Debbie Knight

Don’t do this! Digging out of the paper avalanche

In observation on February 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm

I always remind students coming into the lab that they should make an effort to keep up with their lab notebook.

But do I practice what I preach?

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but this photo looks similar to my lab book.

But I’m in the process of catching up my lab notebook. Honest.

I had been pretty diligent at keeping my research notes up-to-date. Then my research project took off and I was cranking out experiments at a flurried pace. I was also taking a work-intensive class and, well, my lab notebook suffered. Oh, I had dated detailed notes and experimental results that I would stuff between the pages of my notebook, so technically they were “in” my notebook. They just weren’t a permanent addition to the notebook.

After a couple of months, the proverbial snowball had turned into an avalanche of paper and I never had the chunk of time needed to organize it and put it more permanently into my notebook. Until now…

Now that I’m leaving the lab and joining a new lab, so my evenings and weekends have been spent transposing my notes, cutting out photos of my results, and taping them into the pages of my lab notebook.

The cutting and taping remind me that things I learned in kindergarten have helped me in my career as a researcher. Who knew?

So, I’m nearly done clearing the paper-lanche, my scissors need sharpening, and I’ve gone through more transparent tape than I care to admit. But at least there is now proper documentation of my experimental results, buried in a several volumes of notebooks. Volumes to sit on a forgotten shelf, gathering dust, waiting for the day when there’s a large enough body of work collectively gathered by the lab members to publish in a scientific journal. That day will come and hope that I have documented my experimental journey well enough that some of my work will be included in that publication.


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