Keeping a lab notebook

Keeping a lab notebook is extremely important because it is the main record of your research.¬†You should be writing in your lab notebook everyday, and it’s always better to write as much as possible: sketch of your setup, thoughts about what you want to try, comments about why things might or might not be working, etc. This is true in both the lab and when doing computer simulations. Here are a few note:

(1) Write as clearly as possible, in English, and with a pen–ink doesn’t fade much.
(2) Put your name, email, and the PI’s name on the front of the lab notebook. This way people know who to return it to if it gets lost.
(3) Keep one or two pages empty at the front of your notebook that you can fill in like a table of contents as needed.
(4) Everyday, put the date and a couple of sentences about what you are trying to accomplish. This also becomes a good record of your progress. No notes, no progress.
(5) Write down every step so that if you were to give your notebook to someone else, they could reproduce your results.
As with most academic and industry research labs, once you move on to bigger and better things (i.e. you graduate!) the lab notebook stays with the lab, so try to make it as legible as possible so that future generations can read it. You are of course welcome to take a copy with you, but please leave the originals.