General Rules

General Rules | Table of Contents | Inserting | Pens

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

Be sure to keep these 12 general rules in mind when making investigation entries into your lab/field notebook:

1) Except for the pages devoted to the table of contents (TOC), all notebook pages should be numbered at the bottom, outside corner.

2) All notebook pages should be dated at the top, outside corner.

3) Every page should list the investigation number (for example, “INV#3”) at the top of the page near the binding.

4) Start each new investigation on a right-sided (odd numbered) page.

5) None of the writing included inside of the notebooks should be done in pencil or colored pencil.

  • Instead, please use a water-resistant ink pen like the ones recommended in the Tools > Hardware section.

6) Attach all loose materials into your notebooks with glue or staples.

  • Do not use tapes–most clear tapes do not perform well when exposed to liquids/solvents. In addition, they often turn yellow over time.

7) When recording data, mistakes should never be erased.

  • Rather, data recording mistakes should be crossed out with a single (or double) line and initialed so that the information is still legible. Never use liquid white out (Tipex).

8) All entries should be legible (to both yourself and others).

  • Neatness and organization are critically important. Your writing needs to be legible and easily read by your teacher and classmates.

9) Do not use your lab/field notebook for work that is not directly related to a scientific investigation.

  • Do not use the pages of your notebook, for example, for any common, nightly homework assignments that involve answering questions on a worksheet or from a textbook. All of the work in your notebook must be related to a particular research question.

10) Do not use your lab/field notebook for coursework from other subjects.

  • Your notebook is not a place in which you should put any work from your mathematics, social studies, language, EAL, arts, music, or P.E. classes.

11) Do not remove any numbered pages from your lab/field notebook.

  • Removing pages from your notebook action could compromise the binding, disrupt the page numbering system, and/or discard needed data.

12) When doing an investigation, save the left-hand pages for special writing tasks.

  • This writing should be related to activities such as changes made to the materials and procedure, problems encountered and known errors made, and interesting observations that are not directly related to the research question. Special writing also includes “Ah ha!” moments and recording interesting questions that suddenly come to mind during an investigation. Dr. M sometimes refers to these interesting questions as, “Hmm, this makes me think…” and “I wonder…” questions.

Last updated: September 2017