Guidelines for Lab Notebooks – Physics 310
Your overall goal should be to record as much information pertaining to the lab exercises as possible without resorting to a lot of lengthy prose. Hence, well-labeled diagrams, charts, tables, and graphs will prove to be indispensable tools. Here are some specific suggestions:
1) Maintain a table of contents at the front of the lab notebook including project names, dates, and page ranges.
2) Date each lab entry. If you spent several days, indicate so.
3) Label each project, exercise or section in the lab notebook with a clearly marked heading or title. Make large, clear, uncramped, well-labeled diagrams, schematics and flow-charts. Also include brief captions beneath or beside these figures: captions add tremendously to the amount and usefulness of the information presented.
4) In electronic schematics, label all chips with their respective numbers. Also label all other circuit elements including resistors, caps, diodes, transistors, switches, transformers, inductors, LED’s, etc. Include enough detail in the pin-outs that you can re-construct your circuit from your notes if necessary. Be sure to use standard circuit symbols. If unsure, consult with me, the text, or other resources. Also include other operating parameters such as frequencies, periods, and voltages.
5) When recording component values in your lab notebook, do not assume that the label is correct! Instead, check with the DMM or capacitance meter, then record.
6) Include units on all numbers where appropriate!
7) Never erase your work except for simple writing (typographical) errors. You may want later on to see what you would otherwise erase into oblivion. Instead of erasing, simply single-line or cross out the work in error, but do so in a way that it remains legible.
8) Always explain your reasoning or logic – even if in short, incomplete sentences and phrases. In similar fashion, explain how all measurements are made, especially when making them for the first time. For example, explain where and how in a circuit an oscilloscope is attached, and how the scope is interpreted.
9) Compare results with others’ in the class, especially for numerical results.
10) And perhaps the most important: The point or objective of each exercise must be clearly understood and indicated. Often this can be done with a single sentence or just a couple of phrases: i.e., what does the exercise prove or demonstrate, what did you learn from it, does it meet your expectations (and why?), how could the technique or circuit be improved upon? If the point of the exercise is not clear to you, then more work and thought are in order.