BISC110/s13:Guidelines for maintaining your lab notebook

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Wellesley College

BISC110/112- Introduction to Cell Biology- Spring 2013


Keeping a Lab Notebook

You must purchase a hardbound 'composition' notebook (the bookstore has them) before you attend the first lab. Loose-leaf notebooks will not be accepted. The pages in the notebook may be graph paper, wide-ruled, college-ruled or any other type approved by your lab instructor. This lab notebook will be used to record information and data before, during, and after performing your experiments.

There is no “right” way to keep a laboratory notebook, and the format varies between academic laboratories and institutions. Additionally, many scientific companies require that their employees' laboratory notebooks be dated, signed, and witnessed since notebooks can be used as evidence in a patent dispute to establish the timing of a discovery. You will not be required to have your notebooks witnessed, but we will follow good lab notebook procedures.

• Leave plenty of empty space in your lab notebook so that you can change or correct the procedures as you do the work. It is most important that what is written in the lab notebook accurately reflects what you did in lab!

• If you make mistakes, do NOT obliterate the error; instead, strike-through once. Never erase, use "white-out," or tear out pages. It is fine to strike-through or X-out (once!) whole pages if it is necessary to start over. You must use an indelible pen to write in your lab notebook. It would not be of much use as a legal document if it were written in pencil.

• This is the place to record information that is not in the Wiki, such as the manufacturer, lot number and expiration dates of chemical reagents. You should always record the stock concentrations and ingredients of reagents and do the calculation of effective (final) concentration.

• Your notebook is also the place to perform other calculations and to record all your data and observations. It is much more difficult to recreate what you’ve done in lab if parts of your experiments are written on scraps of paper instead of in your notebook. It is usually impossible to remember important aspects of how organisms treated in certain ways were different than the controls. Write down your impressions in detail. Since science is founded on the ability to reproduce the results of an experiment, it is vital that the details of the experiment be accurately and completely recorded.

While the organization of your lab notebook is somewhat flexible, there are key elements to help you communicate (with yourself as much as with others!)

• The front cover should have your name, semester and year, course name, and lab section.

• Each page of your notebook should have a page number.

• Please leave a few blank pages at the front of the notebook to create and maintain a Table of Contents.

• Keep up to date each week with the title of each lab and the page numbers

• Each lab session starts on its own page (on the front of the right hand page, not the back of another) and begins with the lab title (not just the number) and date. Each lab in the notebook should have the following headings and content:

1. Goal: Summarize the overall goal(s) of the lab. These can be found at the beginning of the lab in the Wiki or the beginning of the lab presentation.

2. Procedure: Clear, concise flow-diagrams, outlines, or layouts of your proposed experiments should be prepared in advance (before you come to lab!).
• This does not replace the Wiki and instead is a tool for you to refer to while performing experiments. This section does not need to (and should not) be a copy of the methods from the Wiki, nor should you print and directly paste the Wiki into your lab notebook. You should, instead, read the relevant protocols in the wiki and then condense the information into a schematic or diagram that is helpful for you, leaving plenty of empty space for notes, changes, raw data, results, and comments.
• The protocol/procedures in your notebook should be in your words/shorthand notation.
• Make sure to include all calculations!

3. Data: Observations and data taken during experimentation • All raw data must be recorded!
• Any observations that you are prompted to make from the Wiki and any other observations that you make
• Do not include processed data in this section.

4. Conclusions and Comments: This is essential for a good notebook and consists of a bulleted list or paragraph summarizing the entire lab. Start to think about what your experiment and results mean in a broader context.
• Were all of the goals for the lab met? If not, why? Think about possible explanations. Science is all about troubleshooting unexpected results – sometimes the coolest results are the ones you did not expect.
• If you were to repeat this investigation, what might you do differently to improve the experiment?

Please note that there are many ways to keep a successful and accurate lab notebook, and it may take you some time to determine which way is best for you. However, you should always make sure that all of the above information is included in each lab and that it is clear to your reader. If you have any questions about keeping your lab notebook, please let your instructor know.

BIO 110 Lab Notebook Gradesheet

Front Cover: name, semester and year, course name and lab section _____/0.1 pt.
Table of Contents: all lab titles and page numbers included _____/0.2 pt.
All labs start on new page with lab title and date _____/0.1 pt.
All pages are numbered _____/0.1 pt.

Labs: 9 wet labs total, each worth 0.5 pts. for a total of 4.5 pts.
Each lab has thorough Goals, Procedure, Data, and Conclusions/Comments sections.

Lab 1 ______/0.5 pts.
Lab 2 ______/0.5 pts.
Lab 3 ______/0.5 pts.
Lab 4 ______/0.5 pts.
Lab 6 ______/0.5 pts.
Lab 7 ______/0.5 pts.
Lab 8 ______/0.5 pts.
Lab 9 ______/0.5 pts.
Lab 10 ______/0.5 pts.
Total ______/5.0 pts.

An Example Page from a Lab Notebook:File:LabNotebookSample.pdf