What is a Lab Notebook (LNB)?
- A lab notebook is a place where all of the information associated with a lab activity is written and recorded.
Why do I keep a LNB? Can’t I just type my notes?
- The power of the notebook is to have a full and written record of everything that happens during a lab. This is to say, it is sometimes quite useful to see what was written, even if it was later shown to be incorrect. We learn from the whole process, as the goal is to keep growing, even if I am not necessarily “right” at any given time.
What should it look like?
- The LNB will result in being a mixture of carefully written reports alongside raw notes and ideas that are recorded before-after-during a lab. So, sometimes the pages in the LNB will look “neat” and “organized” while at other times it will reflect something else. The best LNB has all of this, and everything in-between, and the goal is not to have a “perfect” LNB by the end of the course.
What is the difference between “Lab Reporting” and “Lab Writing”
- You don’t need my permission to write in your LNB, as it is your record. When I want to read how you have done in the LNB I will specifiy what I wish. So, some parts will look “formal” while others are not. I would caution you to not to use the formal method unless specifcally asked. I do require that anything you wish for me to read be clear and organized.
What parts of the lab are graded?
- I will grade the lab in different ways throughout the year. Sometimes I will evaluate the LNB for completeness, not checking for correctness. Other times I will grade for formatting and thoroughness. My goal is to limit the amount of time spent on needless formatting and detail unless it is necessary.
So what does a typical lab look like?
- Typically, the homework preceding a lab will be to “prep the lab.” This means to write the Purpose, Background Theory, Procedure, and Data sections in the lNb according to the prescribed process. This will take some time but is necessary to ensure students understand what is happening during the lab. When introducing the lab, as well as before sending students to the lab on the lab day I will typically add some “notes before lab” which should be written directly in the LNB. During the lab students will most likely amend or adjust the data tables that they planned on using, and this is perfectly normal (and perfect). After the lab, students will be asked to calculate the results of the lab, showing their work as they would for homework. Sometimes, I will ask for a formal summary, in which case the students can then take the completed calculations and other thoughts and write a formal and formatted summary according to the guidelines.
General LNB Guidelines
- bring to class every day.
- never write on separate paper (or type in a document) to transfer later
- write in only dark blue or black ink
- mistakes are crossed out – no erasing or white out
- no page should ever be ripped out or removed for any reason
- no photocopies are allowed to be taped into the book
- label the top of every page
- if a section does not apply to a lab, do not include it in the report
- the rubric for evaluating Lab Reporting [LINK]
Formal Lab Reporting Parts
(see grading rubric)
- Clear, concise, measurable
- full sentence, does not start with “to”
- most likely no more than a single sentence
II. Background Theory
- full sentences (do not need to connect with each other)
- all equations and reactions MUST be included
- relevant connecting theories to the lab activity
- does not include procedure / may include theory of procedure
- sources must be proper – no class notes are sources
- citations at end of the section
- minimum five bullet points
- major plot points in procedure only
- always full sentences (3rd person passive)
- do not include obvious steps (i.e. cleaning)
- include a separate list of the chemicals / solutions used
- include a list of equipment used
- introductory sentence(s) for the section
- introdctory sentence before each table (above the table title)
- labeled columns and rows
- all given (known) information included
- Data table and introductory sentence required BEFORE lab starts
- Data = anything directly recorded (with units), organized in a table
- no calculations / interpretations / conversions of any kind allowed
- introductory sentence for the section
- introductory sentence for any separate parts / tables in the section
- Clear, logical support for calculations
- One example of each calculation minimum
- use prescribed format (Title, Formula, Number Example)
- All results summarized in table(s)
- Only one example of each type of calculation
- If you plot a graph then this is mentioned in this section
- [NOTE: there is no “Calculation” section if the lab does not require calculations.]
- paragraph 1 – Use the CER thinking to support the claim (conclusion) you are making in the experiment. (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning = CER). This paragraph is NOT a restatement of calculations or data.
- paragraph 2 – Identify the uncertainty in obtaining results, and how each uncertainty impacts the results.
- report the direct findings of your experiment.
- this should connect directly with the purpose
- complete sentence(s) / no data or calculations
- no opinions or restatement of error or uncertainty