A scientist’s lab journal is a comprehensive record of everything connected with his or her research. It is a written proof of the procedures, observations and results of ongoing research and a place to document new ideas and approaches. In fact, it can be crucial if there’s ever a dispute over patents or intellectual property.
Each SBC participant is required to submit a lab journal for evaluation during the competition. Below, you’ll find some standard procedures for lab journals common to most institutions, along with a list of content that SBC judges will be looking for. Remember: your lab journal content makes up a good portion of the judges’ evaluation!
Lab Journal Format
The type of lab journal we’re looking for can be easily purchased at stores such as Staples/Bureau en Gros or Office Depot. We recommend a Blueline Hardcover Flush-cut Composition Book (7 ¼” x 9 ¼”), but digital lab journals are also acceptable.
Laboratory Journal Checklist
- Before you begin any entries, number every page of your lab book consecutively in the upper right-hand corner of each page. Do not leave out any pages.
- Date every page of the book as you use it.
- Start a new page for each different experiment or project.
- Glue a copy of the experimental procedure or protocol in the notebook before the first time you use that procedure.
- Write down any observations you have during the experiment as soon as you notice them.
- Glue diagrams and photos in at the appropriate place and initial the corner of the photo or diagram.
- If you make a mistake, cross it out with a single stroke and initial it. Do not remove any pages from the book. Do not use white out or liquid paper.
- Do not leave empty pages between experiments. Just write “continued on page ##” where you end and “continued from page ##” where you begin again.
- If you are using kits in your protocols, make a summary in your lab book showing that you know what is happening.
- Include enough details so that others could repeat your experiments with or without kits. You are marking a trail for others to follow.
- Ensure your results are properly recorded as soon as the experiment is done.
IMPORTANT: Have your mentor sign the lab book indicating that he or she has seen it.