Drawings | Images | Tables & Graphs

[Expect this page to be fully updated by September 2017]

A well kept lab/field notebook is one of the most important tools a scientists can own

As is the case with images and tables and graphs, when it comes to printing, formatting, titling, and/or labelling the drawings used in your scientific notebook, Dr. Merritt has some pretty strict, detailed guidelines.

You can see this lengthy collection of rules below, but you can also print them in various forms (e.g., as a PDF) from this shared Google Document (coming soon).


1. The title of the drawing must name the object of interest, even if the object is only partially present within the drawing.

– For example, if the primary object of interest within the drawing are plant cells, then the title of the drawing must not only include the word “cells,” but also what part of the plant the cells were taken from, for example, “stem,” “leaf” or “root.”

2. Titles of drawings showing a living (or once living) organism must contain the two-word scientific name of the organism. The two-word scientific name of the organism should include the Genus (first word) and species (second word). Because it’s difficult to create italicize word when using writing by hand, both of these words should be underlined instead.

– For example, the title of drawing of an embryo of a common mustard seed should include the name, “Brassica rapa,” which could also be abbreviated as “B. rapa.

3. If any magnifying tools were used to magnify the original objects included in the drawing, the total magnification should be communicated EITHER within the title (e.g., “20x,” “40x,” “100x”) OR just near the bottom edge of the drawing itself.

– If written near the bottom edge of the drawing, then the magnification should be written consistently in the same place, for example, the bottom left, bottom center, or bottom right.

– A simple but informative title for a drawing of an embryo taken from a common mustard seed might be:

‘Walking stick’ stage of a Brassica rapa embryo (14 days old) at 20x


1. Do not use arrows, only lines.

2. All lines must be drawn with a ruler.

3. The color of the lines should clearly stand out against the background color(s) contained within the drawing.

4. Lines should never cross one another.

5. Whenever possible, a line should terminate in the center/middle of the ‘thing’ that it names. This is not possible, of course, when labelling the (thin) outer edges of a ‘thing.’

6. All lines should be associated with a label. In other words, no line should ‘float’ freely on or near the drawing.  In almost all instances, a single line should not be associated with multiple labels.

7. Whether written in print or cursive, all labels must be clearly written (legible). In addition, all labels should use the same case–uppercase or lowercase–consistently.

– If some labels use all uppercase letters and other labels use all lowercase letters, a viewer will be led to think that the different cases mean something different, in which instance they will expect to see a “key” that explains the difference(s).

8. All labels must also be concise, but thorough, and accurate.

9. The color of the printed or cursive label should clearly stand out against the background against which it is written.

10. Labels must be written horizontally, not vertically or at (non-horizontal) angles.

11. All labels should be associated with a line. In other words, no written label should ‘float’ freely on or near the drawing.

– A single label may be associated with multiple lines.

Last updated: April 2017