2.7: The Laboratory Notebook
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Finally, we can not end a chapter on the basic tools of analytical chemistry without mentioning the laboratory notebook. A laboratory notebook is your most important tool when working in the lab. If kept properly, you should be able to look back at your laboratory notebook several years from now and reconstruct the experiments on which you worked.
Your instructor will provide you with detailed instructions on how he or she wants you to maintain your notebook. Of course, you should expect to bring your notebook to the lab. Everything you do, measure, or observe while working in the lab should be recorded in your notebook as it takes place. Preparing data tables to organize your data will help ensure that you record the data you need, and that you can find the data when it is time to calculate and analyze your results. Writing a narrative to accompany your data will help you remember what you did, why you did it, and why you thought it was significant. Reserve space for your calculations, for analyzing your data, and for interpreting your results. Take your notebook with you when you do research in the library.
Maintaining a laboratory notebook may seem like a great deal of effort, but if you do it well you will have a permanent record of your work. Scientists working in academic, industrial and governmental research labs rely on their notebooks to provide a written record of their work. Questions about research carried out at some time in the past can be answered by finding the appropriate pages in the laboratory notebook. A laboratory notebook is also a legal document that helps establish patent rights and proof of discovery.