A student’s job is to continuously receive and assess new information. For science students, there is a greater emphasis on how you handle the information you receive for research. It’s important to know how to collect your data and understand the thought processes to master conducting research effectively. The lab notebook you use as a student is an effective tool to practice critical thinking and collecting data. Properly recording experiments and thought processes allows you to easily review information and build upon prior results. As a student, recording the learning process in your lab notebook also provides you with a study tool for final exams.
While modern technology provides us with an easier way to document information, handwritten data is important for establishing a record of work. Recording information in a written document is also useful for future endeavors like filing for a trademark, patent, or copyright actions. Whether you’re an aspiring undergraduate or a pre-med student, enhance your academic performance by exploring these three tips for maintaining a student research laboratory notebook.
Organize for Reading
It’s important to be in the habit of organizing your research lab notebook to ensure readability. A quality lab notebook is legible and easy to follow. The information documented inside your notebook must be readable for peer reviews—a critical part of collaborative research—and yourself when reviewing lab data.
Record Data Analysis
After establishing the fundamentals of the scientific method in your experimental entries, remember to document your assessment of the results regularly. Analyzing and making connections in the data you’ve gathered is key to maintaining a constructive research notebook. As a student, it’s also important to document your learning processes while improving your research skills.
Follow Ethical Standards
Following the ethical standards of a laboratory notebook is vital for a student conducting scientific research. A few fundamentals are documenting all data (good or bad), never removing pages, and documenting corrections without removing or erasing errors. Instructors usually provide guidelines for maintaining your lab notebook, but you should always practice these rules to make them stick.
As you progress in your academic career, it’s important to continuously practice the standards of maintaining data as if you are already working in a professional laboratory. When considering these tips for maintaining a student research laboratory notebook, remember the information you record isn’t limited to text entries, but can include sketches, graphs, and other visual forms of data. The research lab notebook you keep as a student contributes to your academic goals and polishes your skills for your future plans in professional research.