Maintaining Research Notebooks

Laboratory notebooks are valuable to provide a record of the creation of inventions. They can also provide support for the university’s compliance with federal regulations. With this in mind, below are some suggestions to follow when developing your laboratory notebook:

  1. Use bound notebooks with the numbered pages
  2. Make sure all entries are printed legibly with a ballpoint pen and initialed or signed by the person writing in the entry. No pencil or water-soluble ink should be used.
  3. Each experiment should be described in detail and should include a discussion of its purpose, along with the outcomes and conclusions of the experiment in a clear and detailed way.
  4. Each project should have its own notebook or set of notebooks. For multiple notebooks, each one should be numbered individually to help organize your records.
  5. Be sure to record reagent lot numbers as well as invoice numbers for any special order supplies or services (such as peptides or DNA sequencing). A copy of the dated invoice is also recommended.
  6. Have a witness who understands the research or technology (but would not be named as a co-inventor on any subsequent patent filing for the technology) sign and date important entries in the notebook.
  7. Be sure to date all machine-generated, non-handwritten laboratory data and securely attach them to the laboratory notebook. If possible, a description should be written on the material provided including the significance of the result.
  8. All hand-written data transcribed from a computer or data generating machine should include a copy of the raw data.
  9. Information recorded on “thermal” paper should be copied to regular paper, since “thermal” paper fades over time.