Chemistry

Beyond blank slates in the lab notebook

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Science  18 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6279, pp. 1277-1278
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6279.1277-e
PHOTO: MEDIAPHOTOS/ISTOCK PHOTO

Keeping an accurate laboratory notebook is a critical element of good scientific practice. It's helpful to start at an early age, so Willoughby et al. explored the influence of the reporting format on the record kept by undergraduates (and in one case more experienced researchers) conducting several chemistry experiments. Specifically, they focused on how templates, both paper-based and computer-based, affected the quantity and quality of information captured. They found that section headings and contextual cues helped ensure the preservation of a certain essential subset of information. At the same time, a free-form reporting format led to more detailed explanatory discussion of observations.

J. Cheminform. 10.1186/s13321-016-0118-6 (2016).

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