How to make a lab notebook? Here’s my idea.
There are many ways to do a lab notebook. Here is how mine is put together and some suggestions for improving your lab notebook game.
My top priorities for a lab notebook:
1. Easy to enter information
-If making lab notebook entries is cumbersome, you won’t keep up
2. Easy to find information
-If you want to repeat an experiment with the same doses or see if your calculations from a previous experiment were correct, you need to be able to easily find your entries
3. Includes any information you may want later
-Write everything down. You never know what might be useful later.
Below is a guide through my [Dr. Tyler Moore’s] notebook showing how I accomplish these three priorities.
My Lab Notebook is a 3-Ring Binder
My lab notebook evolved from my experience with various mentors. I like to use a 3 ring binder for my lab notebook. It is easy to organize and it is easy to add pages later, so you don’t run out of space. You can also easily add in extra pages of graphs/tables for your results.
Dividers Break Up Different Projects
The dividers in my lab notebook are used to divide up different projects. The projects have a name that is meaningful to those of us working in the lab, such as “ERK IRF3 Lucia.” Each experiment within a project is named with the name and a sequence number: “ERK IRF3 Lucia #1” “… #2”, etc. Experiments with the same name but a different number are often repeats or repeats with variations. All of our data are cataloged into folders on the computer with the names of the experiments, making it easy to link data and electronic files to the lab notebook entries.
The Layout of a Notebook Entry
All of my notebook entries have at least the following 3 categories: purpose, overview, and methods.
Purpose: The purpose section is a quick statement for why I am doing the experiment. This section may seem unnecessary, but it can be very valuable when trying to make sense of results when a lot of time has passed.
Overview: The overview section is a diagram of how I am going to set up the experiment and what measurements or analyses I will use for a readout.
Methods: The methods section is probably the most important. This section is the detailed step-by-step notes written as I do the experiment. The methods section is dated (and often has a time as well). I like to number each of the steps. It is very important to include all of your calculations and dilutions in your methods section. You never know when math errors can help explain peculiar results of an experiment. You should also include the vendor information and stock concentrations of all media and reagents when you use them for the first time.
Results/Discussion/Other Comments: I don’t always include my results in my lab notebook, because my results are often digital files in folders that correspond to the experiment name in my notebook. For the experiment above, “B16 ERK SEAP #1”, all the data were in an Excel Spreadsheet and a graph. These were all compiled in the “B16 ERK SEAP #1” folder on my computer.
If certain things happened that could impact the interpretation of the results, it is important to add them in. If one of the calculations was incorrect, if one of the wells was contaminated with a fungus, etc., it is important to make a very visible note to aid in the interpretation of the results.
Having a well-organized and thorough lab notebook will make it easier to compile your notes into your senior thesis. It will also make it more likely for your experiments to contribute to the larger project. I hope this information was of some help. I would be happy to hear any comments regarding your ideal lab notebooks.