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Keeping a Good Project Log

  1. Aug 7, 2011 #1
    Like the title says, I'm trying to figure out how I can keep an effective log of the stuff I've done in a project. I'm particularly curious about ways to keep a good project log for a long project (i.e. longer than a month). I've tried to do it, but I have a lot of trouble figuring out exactly what needs to go into the log and what is just rough work and should stay out. I tend to do a lot of rough work, jotting random ideas down, deriving formulas, or trying to help myself visualize something. If I just keep all of that, I end up with an excessive amount of paper, and it's really hard to go through and get anything useful. At the same time, I find myself often wishing I could look back at a little idea I had a while ago for various reasons, and I've been wishing that I was better at keeping records of my thoughts, but I can never seem to figure out at the time what might be important later and what won't be. Does anyone have any tips, or could anyone share their system for keeping records of what they've done or thought of in a project?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2011 #2
    I like teeny composition-size notebooks that have graph-paper pages -- like 100 pages total and 5 squares/inch grid. I guess I've been much better when I've used these smaller notebooks (to limit the date range). I code my data by date... so if I know what data I'm analyzing on my computer, but want to details I would have written in the notebook, then it's easy to find. To make things even more sparse, I try to use the "front side only" (or right page) for important notes what's going on with the project itself at the present moment (settings about the system for certain named data files, etc.), and the "back side" for scribbling other stuff (notes about conversations with others, possible directions the project might go, little math "scribbles" or system "doodles" etc. This makes for a fair number of little notebooks on the shelf -- depending on how large you write and how much, maybe 4-5 or more per year), but at least nothing really large on the desk or lab table at one time.

    Note however, that I do know some friends whose jobs require them to use a certain type of notebook (with carbon-copy pages) and submit the copies to their company (sometimes each day). For that, obviously you're stuck just what the company/lab might want. And in my experience, those things are rather large ( Nonetheless, you might be able to divide your page in half or something. Or maybe use different colors of pen. Black for your directly project related stuff, and blue for random asides.
  4. Aug 7, 2011 #3

    Dr Transport

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    The best thing to do is write everything into a bound notebook/lab book. Every couple of days, go through it and highlight the things that are worthwhile but do not ever erase/tear out pages. Your research notebook should be a stream of consciousness, not a finished document.
  5. Aug 7, 2011 #4
    At the moment, I'm not required to keep a project log, so I'm free to use whatever kind of book I want, so I'll probably go get myself a little notebook.

    The problem with the black/blue pen thing is that I never seem to know at the time what's important and what isn't. My project right now is a computer model, so the majority of my work is 'baby steps.' A lot of the project is me trying out little ideas and testing them so there's no real line between what's project related and what's a random idea. What generally differentiates the two is whether or not the little idea works.

    Would it maybe be a good idea to keep one book that contains all my rough work and little ideas, and then have another book (or maybe computer document) that records the stuff that ended up being relevant? That way I have a more concise list of stuff that worked that I could use for presentations or hand in, but I also have a record of all my musing, which I can look back on if needed.
  6. Aug 8, 2011 #5

    Dr Transport

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    One notebook is really all you need. If you want to have a concise record of milestones, that is what an hour on Friday afternoon doing powerpoint slides is for.
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