Laboratory Notebook Procedures

Book: Use graph-lined, sewn composition notebooks (10″ x 7 7/8 “) so that you make a permanent record of your experiments and results. (Avoid glued books.)

Pen Options: Use a permanent black pen with a fine point, such as a Pilot Precise Rolling Ball V5 (my favorite), Tombow Roll Pen, Jr©, or Uni-ball Vision Micro. These are dark black, permanent, and duplicate (reproduce, copy) very well. A pencil or water soluble felt tipped pen are not acceptable. Ball point pens have ink which will dissolve under organic solvents.
Microbiology Page Numbering Illustration
llustration of the common features of all Micro Notebooks

1) Title the inside front cover LAB SCHEDULE. Number the facing page i, and title HANDOUT TABLE OF CONTENTS.
2) Mount the HANDOUTS (LAB SCHEDULE and HANDOUT TABLE OF CONTENTS) as shown. As each protocol is mounted in your notebook, enter its page number on the line provided to the left of its listing. It will look like this after you have referenced the handout pages. (Ready to turn in notebook for grading)
3) Number the next two pages ii, iii and iv. (for Micro, add iv, v and vi.) Title them MY TABLE OF CONTENTS I, II and III. You will mount your own table of contents here later.
4) Then number every right hand page at the top right with odd numbers: 1, 3, 5, etc.
5) If your handout packet contains a Slide List, title page 1 “LIST OF SLIDES.” Mount the list on this page. Label page 2 NOTEBOOK PROCEDURES. Mount those protocols on these pages.
6) Title the inside of the back cover “MY GRADESLIPS“. Mount sequential grade slips here. Title the facing page “NEW WORDSTEMS.” Earn two points by keeping a running table of wordstems given in lecture or lab, but which are not on the handout sheet and typing them up before NB grading.
7) Draw guide lines at lines 1, 3, 6 and 9 along the edge of your closed book.
8) Date each page in the upper left hand corner as soon as you begin an entry on that given page.
9) Title each page IN CAPITALS with a specific focused title between lines 1 & 3.
10) Begin the entries below line 9. Enter all data directly into the lab book. Here is a sample showing date, title, page, cross ref and entries below line 9.
11) Use a fresh page for each experiment . Neatness is of secondary importance, but leave adequate space for ease of future use. Do not tear out any pages.
12) Cross reference pages of related material on line 6 (three spaces below the title). Give the nature of the cross reference: protocol, data, graph, illustration, conclusion, etc. You may cross reference the location of illustrations to the right of the features listed in the protocol.
13) Permanently mount ALL handouts with clear contact paper. Keep intact if at all possible. Mount sequential grade slips inside back cover.
14) Use any excuse for an illustration, since it displays information or data in a manner comprehensible at a glance. (See Notebook Illustrations.) Prevent ink from bleeding through by placing illustrations on the R page, and handouts on the L (or vice versa).
15) For dissections, illustrate: 1) cuts made, 2) spatial & functional relations of organs.
16) For microscopic specimens, illustrate characteristic views to fill at least half a page. Clearly resolve all details observed with labels for all features mentioned in the protocol and/or in Lab. The illustration title goes above, magnification of the view at the lower right. The legend is below, indicating the source, treatment and staining procedure used. Do not hesitate to draw a second illustration to expand on the first.
17) For each new piece of apparatus: illustrate, label and explain all functional features.
18) Color may be added after illustrating with black pen. Use of appropriate color in illustrations can make them more meaningful as well as attractive.
19) Title your graphs precisely, cross reference, label coordinates, note significant phases, especially according to time. Give conditions under which experiment was performed. Show all effects observed, especially according to time or changing conditions. Here is a sample graph.
20) Indent protocols or recipes, leaving space above and below for clarity. Note in detail any changes made in the protocol, difficulties encountered, or future cautions.
21) Draw conclusions, noting the value of the exercise, and, if appropriate, making suggestions for improvement of the experiment. Include in your conclusions not only the “processed” data, but points which could be examined more closely in future experiments and questions which may have arisen as a result of the experiment. For an extra three points, type out your suggestions on a single page, cross reference them to the page of the experiment, and mount them in your notebook.


Compare these instructions with the Sample Notebook Grade Sheets which you have received. Note that points are awarded according to the completeness with which you have followed these instructions. Early effort applied to learning correct notebook procedure will pay dividends when your notebook is graded. (Lab work, as evidenced by your notebook comprises between 25 and 40% of your grade, depending on the course.)

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Comments and Suggestions

Here are some suggestions about how students can make the most of their “COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS” portion of the notebook.

I mentioned in the first day of lab (a LONG time ago), that one goal of the lab is to get students to think more deeply about what we do in lab, and would like you to draw comments and suggestions based on what we do in lab (or in the field). Obviously you will not answer all of the following questions, or even have comments for every lab we do, but here is a list to get you thinking along these lines:

  • What is the purpose of a particular lab? What was the value?
  • Did you have problems with the protocol? How would you improve it?
  • Did you have problems with your use of the equipment? If so, what were they?
  • Did the data have anomalies? Propose hypotheses about what might be the explanation.
  • Are there labs which you feel were not of value to the course? Could you suggest a replacement lab?
  • Did your lab work explain something you observed in your regular life and which you now understand better?

Of particular value to me are suggestions which cause me to alter/improve the way I teach this course. (Of little value are complaints about how there was not enough time… ;-))

I request that you pick out at most, the best five or your comments/suggestions and type them up on a single page with cross references to the pages in your notebook which gave rise to the comments. You should type up a minimum of three thoughtful and/or incisive comments for full credit (8 points). If they are typed up on a single page with cross references, you get an additional 3 points (11 total points). If I incorporate your suggestion(s) into the way I teach the course, you get 16 points.

Here is the illustrated page on NB PROCEDURES:

Linked to the previous page is an example of SAMPLE COMMENTS:

A word of advice… do NOT wait until Tuesday night to finish up your notebook (i.e., type up and mount your table of contents, your wordstem list, your suggestions…) I cannot tell you how many times students say they waited until the day the NB was due to print them out, and they couldn’t get them to print…

Also… the work we do on Wednesday will be included in the Notebook Gradesheet. Do not skip the lab in order to finish up your notebook.

About 15 minutes before the end of the lab, I will hand out the gradesheets. You will enter the appropriate page numbers in you notebook for each of the entries to be graded. I will then collect the notebooks, re-distribute them, and you will help me grade the objective portion of the notebook (see the top section of the notebook gradesheet:

Enjoy your “reading days…”