Guidelines for Keeping a Laboratory Record
The notebook is your record of work done in the laboratory and should be recorded in the first person. It does not require glamorous penmanship but legibility is paramount and a modicum of organization is helpful. With experience you will begin to predict the types of data generated by various experiments and to set up your record-keeping accordingly. For example, a table or chart prepared before the data are collected, when appropriate, greatly simplifies recording, interpreting, and analyzing the results. Unfortunately, a complete and well-organized notebook comes only with experience and hard work. Hopefully, in this course you can develop good record keeping habits so that later the task of record keeping will not detract from the focus of the experiment.
These guidelines are written to help you keep notebooks that would be acceptable in an ACADEMIC research setting. (Standards for INDUSTRY may differ: e.g., b/c of PATENT process, notebooks may contain ONLY procedures and raw data; data analysis and interpretation must be done elsewhere.)
- See Guidelines for Keeping a Laboratory Record on the Experimental Biosciences Laboratory Resources website.
- Recall that the page number and date go in the UPPER
RIGHT corner of each page; if your pages are prenumbered,
you do not have to "renumber" them.
- Each page should contain only ONE date (i.e., do not put multiple dates on the same page; start a new page for a new date).
- The Table of Contents must be kept current (i.e., you must
update it before lab each week)
- Please carefully read my Honor
Code Policy BEFORE the first day of lab.
The format and style of the notebook follow
guidelines used in BIOC 211 and 311.
Please see the BIOC 313 checklist .
- It is required that the experiments be recorded in a bound,
gridded notebook with consecutively numbered pages
and carbonless copy pages.
- You will initial the notebooks at the end of each
lab session, noting the date and time
- You must place the original notebook
in the lab drawer BEFORE
leaving lab EACH week; do NOT remove this notebook from the lab at any time. Your team will take the copy pages for your own records.
- Reserve 1-2 pages at the beginning of the notebook for
your Table of Contents (or you may use the preprinted space
on the inside cover)
- Record entries on NB pages "top to bottom" (i.e., do not use a "two column" format).
- Use a BALL-POINT PEN for ALL entries.
Use ONLY black or blue ink.
Do NOT use felt-tip, roller-ball, or fountain pens.
- Do NOT "pre-write" objectives or methods in your
notebook BEFORE you come to lab.
- A notebook is required to be a chronological account of your research.
TAKE YOUR NOTEBOOK EVERYWHERE IN THE LAB! Do not write on scratch paper and copy the notes into your notebook.
**You MUST enter all procedures and data directly into your
notebook during the lab itself. Your entries must be sufficiently detailed so that you or
someone else could conduct any procedure with only the notebook as a guide.**
When experiments are performed concurrently (as is the case most of the time) it is impossible to have uninterrupted pages dedicated to a specific section of the experiment. When notes for more than one experiment are on the same page, write "continued on page ##" below the entry for each experiment. The top of each page of a continuing investigation should read "continued from page ##". This notation seems redundant when the results are on consecutive pages but it is absolutely necessary when the data are recorded after a section of another experiment.
The notebook must have some basis of organization and chronological order is the only standard recognized.
- When errors occur while making entries, draw a single line through the incorrect value and write the correct value above or beside the error. A note may also be made as to the cause of the error. No entry should be made illegible no matter what the error.
If a chart, table, or even a page becomes intolerably messy, draw a single "x" over the mess and note at the bottom of the page "See page ##" and recopy with corrections on page ## with a notation "recopied with corrections from page ##".
Each team will maintain a single laboratory
notebook - notebooks will be given to you on the first day of lab
- Team members record their individual activities and observations and initial all entries.
We intend to use the overall quality of the laboratory notebook and your specific notebook entries to evaluate your individual effort. Describe all procedures that you perform in sufficient detail to repeat the experiment and record any raw data. Remember to describe any problems encountered or unexpected results.
- To help you keep things organized when two or more of you are working, you might "reserve" a page for each team member. Skip to the next blank page if you have more entries to make.
When you finish for the day, initial your pages and record the time, drawing a line through any remaining blank spaces.
- It is absolutely critical that you record
details such as WHO did WHAT (e.g., loading
samples on the gel, setting up PCR, etc.)
and LABELS on your samples. You
must have this information in your notebook
to determine where a procedural error(s) occurred
and to use the correct sample for that day's
- Each team member is expected to make daily
entries in the notebook during each lab. A single team member must not, for example,
act as a recordkeeper by writing in the notebook
while the others carry out the work.
You may want to take turns writing the Objectives/Daily
each lab day; remember, do NOT "pre-write" objectives
or methods in your notebook BEFORE you come
- You must return the original notebook BEFORE
leaving lab EACH day. Each
team member should initial her/his notebook
NOTE: each team will take the duplicate pages with them.
- Pictures of gels must be dated, labeled,
and stored in your BIOC 413 folder (do not tape them in
your notebook); "sketch" the gel in your lab notebook and
- Because this is a real research project, you must
submit all raw data. Please organize the information
so that it is readily understood by someone who will be
reviewing your findings.
You are responsible for maintaining a research quality
notebook that follows the guidelines we have given you.
SPECIAL NOTE: Record enough procedure details in your notebook during each day of lab so that you can repeat these procedures using your notebook as the PRIMARY resource (i.e., you should not use printed web pages or handouts from previous labs).
and Intended Use
Created by B. Beason (firstname.lastname@example.org),
Rice University, 10 January 2008
Updated 11 October 2015