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Section 2.14

Notes and Notebooks

Develop a routine for taking notes and maintaining notebooks. There are many ways to record information, each with itsadvantages and limitations. The important step for every writeris to come up with a system that works and that fits into his orher habits of work. Some people take brief notes in a notebook,with entries under the situation and date. Others takepreliminary notes and then elaborate in computer files that maybe arranged and subject-coded. Here are some importantprinciples for note taking:

Laboratory Notebooks

Keep in mind that even informal kinds of record keeping havelegal status. Any formal project work that is funded should beaccompanied by a record-keeping process. This record keepingwill be the basis of any effort you must make to show that youperformed work according to accepted standards of your field andin the manner you originally set out to follow.

Laboratory notebooks are a special, legal form ofnote taking. A laboratory notebook should be bound and numbered, and you should writeon only one side of each sheet. The notebook should have a front-cover label, and it shoulddescribe the project--dates, personnel, addresses, and project particulars--in more detail on thefirst page. A few pages may be left blank for a Table of Contents to be entered when the notebook is complete. Each page should be dated andinitialed. Items typically recorded in notebooks include meeting notes, experimental notes,drawings, timelines, references,formulae, tables of data,equipment readings, materials used (grades, vendors,concentrations). In short, include any item in sufficient detail that it will be useful at some laterdate when you are writing a narrative of what you did. One of the most common problems inlaboratory notebooks is that of missing some detail, such as an equipment setting or a calibrationlevel, that is necessary later to establish the quality, accuracy, and precision of your data. Hence,it makes sense to subject your notebook to routine review by your colleagues or research directorto determine whether your note taking standard is a good one.

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