Making Notebook Illustrations

Notebook illustrations are an important class of scientific notes intended to record and communicate observations and visual data, including shape, unique traits, relative size, relationships to other features, etc. They require you to look closely at the specimen, reinforce its structure in your mind by drawing its outlines in two dimensions. You may then review these data in the future. The following guidelines should make your illustrations useful for these purposes.

  1. Illustrate a single illustration per page unless it is a second illustration to expand on primary subject of page, or you are directed to draw two illustrations/page. (Multiple pieces of simple equipment may be drawn on the same page.) Start the illustration below the ninth line on the page to allow space for title and cross ref.
  2. Use the right hand page for illustrations, left for printed protocols. It prevents bleed-through of the ink which obscures drawings. (If you are left handed, you may reverse this suggested pattern.)
  3. The subject of the illustration should be the title of the page.
  4. Below the title, give the cross reference to the location in your notebook of the protocol which you followed, and any text or resource which might give additional information on the subject and/or its significance.
  5. If microscopic, first scan the entire specimen, find a characteristic view with all features noted in the protocol or lecture. Adjust lighting and focus for optimum resolution.
  6. Make a line drawing of the slide with black permanent ink. Draw it to fill most of the allotted space. You may add characteristic colors later if you desire. Do not use colored pencils to make your initial drawing, they are too faint and indistinct.
  7. Label all features listed in protocol or mentioned in lab directly (not in lists). Take care to spell them correctly. (Frequently refer to the protocol while you make your drawing.)
  8. Briefly describe the function or significance of each feature. (This should be done at home.)
  9. In the legend below the illustration, give the source of the specimen if known, the preparatory treatment (staining, etc) to which it was subjected and the stain’s special significance for the features observed, if any.
  10. Give the power of magnification at the lower right of your illustration.
  11. On the with the corresponding protocol, cross reference to the illustration. On protocols with multiple slides, it is convenient and acceptable to enter the page of the illustration to the left of the protocol’s slide commentary. If you used any other source of information for your illustration, you must indicate the source.

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