Monday, December 31, 2007

10 commandments for keeping a lab notebook

Another list, just in time for the new year! My boss recently reminded us what it takes to keep a proper lab notebook, and I wanted to share it with you.

Here is the list:
1) Reference for the reaction (from the literature or from one of your or another lab member's lab notebook, for instance Amanda's Notebook VI, page 228)

2) Structure of reactants and expected products

3) Table with mgs/mmols/equivalents/densities/origins of reagents. That last one is really important. If you used a mysterious, old reagent that has been sitting on the shelf for 20+ years and got great results, when you buy a brand new bottle and don't get similar results, you have a reason. The impurities in reagent that is 99% from Sigma might not be exactly the same as a 95% reagent from a different supplier. Also, write down where you found the reagent. I don't know about your lab, but mine has about 10 different fridges/freezers, and sometimes it is difficult to remember exactly where you put something.

4) Reaction procedure--we all already do this, right?

5) How did you monitor the reaction? Draw your TLC or attach your HPLC trace.

6) Workup procedure--sometimes I get a little lazy here.

7) Purification procedure. Include the size of column, amount of silica used, etc.

8) Results. mgs of product obtained, % yield, and physical state of material -- bright orange powdery solid, 239 mg, 98% yield

9) Characterization of products. Include reference to your NMR (if you keep electronic copies, write down the filename!) and explain. For instance, 13C NMR (Amanda_VI_228b_pure), for spot at 0.6 Rf (1:1 EtOAc:Hexanes) consistent with expected product X.

10) Don't forget to write down the date!

And as a general rule, try to write down things within 24 hours of completing them. You tend to forget things if you wait too long.

Anyone have anything to add to this list? While I generally know what to put in my chemistry lab notebook, I must say that I don't necessarily include all of these things every single time. Maybe that will be one of my resolutions for 2008. On a similar note, I also tend to do quite a bit of biology. Do any biologists out there have any suggestions for what to include in a biology lab notebook?


Jean-Claude Bradley said...

Great summary! I think the most important section of any lab notebook page is the "Log" where you have a date/time column and then the corresponding action/observation. You can construct results, discussion and conclusion from this at any point. Without it you can't reliably understand exactly how the experiment was done and what happened.

At least these are the instructions to my students doing organic chemistry experiments. It might not apply as well in other areas (like "dry labs" such as bioinformatics).

Chemgeek said...

Good list.
Often the little details (i.e. where the reagent came from as you mentioned) can make a big difference.
I've learned this the hard way.

Ψ*Ψ said...

I wish you'd posted that a year or two ago! my current notebook is abysmal. I mean, it CAN be followed, and I've definitely seen worse...Fortunately, it's also nearly full, so #2 will be much more detailled and organized.

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