Department of Physics and Computer Science

Lab Notebook

Each student is required to maintain a lab notebook which contains all answers to prelab requirements, all experimental results including data, formulas, calculations, circuit diagrams, circuit analysis, graphs, etc. The lab notebook must be a bound book with sewn-in pages; spiral bound and loose leaf notebooks are not acceptable. Books with hard or soft covers are both acceptable.

lab notebook

For any course where required, you will maintain notebooks according to the requirements listed below.



Your lab notebook will be in a journal or diary format with experimental setups, observations, diagrams, calculations, graphs entered in the chronological order they were executed.  This format is typical for a research lab notebook.  Take a look at two examples:

  1. annotated extracts from Professor (Emeritus) R.E. Azuma's lab notebook . Department of Physics, University of Toronto,
  2. Alexander Graham Bell's lab notebook; see the entry for March 10, 1876 describing his first successful experiment with the telephone.

Your lab notebook should be detailed enough to allow someone else to duplicate your work at a later time. It should contain enough detail so that you could write an effective lab report after the lab. The observations and sketches should be clear, should define all quantities with units of measurement, and if appropriate, should include how measurement equipment was wired up. Record the type of equipment used to make the measurements and the settings used. Apparent inconsistencies in your results may be a function of the equipment used or the range selected. This is also important for determining measurement error.

Write all measurements immediately after they are made. As you measure a value consider whether it is consistent with your other data and your expectations. Note any suspicious data for further follow-up.

If the experimental procedure asks you to make calculations during the experiment, do them while you are doing the experiment. Do not leave them until later. When doing calculations always include the formula. Some calculations may be a prelab requirement, some may be an experimental requirement and some may be a postlab requirement.

Do not underestimate how rapidly you will forget experimental details.


You lab notebook will be graded with respect to the instructions provided in this document. Your lab notebook will be randomly spot checked during the lab. You may also be required to submit your lab book intermittently to be marked. Some of the grading methods may be subtle; for example, you may be required to retrieve information from your lab book a month after it was originally entered.


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