NanoBio: Notebook

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Guidelines for Keeping a Laboratory Notebook

Purpose of Notebook

  • To record methods and results of your experiments so that:
    • you can go back and figure out what you did
    • another person can interpret your results (The lab notebook is important in patent review)
  • Therefore, a notebook must be clear and thorough


  • Generally, the notebook should not leave the laboratory
  • The notebook belongs to the lab and institution

Type and Format of Notebook

1. Bound vs. Loose Leaf

Advantages Disadvantages
Bound No lost sheets
Proof against fraud
No logical order
Loose Leaf Group experiments
Maintain order
Sheets lost
Harder to prove authenticity
  • The bound notebook is the gold standard and will be adopted in our laboratory
  • What to look for in a bound notebook:
    • Bound
    • 8-1/2 x 11" (Able to attach photographs & printouts)
    • Numbered pages
    • Gridded pages

2. Ink not pencil & Mistakes

    • Ballpoint pen with black ink is best
    • Pencil writing can be erased (harder to prove authenticity)
    • Write legibly
    • Mistakes? Cross them out with a single line. White-Out and blacking out is not acceptable.

Content of the Laboratory Notebook

1. Table of Contents - Save first three pages of notebook for TOC

    • Title
    • Date
    • Page Number

2. Date of Experiment 3. Title of Experiment (e.g., Serial knock-down of DIAP1 by RNAi) 4. Purpose (e.g., To determine the relationship between the amount of RNA- used against DNAP1 and the amount of cell death.)

  • Articulate specific questions or goals

5. Materials and Methods

  • Protocol
    • Written
    • Pasted
    • May refer to previous protocol in notebook (note any changes)
    • Write before you begin the procedure
    • Amend as you go through the experiment
    • List any calculations
    • Important: Describe contents of all numbered tubes; Tubes should have systematic numbering

6. Observations and Results

  • Everything that happens or doesn't happen is data
  • Any writing that will facilitate data entry should be planned out in advance
  • Results may include:
    • Tables
    • Charts
    • Graphs
    • Printouts
    • Pictures
    • Gels
    • Films
    • Calculations
    • Important: All computer-based data must be centrally stored and systematically named

7. Discussion and Conclusion

  • Discuss results and implications of data. Specifically answer the questions or state progress towards goals.
  • Prepare a conclusion. How did the experiment go? What were the unanswered questions or possible improvements?
  • What to do next? The steps...


1. Record everything ASAP
2. Weekly Check-Up
3. Attach data/printout/films
4. Create tables and graphs
5. Summary for the Week
6. Record experiment in the Table of Contents
7. Make plan for the following week

Return to Protocols.