The Microbiology Laboratory Notebook
The laboratory notebook should be assembled during the course of the lab exercises. An ideal lab notebook will include all of the detailed information needed to set up and carry out the lab, an exact and complete report on the data or observations that are gathered, and a clear analysis of that data, when appropriate comparing one’s own data to class data. Perhaps the most important key to each lab exercise is a logical sequence and conclusion. The introduction should set up the problem or question to be investigated; the data should address that problem (even if they are not complete or have some problem with technique, etc.) and then the evaluation/conclusion should return to say what the data tell us about the original question/problem. For many labs, this logical sequence will be very obvious: A question is asked; data are gathered; a conclusion is drawn based on those data. Lab notebooks will also be done by hand, on numbered pages, with no second edit, much in the way that a working investigative laboratory notebook would be done.
Please be sure to use a notebook that has bound pages (note a 3-ring binder). Use whatever type of notebook you feel comfortable with—a spiral-bound notebook, a composition notebook, a smaller stenographer’s notebook that flips open at top, or any other type of notebook that you like, as long as the pages are bound in place. This is so that all of your notes, even mistakes, are included. This is the way “real working scientists” keep their notes so that they can always go back and see everything they did and noted down as they did it.
Be sure you are as complete as possible. Start each lab exercise in a new section of the notebook and clearly label it with a heading or title. Please be sure to include the following content components:
Before coming to lab:
I strongly encourage the use of drawings and graphs to help organize and portray your procedures, data and analysis. Do not EVER re-write or remove pages from your notebook. You may, on a given page, quickly jot down information on what you are doing, or sketches of what your cultures or slides look like. You can then perhaps include more polished versions of those sketches or notes in a subsequent page, but do not remove the initial observations from the notebook. Sometimes your notes taken during lab day can help resolve a confusion or problem with the lab results.
Lab notebooks will be graded by a personal review during the week at the end of each Unit of the course. Unlike the compendium notebooks for lecture, your lab notebooks should not be re-written or polished, but you should, before, during and after the labs, be sure that you include all of the components that are listed above in a clear and organized, easily understandable fashion.