Keeping a Science Notebook

Setting Up Your Science Notebook:

1. Use a 8″ x 10″ sketchbook. I prefer the stitched variety over the spiral bound, and I look for ones that have a smoother paper rather than rough.

2. Use a light-colored paint pen (if the spine is black) to put your full name on the spine or cover.

3. Put a bit of contact information on the inside front cover: your name and email address, or phone number.  Just in case…

4. Skip the first page or two. You may want to go back later to add a table of contents and/or a cover page.

5. Number each page on the top outer corner. To facilitate a table of contents.

6. Date each entry. Preferably abbreviating the month, rather than using a number, and using the whole year. (e.g. Sept. 2, 2011)

7. Be neat. I recommend tracing the lines of a piece of binder paper with a sharpie and putting it behind the page you are writing on. You can see through just enough to keep your lines straight.

8. Use an ink pen, rather than a pencil. Draw a thin line through anything you want to cross out, but don’t use correction fluid/tape.

9. Do not tear out pages.

What to Include In Your Science Notebook:

  • Journal of readings (narrations)
  • Record of labs
  • Related picture or sketch
  • Relevant quotes or Bible verses

Important Note: I have been told that if you are college bound in a science field, you should keep a separate notebook that is specifically for labs.

What to Information to Include in Your Lab Book:

  • A title and date
  • Why the experiment was initiated
  • Hypotheses and goals
  • Lab partners
  • List of equipment used
  • Details of products used
  • Record of procedures
  • How procedures were performed
  • Drawings/sketches of experiment set-up
  • Data you collect
  • Daily entries for things you are watching
  • Calculations
  • Outcomes
  • Graphs
  • Mistakes made or problems encountered
  • What would you do differently next time
  • Final thoughts
  • Glue in things like printed graphs, datasheet templates, photographs, product labels, etc.

Remember to include units of measurement!

Keeping a notebook gives you a forum to talk to yourself, to ask questions, to jot down important thoughts about the experimental design, and how your results might eventually be interpreted.” – Collin Purrington

More information about keeping a lab notebook: 
Collin Purrington – Maintaining a Laboratory Notebook
BenchFly – How to Keep a Lab Notebook
UCLA – Some Tips on Writing Lab Reports

8 thoughts on “Keeping a Science Notebook

  1. Pingback: What Makes Up Our Chemistry Curriculum | Sabbath Mood Homeschool

  2. Heather

    This is SO helpful! Thank you!
    Quick question… Should all forms be keeping a notebook? Or just the upper forms?

  3. Kelly

    Hi Nicole,
    My 7th grade child is a struggling speller, and I had planned to have him use the same notebook for at least two years, perhaps into high school if there is still room in it. Perhaps I should use a new notebook for high school.

    No correction fluid at all, even for a struggling speller? I don’t mind leaving spelling errors in his written narration notebook (to be dealt with later in a spelling lesson), but the science notebook just seems more formal and it’s hard to leave them. Your thoughts?

    Thank you!

    1. Nicole

      Hi, Kelly. It’s still a narration, and you do not want him to be worried about his spelling while he is processing his narration. There are also a lot of times when they will draw diagrams and make charts, so it won’t be all written narration. There is a very interesting book called Writing to Learn by William Zinsser that talks about how people (college students and beyond,) process what they learn through writing. We don’t want to put any kind of road block in that process. I hope that makes sense.

      1. Kelly

        Yes, that makes sense. Thank you for your reply as well as for your website and materials as they have transformed our science and nature life!



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