Do's and Don'ts

  • The lab notebook is not your personal property and should never be removed from the laboratory. Laboratory notebooks that relate to inventions that have been patented must be retained as evidence by the inventor and/or assignee for the life of the patent plus six years.
  • Write your full name (first and last), the title of your research project, contact information (current local address, e-mail and phone number where you can be reached) and the date you began this notebook on the cover
  • Do use ball point pens using blue or black permanent ink. Do not use pencils or water soluble inks to ensure that your entries are permanent, cannot be erased or smeared.
  • Be honest. All procedures and experimental data whether you regard them as "good" or "bad" at the time should be recorded in the lab notebook.
  • Do sign and date each page of your notebook. Be sure to include the year when you date entries.
  • Don't write anything on slips of paper, paper towels, etc. with the intent of later copying this information into your notebook. First, that time will never arrive. Secondly, later you will forget key details that should have been recorded in your notebook at the time the experiment was performed.
  • Don't worry about making it "perfect" - your handwriting, etc.
  • Don't leave blank spaces. If you have room left over on a page after recording an experiment, draw a single diagonal line through the remaining space.
  • Don't obliterate or modify entries after the fact. If you make a mistake simply put a single line through the mistake, initial and date it, and write the correct information next to the mistake.
  • Never remove any pages from the notebook
  • Don't use personally defined abbreviations or acronyms. If you want to use abbreviations or acronyms, you should define these somewhere in the notebook - the front or back inside covers of your notebook and/or the last few pages of your notebook could be used for this purpose.