1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Laboratory Book: how do you organize it?

  1. Jul 9, 2013 #1
    This topic is for researchers/PhD students.
    How do you organize your own lab book?
    i.e. in the case you have different projects, do you organize your day experiments chronologically or by project?
    Which format do you prefer? ruled, squared, a4, a5...etc.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 9, 2013 #2
    Normal college-ruled notebook, but the composition book type (black marble, etc.)... Different notebook for each project, keeping them all chronologically.
  4. Jul 9, 2013 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I was taught a specific method in HS and never looked back. I've added a bit of my own style but not too much deviance.

    I use National's quad, redish brown cover. Numbered pages, cloth spine and heavy duty cover. I won't use anything else.

    Each project has it's own book, unless it's small, then it goes into the "misc" book. Where I will detail small (30 pgs max) and with a division of each project clearly marked.

    There is always a title page, with name, start date, any collaborator's names. Generally I put the institution as well, and the group I work within. From there, there is a table of contents that I leave a few pages (4, front and back) as room to grow.

    Each day's work is done chronologically, with a time of start and end, in addition to the date. There is always 1/2'' I use for footer notes. All foot notes are dated and done in green pen. There is a clear distinction between the foot notes and the original work.

    IF I conduct research in a new lab or strange location, I make note of it. It'll be under the day's title/date. I like to keep track of when I'm in a different location just in case something wonky happens that day.

    I use a black pen for all my calculations and only single-line scratch out incorrect work or words. Green pen for foot notes, and red pen for special occasions where an adviser noted something. This is rare, as I'm a stickler for accuracy. If it's not critical, I'll put a sticky note in, written in red pen.

    If a collaborator has to use my book for any sort of sample prep, they are to follow my format, and indicate that they were doing the work. I also require them to sign their name at the end of the entry. I've only had to do this once, and it makes me feel icky. Even though they were only putting in some dilution calculations and making some samples for me. It seems weird regardless. I want it to be clearly indicated that they were in my book.

    I also have 10 pages front and back at the end of the notebook saved for references. If I source work during my research, I will put the citation there, by hand. It's nice to have there. If I reference it within the lab book, I will indicate so in the footnotes. This includes equations and methods from textbooks. Even if it isn't going to go into the paper to be written, it's nice for me to personally have. I have a crazy brain, and I like the reminder. "Oh ---? Where did I get this from?" With a note of the text it was from, I can easily remind myself.

    Edit: The book stays in the lab. If I need additional copies of information, I take a photo copy, and indicate in the footnote that a photo copy was made of said page, at what time, and for what purpose. All additional photo copies are returned to the lab book or destroyed. It depends on what I'm working on.

    It needs to be explicitly clear what I was doing, step by step. And as neatly as possible.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2013
  5. Jul 9, 2013 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    You need to clarify a bit more. Are these lab books specific to a set of experiments? Or are these you own personal lab notes/books.

    Please note that if you are being paid to do the work, the lab notebook is a property of your employer, not your property. In fact, it can become an official document if there is a dispute with regards to the work done. So each lab note book is specific to a particular experiment or instrument and STAYS with that experiment or instrument, no matter who uses it.

  6. Jul 9, 2013 #5
    PhD student.
    Usually PhD students carry out different projects.
    My own lab book.
  7. Jul 9, 2013 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'm an undergrad, but did work with grads.

    Our books were not to leave the lab, period. If we needed anything from it, we were to take a photocopy or notes. If it were to be lost, it would not only be a waste, but potentially quite an issue.

    To avoid any possible complications, it was never to leave the lab and at night, it was stored on the lab-book shelf in our group "office". I quote office because it was more like some desks and tables shoved into a small space, but hey, we had a bookshelf! The furthest a lab notebook ever got would be up a few floors to our advisers' office.

    So, I am by no means an expert, however, I can't imagine what I've seen is much different than what happens everywhere.
  8. Jul 9, 2013 #7
  9. Jul 9, 2013 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    What's wrong with it? It's nicely organized.
  10. Jul 9, 2013 #9
    Yes, indeed. I really like it!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook