Science is a progressive act. This means that progress in science is a tedious process that requires diligent efforts with respect to record keeping because in the case of every scientist, figuring out everything about a field of study, such as any given sub-niche of chemistry, is impossible, even in a lifetime. Record keeping is of utmost importance and accurate record keeping can and will make the difference between work that is successfully continued by a scientist’s successors and work that is not successfully continued.
In the field of science, all of us stand on the shoulders of giants. In other words, we all learn from our predecessors and build on what they have taught us. However, we are able to learn only from those who have successfully transcribed their knowledge in an accurate and concise fashion so as to facilitate the propagation of the knowledge to those who follow.
Accurate lab notes are a must. Accurate lab notes will have a variety of properties including but not limited to:
An accurate introductory description of the process or processes being studied. For the information following the introduction to be understood in it’s proper context, an accurate introductory description has to be described clearly. Why is this subject of interest? What is the current understanding of the subject and why does it need to be studied further? What questions need to be answered before true progress can be made? All of these question should be covered in the introduction.
Clear and concise methodology. The work that is performed or is to be performed must be clearly spelled out for those reading the notes to understand the important steps to be taken to repeat and confirm the results. Each step must be labeled in detail and must be done so in a way that can be repeated using the notes alone. This is important if results are to be duplicated.
Well documented and understandable results. The results that are discovered by the initial experimenter should also be spelled out in clear detail as they may differ from the results obtained by those following them and trying to repeat their work. If results differ, this should be clearly noted by the scientists attempting to repeat the work and differences in results should also be clearly noted.
Objective conclusions. Conclusions should be recorded and based on evidence and results obtained. If data or results have discrepancies, these should be noted and discussed in the conclusion.