College Use of Scientific Notebooks

Science majors may be familiar with what a scientific notebook is and how it is used, but those taking science as a minor or elective may not be as familiar. It is a special notebook used to preserve data from experiments and the observations made throughout the experimentation process. All the entries in the notebook must be recorded in a manner that is clear, concise and complete. This includes even unsuccessful experiments, so that the journey to success is well documented.

If you are unsure about what or how much to write, a simple guideline is to provide enough detail that someone else would be able to read your notes in the future and replicate the procedure. They should be able to follow your written directions and read your observations in order to achieve the same results. You should also be able to look back at your own notes from some point in the future and be able to understand fully what transpired.

Once this information has been recorded, it can be used as a basis for analysis, discussion and interpretation of results. From here, the student can use the scientific notebook to write reports, theses, technical papers and other written documents based on the research. A familiarity with these notebooks and how they are used will be helpful if the student goes on to a career field where they are used regularly. Some companies maintain these notebooks for years, as a way of substantiating their research or discovery in pursuit of a patent.