Research science is an art. There are many types of scientists, but research scientists mostly work in a laboratory. They might work in a lab in Government, or in Pharmaceuticals, or in a hospital. Most research scientists will have an overwhelming question. They then read papers, gather ideas, and create experiments that will answer their question. It might disprove or it might approve, but the answer will typically create more questions.
It’s important to have a good and accurate way to track results, so that you can go back and repeat experiments 3-4 times, change things, improve on the design, or figure out where you have made mistakes.
The recording is key. Scientists have to have a good method of recording – that lasts over time, and that makes sense to other scientists who follow behind them. It’s important that other scientists can look at your record (lab notebook) and repeat your results using the same methods. If they can’t read the writing or can’t repeat the results, there is a problem.
The lab notebook is one of the most important parts of being a research scientist. A good scientist will have a thorough and well-written lab notebook.
The lab notebook lives in the lab forever. You can’t take it home or you might lose it – therefore losing important data and methods forever.
I don’t see a problem with recording the right way from the start. It sets the tone and puts your child on the right thought process from the beginning. In the beginning, the sections will be short. But as they grow, so will their writing and recording skills.
I would shy away from using notebooking pages for this. While they are abundantly available on the web, they don’t offer enough space to be able to record what you need. I have tried. Plus, it’s easy to lose the pages.
A lab notebook, a composition book or a notebook.
You don’t have to have an official lab notebook like the one pictured here. A simple college ruled notebook would suffice. The point is to have a real notebook (not a binder) where pages can rip out and get lost.
You need to keep your notebook in a very safe place. Remember, we must not lose our invaluable results.
Contents of a Laboratory Notebook
You want to write the date on the right side on top of the first line. My daughter has written the date on the top left here, but when I was doing my Ph.D. research, I would always write on the top right. I’m not sure that’s accepted wisdom more than just what I did. But my professor also did it that way as did the research assistant. The date is very important.
You want to create a 1-2 line title so that someone knows what these experiments are about. You want something good but short.
Do Yellow and Blue really make Green?
Does MEK Suppress Cell Growth?
Does XXXX inhibitor of P52 suppress Breast Cell Growth
What do you think will happen based on your current knowledge. Someone could have taught you, or maybe you read research papers and know a lot about a particular gene, cell or chemical. This is the question that you are testing.
What are you using? If you get good results, or surprising results, or negative results – you will need to repeat the experiment. This section is very important because you want to use the exact same materials each time you do the experiment. It’s just a detailed list.
SkBR3 Cell line
ABC Medium with XYZ 1.25 mg growth hormone
HIJ Antibiotics to prevent bacterial growth
What are you doing, step-by-step? This is important for repeating. A simple list of items is sufficient.
I grew SKbr3 cells at 37 degrees C for 7 days
I then put in antibiotic and fungizone to prevent fungus and bacterial growth
I froze the cells to extract DNA at a later date (2 weeks later)
Every single step can make a difference in the results you get, so it’s very important that you record accurately.
During Experiment Recording
What happened during your experiment. This is where you will put graphs, charts, raw data, and pictures. This is the evidence of your work and the beginning to answering your hypothesis.
Whatever you see, big or small, should be recorded in this section.
It’s important that this section is clear because you will take any raw data and analyze it through statistics. These pictures are valuable.
What did you learn from your experiment? Did you confirm or disprove your hypothesis? What other experiments could you perform to better answer your question? What new questions surfaced?
What did your data say?
This part is important for the peer-reviewed paper that you will eventually publish.
I know it’s a lot, and each experiment will not be perfect. Your kids might not like it. It’s about building good habits from the beginning that will eventually pay off in the long run.
Do you do many science experiments? How do you record?