Laboratory Notebook Format


The laboratory notebook is the primary record of your laboratory work. Descriptions of how the laboratory notebook should be kept can be found in Addison Ault on pages 26-31 and in the paperback Writing the Laboratory Notebook by H.M.Kanare. Because this is an instructional laboratory rather than a professional laboratory, there are some minor differences in formatting from the recommendations of Kanare. The notebook should contain the following:


1. Detailed notes on pre-lab preparation.

a. Theory / purpose of experiment

b. Chemical equation for any reaction to be performed. While the equation should be balanced, this is not always possible for all reagents. (i.e., catalysts)

c. Table of Reagents (usually paired with the equation).

d. Calculation of limiting reagent and theoretical yield.

e. Sketches of Experimental Apparatus when necessary.

f. Detailed notes or flow sheet describing the procedure.


Note that some elements will not apply for all of the experiments we will do this semester: for technique experiments there will be no reactions performed, and therefore no theoretical yield of product. It is usually a good idea to include a Table of Reagents for these experiments, however. Sketches of experimental apparatus should be made when the apparatus is to be used for the first time; thereafter reference can be made to the original sketch.


In a professional laboratory, it is expected that the scientist keeping the notebook and others using it as a resource will be familiar with many general types of procedures. To save space, detailed step-by-step description of procedures are often not included in the pre-lab. Since this is an instructional laboratory, you are not yet familiar with these techniques. Therefore it is necessary that you spend more time on your preparation and come to the lab with a clear idea of your procedure for any given lab period. We require a detailed, step-by-step synopsis of the lab procedure for each experiment. This should not be a direct verbatim re-copying of the lab book but a briefer abstract to show that you have read and understood the procedure and to guide you during the relatively brief lab period, that you may use this time effectively (NOT reading the lab manual!).


2. Detailed notes on observations during the experiment.

a) Actual masses and volumes of reagents.

b) Temperatures and times of reactions.

c) Work up procedures and purification procedures.

d) Appearance of product.

e) Mass of product, % theoretical yield.

f) Other physical data on product as required: Melting or boiling points, spectra, etc.

g) Interpretations and Conclusions


The following pages provide examples of a lab notebook: there is one example of a technique lab and one example of a synthesis lab. The procedures are for labs not included in your set of experiments. This general format should act as a guide or model: DO NOT waste your time trying to make your notebook look EXACTLY like this. You may find it useful to add more information to your pre-lab or to organize your observations slightly differently. Different experiments may also require more or less information in certain sections. However, these examples includes all information necessary for a proper notebook. Note that all of the pieces listed above are present, and that all are relatively terse. It is not desirable to be verbose: the ideal notebook conveys the necessary information as briefly as possible. In particular, many of our labs provide little in the way of interpretations and conclusions. Legibility is very critical: we can only grade what we can read. The notebook should be kept in pen, not pencil: mistakes are corrected by drawing a line or an X through the incorrect entry, not erased. (There are corrections in the example.) Note also in the examples that the student marked specific places where he (or she) did not understand the procedure in the book and needed more information. More details about keeping the notebook are in the resources listed above (Ault, Kanare.)