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    Technique A: Use of Laboratory Notebook


    The laboratory notebook is a permanent record of research activities. It preserves experimental plans, study designs or protocols, procedures, observations, results, conclusions, and recommendations. Information must be documented in sufficient detail so another scientist of equivalent training and experience can replicate the results.

    Supplemental quality control activities and practices related to equipment maintenance and calibration are recorded on appropriate forms and maintained in log books as required, often under laboratory Standard Operating Procedures. Unless there is a critical operation, it is generally not necessary to record supplemental quality control data twice, though the activities should be referred to and cross-referenced in all appropriate laboratory notebooks. For example, if the laboratory water supply is monitored, measured and recorded in a separate logbook, then a second record of that monitoring result is not needed.

    The laboratory notebook and its contents may be owned by a business, government agency, or a private individual. Laboratory notebooks are often involved as supporting documentation in courts of law. Ownership of the laboratory notebook and its contents should be clearly defined.


    Requirements for a Laboratory Notebook

    The laboratory notebook is usually bound with sequentially numbered pages. Several styles are available. Some organizations require acid-free paper for archival purposes. Others require a carbon-copy for immediate archival at the end of the day. Pages can be ruled or graph-ruled. Some examples are provided below:


    For most educational settings a bound composition book is sufficient. If the pages are not sequentially numbered, then sequences can be established by diligent recording of entry dates:

    Lab Notebook, 8 in. x 10 in., GreenComposition Book, 9-3/4 x 7-1/2 In, Black

    Laboratory notebooks should be used with either blue or black permanent ink. Many non-black or blue inks fade with time.


    Part 1: Owner’s Name, Dates of Use, and Course Title

    1. Put your name on the outside cover, inside cover, or on the first page of your notebook to identify that you own this laboratory notebook.
    2. Specify when this laboratory notebook is in service. Write a start date on the cover, followed by an end date when the notebook is completed.
    3. If used in an educational course, record the course title, professor, and section number for reference.
    4. Provide an email address and contact phone number to help reunite it with you if it becomes lost. C:\Users\jabad132\Downloads\563242020 (1).jpg

    Part 2: Table of Contents and Numbered Pages

    1. A Table of Contents is optional, but useful.
    2. The Table of Contents should list page numbers, titles of experiment, and dates of when started and finished. This makes it easier to find information.
    3. Make sure to include enough pages in the front for the Table of Contents.


    1. If your notebook is not sequentially numbered, make sure to do so using black or blue ink. Date and initial all information collected, recorded, and calculated in your notebook at the end of each day of working in the laboratory.

    Part 3: Experiment Entries

    1. For each experiment, include the day you started it and the title of the experiment at the beginning of the page.
    2. Document the daily plan of the experiment before starting it. Include the purpose of the experiment, background information, techniques to use, equations used for calculations, and what reagents and materials are needed.
    3. Start a section for recording observations. Record clear, concise, and detailed descriptions. Pre-laboratory research and background information may provide predicted results. Include all that was expected and any unexpected or unusual observations. Unusual observations should be recorded—these observations may lead to further experimentation. Entries should be grammatically correct, legible and honest.
    4. Include experimental raw data. Minor details may be important, so record data as feasible. Organize data in tables. Tape or permanently glue any data printouts or separate forms. For computer programs, record the program name and version number if relevant.
    5. After observations, prepare a data analysis section. This will include any calculations needed to properly interpret data.
    6. Include a conclusions section of what went well, what could have been done better, and what future scientists can do to improve the experiment.
    7. If another person did some parts of the experiment, note have them date and initial the relevant parts of the laboratory notebook.
    8. If an experiment is too long for one page, show that the experiment continues on to the next page. If pages are skipped because of concurrent experiments, include references back to the original experiment. So if Experiment 12 ends on page 23 and is continuing on page 35, a note on page 23 should read ‘continued on page 35’ and a note on page 35 should read ‘Experiment 12 (continued from page 23).’

    Keep A Legally Defensible Document

    All data goes in the notebook, even outliers, or “bad” data points. A failed experiment should still be documented in the laboratory notebook.


    Do not remove any pages, or data. Do not skip any pages. Cross out any unused portions of your laboratory notebook and mark it with the date and signature.

    Cross out any mistakes with a single line. Add corrections with initials and a date the correction was made. To correct a large section, block out with one diagonal line from corner to corner followed by a date, signature, and reason for crossing it out.


    “Standard Operating Procedure for Use and Maintenance of Laboratory Notebooks and Project Binders”, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Pesticide Programs, Microbiology Laboratory, Environmental Science Center, Ft. Meade, MD. SOP Number: ADM-05-04; Date Revised: 06-20-17. (Accessed 10/29/2018).

    Photos from: The Book Factory, Inc., and National Brand

    A Use of Laboratory Notebook is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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