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CH 1010: Chemical Properties, Bonding, and Forces: Lab Notebooks, Techniques & Protocols

Organizing Your Lab Notebook

General Guidelines

  • Use only a bound notebook and always write directly into your lab notebook. Do not write on separate scraps of paper to be added later. This means making sure you always have your notebook when you are in lab.
  • Write legibly using black permanent ink only. Do not use pencil. Ball-point pens are recommended as they do not smear as easily.
  • Correct mistakes by drawing a single line through the error. Do not erase, white-out, or scribble out mistakes. Do not remove pages from your notebook.
  • Include a table of contents at the front of the notebook. Either use the inside flap or the first couple of pages to accommodate a TOC.
  • Use only the front side of each page. Do not write on the back of each page.
  • If you are required to write what you plan to do in advance, write a summary of the procedure steps in your own words.  It is not necessary to rewrite every little detail from the lab manual.
  • Use past tense and write in 3rd person to describe what you did. Your entries should indicate what you did in the past, not what you plan to do.
  • You can set up your lab notebook for an experiment ahead of lab, but be sure to record ALL EXPERIMENTAL details in the notebook DURING the time you are in lab. Do not wait to record information after the lab.
  • Record what you actually did in lab. Do not simply copy your lab manual. It is especially important to make note of anything you do that is different or in addition to your lab manual instructions, such as using different amounts of a substance or doing things in a different order.
  • Include all observations and measurements in your lab notebook. Always include units of measurement. These notes should include if a substance changed colors, if a reaction produced bubbles, if a process took longer than expected, the weights/volumes of substances used, etc.
  • Be as detailed and descriptive as possible in all observations as well as titles and headings. For example use  "Preparation of Alum" rather than "Chemical Synthesis”
  • At the end of each lab, ask yourself, "Can I recreate this experiment/my results with what I have written down?"

General Page Structure:

  • Top of each page
    • Date
    • Experiment Title
    • Name
    • If you are continuing from the previous page, write “continued from p. #”
  • Bottom of each page
    • Page number (if the notebook is not labeled with page numbers)
    • Cross out all blank space at the bottom of the last page of each experiment; start a new page for each experiment

Web Sources

Lab Technique Videos from MIT

Videos for various techniques commonly used in a chemistry lab such as titration, filtration, using a pipet, refluxing a reaction, performing a reaction work-up, etc.

ACS Center for Lab Safety

This American Chemical Society site has various resources about lab safety. 

Related Guides

Databases by Type: Technical Handbooks

Technical Handbook Databases

Our technical handbooks can be searched by keyword and parsed by chapter or individual entry. Use technical handbooks to find more information on protocols and basic techniques. You can search the full text, read them online, and download relevant sections as needed. Be persistent with your keywords, and if you have any questions, please stop by our offices for assistance.

Find additional handbooks in WPI Library Search - try adding the keyword handbook to your search terms. Or try one of the titles below.