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Lab Notebook


In industry, your lab notebook can be worth millions in the event that your company winds up in patent litigation.  In college, your lab notebook records all of your work so that you do not have to rediscover any “peaking and tweaking” you did by repeating experiments.  In AP chemistry, your lab notebook is documentation of the lab work you did when your AP performance is evaluated for possible college credit.
The lab notebook must be permanently bound, preferably with a sewn binding, so that pages cannot be torn out.  These are usually sold as “composition books” at office supply stores.
Label the cover of your notebook with your name, the name of this course, and your teacher’s name.
Using permanent dark blue or black ink only, number all of the front pages (the right-side pages) on the upper right hand corner.  Only number the front of the page – the back of the page (the left-side pages) will receive limited use.
On the top line of the first two pages write “Table of Contents” centered left to right.
On the top line of the third page write “Contact List”.  This is where the names, email addys, and phone numbers of your lab partners will be recorded.  Be sure and keep this updated throughout the year.
You will use only the right-side pages.  The left-side pages will be saved for minor or preliminary calculations and notes of no consequence to the experiment – such as personal reminders.
No pages are ever to be removed.
All entries must be made directly in the notebook in permanent dark blue or black ink only.
The notebook should be arranged in chronological order.
When you begin writing on a new page, record the date in the upper right corner below the page number and write the title of the experiment (it must match the title in the table of contents) centered at the top of the page.
When you are finished with a page, write the date of the last entry on that page, print your name, and initial it.
If you make an error, draw a single bold horizontal line through the error, making sure that it can still be read.  Never erase, obliterate, or whiteout anything in your lab notebook.  Write the correct information to the right (or above) the incorrect entry and then write a brief note explaining the correction.  For example:
4.57 g  4.75 g  accidentally transposed digits when reading the balance
If there is a blank page, such as many of the left-hand pages, or if there is any blank area on a page, a large “X” must be drawn across it.  The “X” is then initialed and dated.  If you need to skip a line between sections on a page, draw a wavy line across that line, and then date and initial the wavy line. There should be no unused empty space on a page except for the printed margins. 
Everything related to the laboratory work must be recorded in the notebook. There should never be any loose scraps of paper in the notebook. Never write data on another sheet of paper with the idea of recording it in the lab notebook later.
The lab notebook must be neat, organized, and labeled.  If your teacher cannot easily read and understand what you have recorded, then it is not satisfactorily recorded.
If graphs, charts, spreadsheets, etc. are to be attached to the notebook, use permanent dark blue or black ink to label the space on the page with a description of the item and the results.  For example: “Excel graph of density versus sugar concentration.”  This way, if it is lost or removed, there will be a record of it. Do not make any notes on the inserted material.  The inserted material should be attached to the page over the description with tape or glue.  Never use staples, and absolutely, never simply stick the material between the pages.
Do not copy any information from the notebooks of other students.  There is an exception to this that may occur when you are working in a group, and only one member of the group records the data.  In this case, you must indicate in your notebook that the information was copied from another person’s notebook.  Next to the copied information, you must write the name of the person who originally recorded the information and the page number in their notebook from which the information was copied.
Each page must be consecutively numbered and have your name, date and the experiment title
Include in the notebook a complete description of the work performed, all reference materials consulted, and ideas that you have related to the work.
Always record raw data in your notebook immediately.  Do not trust to your memory to keep track of it.  It is very easy to transpose digits.  Interruptions have a way of distracting you and causing you to forget. You may also hear someone near you mentioning values and become confused as to what your own values were.
Leave plenty of room for the notebook on your lab bench.  That way it will not get knocked onto the floor, or worse, knock some or all of your equipment onto the floor as well.
Be careful of where you place your notebook.  Keep it away from any splashes, spills, or puddles. If you are writing in permanent ball point pen as required, then water will not cause your writing to run or bleed, but if water gets onto your notebook that can make it very difficult to record data on wet pages.  That spill may or may not be a harmless solid, and that puddle may be only water, but it might also be a dilute, if not concentrated, solution of a corrosive, which will attack your notebook as it dries and becomes more concentrated. 
Do not use the notebook as a tray to carry small items such as crucibles or beakers.  It is too easy for them to fall off the notebook, or be accidentally knocked off the notebook, and onto the floor.
Begin each lab on a new right-hand page.  Write the title of the lab centered on the top line of the page.
Enter the title and the page number in the Table of Contents.
List the people who worked with you on the lab.
In one to two sentences, three at the most, describe the purpose of the experiment. 
Include the general method or approach that will be used and the expected results.
Do NOT begin with “The purpose of this lab is”.
Remember that the educational purpose of the lab is not the same as the experimental purpose.  The purpose would not be stated as, “This experiment will teach us about density measurements” but as something more like, “The density of degassed Coke will be used to determine its sugar content.”
This section will include:
(1)  A citation of the source of your experimental procedure and any background sources that were used.  Use MLA form to cite works referenced: http://www.citationmachine.net/.
(2)  Balanced chemical equations for all reactions that are part of the lab
(3) Calculation of molar masses, if stoichiometry is involved in the lab
List the chemicals, the equipment, the glassware, and anything else used to perform the experiment.
Once you have your equipment and apparatus set up, a sketch of your experimental setup may need to be included: if you have never used a setup like it before, if your procedure includes anything that might be difficult for your reader to picture, or if you have customized the setup in some way that you might need to refer to again at a later date.
Use a ruler and a pen to divide any pages that will contain the procedure into two parts by drawing a vertical line approximately 3/5 of the way across the page from the left-hand margin. 
Before you come to lab you will record the procedural outline in the larger, left-hard part of the page.  During lab you will record any modifications or any procedural notes in the smaller, right-hard part of the page.  The results do NOT belong here.  They will be written in the results section.
The procedural outline is a bulleted or numbered list of the steps.  Keep these short and concise, but also complete.  Read the entire procedural section of the lab handout or lab manual before you start writing the procedural outline.  This will make writing the procedural outline easier and less confusing.
All data and observations must be recorded in this section, and it should be recorded in chronological order Include all measurements made using correct significant digits and units.  All important observations also belong in this section.  Use the passive past tense and avoid personal pronouns whenever possible.  “I saw the solution bubble when my partner added the ethanoic acid” should be rewritten as, “The solution bubbled when the ethanoic acid was added.”  Observations are always written using complete sentences.
It will save lab time if data tables are set up in the lab notebook before coming to the lab. This will take some planning and thought, but will save time and space in the lab notebook.
Data tables will need to be in standard formal (click here).  All graphs will need to be in standard scientific format (click here).  Some can be done with Excel, some must be done by hand, and some can be done with a combination of the two.