Laboratory notebook format

Use the following general format for recording an experiment in your lab notebook:


The following information should be entered before you begin the laboratory session:

Enter the date at the top of the page. Use an ambiguous date format, such as 2 September 2008 or September 2, 2008 rather than 2/9/8 or 9/2/8. If the experiment runs more than one day, enter the starting date here and the new date in the procedure/data section at the time you actually begin work on that date.

Experiment title
If the experiment is from this or another laboratory manual, use the name from that manual and credit the manual appropriately. For example, “Quantitative Analysis of Chlorine Bleach by Redox Titration (illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments, #20.2)” If the experiment is your own, give it a description title.

Write one or two sentences that describe the goal of the experiment. For example, “To determine the concentration of chlorine laundry bleach by redox titration using a starch-iodine indicator.”

Introduction (optional)
Any preliminary notes, comments, or other information may be entered in a paragraph or two here. For example, if you decided to do this experiment to learn more about something you discovered in another experiment, not that fact here.

Balanced equations
Write down balanced equations for all of the reactions involved in the experiment, including if applicable, changes in oxidation state.

Chemical information
Important information about all chemicals used in the experiment, including, if appropriate, physical properties (melting/boiling points, density, etc.), a list of relevant hazards and safety measures from the MSDS (the Material Safety Data Sheet for the chemical), and any special disposal methods required. Include approximate quantities, both in grams and in moles, to give an idea of the scale of the experiment.

Planned procedure
A paragraph or two to describe the procedures you expect to follow.

Main body

The following information should be entered as you actually do the experiment:

Record the procedure you use, step by step, as you actually perform the procedures. Note any departures from your planned procedure and the reasons for them.

Record all data and observations as you gather them, inline with your running procedural narrative. Pay attention to significant figures, and include information that speaks to accuracy and precision of the equipment and chemicals, you use. For example, if one step involves adding hydrochloric acid to a reaction vessel, it makes a difference if you added 5 mL of 0.1M hydrochloric acid from a 10 mL graduated cylinder or 5.00 mL or 0.1000M hydrochloric acid from a 10 mL pipette.

If your setup is at all unusual, make a sketch of it here. It needn’t be fine art, nor does it need to illustrate common equipment or setups such as a beaker or a filtering setup. The goal is not to make an accurate representation of how the apparatus actually appears on your tab bench, but rather to make it clear how the various components relate to each other. Be sure to clearly label any relevant parts of the set up.

Include any calculations you make. If you run the same calculation repeatedly on different data sets, one example calculation suffices.

If appropriate, construct a table or tables to organize your data. Copy data from your original inline record to the table or tables.

If appropriate, construct a graph or graphs to present your data and show relationships between variables. Label the axes appropriately, include error bars if you know the error limits, and make sure that all of the data plotted in the graph are also available to the reader in tabular form. Hand-drawn graphs are preferable. If you use computer-generated graphs, make sure that they are labeled properly and tape or paste them into this section.


The following information should be entered after you complete the experiment:

Write a one- or two-paragraph summary of the results of the experiment.

Discuss, if possible quantitatively, the results you observed. Do your results confirm or refute the hypothesis? Record any thoughts you have that bear upon this experiment or possible related experiments you might perform to learn more. Suggest possible improvements to the experimental procedures or design.

Answer questions
If you’ve just completed a lab exercise, answer all of the post-lab questions posed in the exercise. You can incorporate the questions by reference rather than writing them out again yourself!

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