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MSc Neuroscience

at The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London

Guidance on keeping a Lab Book

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All students will be provided with a standard laboratory notebook. The contents of the laboratory notebook will vary from project to project, and the process for signing them off may differ depending on the research environment. Instructions and guidance for traditional laboratory-based and non-lab based research are given below. Whether the project is lab-based or not, it is key that student activity in relation to the practical element of the project is documented. It can be helpful for students to be shown examples of lab books e.g. a PhD student’s lab book, as an example of normal practice.

An example of how to complete a good laboratory notebook can be viewed on Moodle’s home page under ‘Keeping a good Lab Book (recorded presentation)’.

Please write student name, supervisor name and email address, and project title on the inside cover of the Lab Book.

Purpose of the Lab Book:
  • To maintain a clear, systematic and authoritative record of your studies. The notebook provides a single place for recording decision processes as they are made and the research activity undertaken.
  • The lab book is a good place to record notes from sessions with your supervisor, the agenda, what was agreed and any actions required by the student and supervisor.
  • Each day that you work on your project should provide something to record in your lab book. This is true whether you are working in the library, at home, in the office or a laboratory.
  • At the beginning of each day a new page should be started in the lab book with any space left on the previous day’s page being crossed through with a single line. Pages may be left blank pending experimental results. However, an explanatory statement must be entered at the top of each relevant blank page (e.g. analysis printout from experiment X to go here). Upon entering the data the statement should be deleted with a single line then initialled and dated.
  • All handwritten entries should be legible and in black or blue permanent ink. Never use correcting fluid to paint out mistakes. Similarly, you should not use pencil or other erasable writing instruments. The pages of the lab book are numbered consecutively and pages must not be torn out.
  • For laboratory work, the lab book should contain clearly recorded details that provide an accurate record of the experiments undertaken. Lab books should be used to record all experimental work – successful or unsuccessful. Details should be entered directly into lab books at the time work is being performed. It must be possible to repeat the entire experiment based on the written record as in some instances, the experiments or studies that you do may be taken up later by another person. They may want to repeat something that you did, extend it for their own work, or analyse some the data that you collected.
  • For non-laboratory work the lab book should allow another person to reconstruct the procedures used for data collection, data processing and analysis. The information entered would include such things as the preparation of ethical and R&D approval for the study, testing session outcomes, creation of information sheets and consent forms, the preparation of test materials and other resources, setting of appointments for testing and any protocol changes.
  • If changes are made to the project, the lab book provides a record of the decision process. The old decisions stay in the lab book as an accurate record of the initial plan. When changing your plans or methods, the lab book will give you a place to record the changes that have been made to your aims or your protocol and the practical or theoretical reasons.
  • If you make a mistake (e.g. in recording some results of a test or analysis) and realise at the time, you should make the corrections by crossing through existing details with a single line and entering the new information adjacent (or as close as possible). You are required to sign and initial such corrections. The original information must remain visible. If the reason for the change is not obvious, a brief explanation should be given.
  • The lab book belongs to the supervisor and will be given to him/her to keep once you have completed the MSc.

The daily record should include:

  • The date
  • A title for the day's activity (this may be a continuation of previous work)
  • Careful records of all experimental procedures and protocols
  • All results and observations
  • In addition to the above, any single experiment should include:
    1. A statement at the start to say what is the aim of the experiment or procedure
    2. A conclusion at the end to say what was the outcome of the experiment
    3. A note to indicate what should be done next (e.g., repeat the experiment; modify the protocol, etc)


Any graphs, drawings, suppliers' protocols, and other loose sheets should, if possible, be affixed in the book. Any data added subsequently, e.g. analysis results, should be entered on a separate page, with reference back to the original data. Where a large amount of data is computer generated, or otherwise too large for incorporation, keep it in separate folders, but refer to it in the Lab Book. Where possible, generate data summaries for inclusion in the Lab Book.

The supervisor should see the Lab Book weekly in order to monitor its accuracy and legibility. Any comments about the past week's work and future experiments should be recorded. Supervisors will sign the book on these occasions and you may take this as an opportunity to discuss your results.

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