Laboratory Record Keeping Procedures

Laboratory notebooks are the means for keeping a permanent record of the details of an individual’s day-to-day research and development work in the laboratory or office. They provide a basic reference which the individual and others can refer to a later date; legal evidence with respect to the materials recorded, such as conception of an invention and the date thereof or date of reduction to practice and test results; in some instances are required for compliance with the provisions in many grant and contractual arrangements.

Select a notebook with bound and numbered pages. This is extremely important. Loose-leaf notebooks and tablets with tear out pages are not to be used. Each researcher should have a separate notebook. Notebooks should not be shared.

The UNO Bookstore can supply you with a high-quality, bound book entitled Laboratory Notebook. It is manufactured by Boorum & Pease Company (Esselte), order number L21150R. It contains a pre-printed version of these instructions as well as other desirable user aids such as signature and witness lines on every page. This notebook is highly recommended

If a less expensive notebook is required, The Bookstore can supply you with one entitled Computation Notebook. It is manufactured by Avery Dennison, order number 43-648. A label can be obtained from the IP Office (Wyly 1639) to designate this to be a Laboratory Notebook and to record the necessary owner information. If the reader uses this book, a copy of these written procedures should be taped to the inside of the front cover for future reference. One drawback to this book is that it is quadrille printed rather than lined. And the book does not include pre-printed signature and date line reminders on each page. But it is bound and page numbered.

Instructions for Recording Data in the Laboratory Notebook

  • All entries should be made in a legible and orderly manner using permanent ink, preferably black. Make entries clear and complete so that someone else could repeat the experiment if necessary.
  • Avoid erasures. If an error is made, cross it out and make the correction immediately thereafter. Cancellations or insertions should be initialed, dated and explained (in the margin, if possible), by an appropriate notation.
  • Make sure the control page information is filled out prior to usage.
  • State the object and results of each experiment clearly and concisely. Give a complete, factual and self-explanatory account of the progress of the work and the procedure followed (reference to earlier work done by yourself or another maybe accomplished by noting a previous page of the same notebook or the page and number of an earlier notebook). All operating details and conditions should be reordered, indicating yields, conversion, etc., and identifying products. Describe and give quantities of all materials used. Explain all code numbers and abbreviations.
  • An entry dealing with a conception (invention, idea) should describe the thing conceived (Example: whether it is a chemical compound, a combination of compounds, a combination of a compound and a solvent, etc) as well as the utility for the thing conceived, how it is to be used and the method(s) by which it is to be prepared, including equivalent materials which could be used. Statements with regard to utility should be stated positively. Work toward practical implementation of an invention should start as soon as possible after disclosure in a notebook.
  • Negative or disparaging entries should be avoided. (Example: If a reaction was expected to produce a 2% yield but instead produced 1%, do not state, “ Process does not work”). Phraseology which expresses gratuitous comments or an opinion rather that a positive statement and should be avoided. This is not an instruction to omit the conclusion in an experiment, which had less that the expected results. Be factual.
  • Each day’s work should, whenever possible, be started on a separate page with lines drawn diagonally across the unused portion of the previous page. (This gives legal evidence that additions were not made at a later date.) It is permissible, as stated above, to make reference to an earlier page by reciting “Continued from page…” It is extremely important that each page show the date of entry.
  • Each page must be signed and dated by the individual who makes the entry and does the work. In addition, each page should be witnessed (signed and dated), using the notation “Read and Understood”, preferably on the same day, but at least within one week. The witness should not be connected with the conception, should not have taken part in the experimental work performed by another, but should understand the technical field of the entry. Record the project number and the record book number on each page.
  • Where two or more individuals make a conception, it need only be entered in the notebook of one, but must be signed and dated by all the conceivers. Ideally, all the individuals should sign on the same day.
  • For copying purposes, graphs, charts, analytical data, etc. should be attached to the notebook pages with a permanent adhesive and should, when unfolded, be kept within the confines of the opened notebook. No entries should be made on the page beneath attached sheets and nothing must be obscured. Leave the heading at the top and the space provided for the witnessing signature at the bottom of each page exposed. Inserts should be signed and dated by the person making the entry and witnessed by another to provide the best legal evidence. If materials such as spectra, graphs, etc. are not kept in the notebook, they must be signed, dated and identified in such a manner as to provide a reference back to the pertinent page(s) of the Laboratory Notebook itself.
  • Research notebook should be keep in the laboratory or office in a file cabinet and protected from damage, they are legal evidence.  Report the loss of theft of a research notebook.
  • Scholarworks@UNO is responsible for archiving of all data and records and providing access. You need a statement indicating where the Notebook(s) will be stored, such as “Original laboratory notebooks will be secured by the PI in his/her campus office or laboratory.  Such laboratory notebooks are the property of the University and must be retained by the institution.  The data will be preserved for at least three years beyond the award period, as required by NSF guidelines and in accordance with the institution’s record retention policy.
For more information on click on the Data Management link.