Microbiology Laboratory Notebook

Format and Rules
Volume Record
Table of Contents
Laboratory Records

Most Important Points to Remember


Laboratory notebooks (lab notebooks) allow for clear and unambiguous records of laboratory procedures.  This piece of equipment can facilitate replication of experimentation, and can be entered into a court of law as evidence.  In some circumstances highly technical laws regulate the maintenance of lab notebooks


Not all lab notebooks are equal, and not all circumstances require that such notebooks be maintained at a specific standard (high or low).  For our purposes, we will maintain a casual lab notebook, mainly requiring the use of a specific format and containing specific sorts of information.


Notebook Format and General Rules


The lab notebook must be a physically bound book, and cannot be a spiral-bound or loose-leaf book.  Composition notebooks with 50 sheets are good for the notebook.  Only the right-side pages are to be use, one side only.  All pages are to be numbered consecutively in the bottom right corner, and all entries must be made legibly in black or blue permanent ink, such as from a ball-point pen (not a gel pen, please, as the ink can transfer easily).  Pages cannot be removed from the notebook, and errors cannot be erased or whited-out.  Missing pages must be explained in writing in the book.  Lab notebooks cannot be revised or rewritten.  Information regarding lab experiments should be entered into the lab notebook during the actual laboratory on hand, keeping in mind that changes to the information in the lab notebook must be visible and clear.


Additional information, such as photos, graphs, and charts, can be included in the lab notebook, but must be physically attached with glue or tape, after first writing a description of the item on the space it will cover.  The item becomes part of the lab notebook and is not to be removed; however, if the item is removed, the description will indicate it was there.


Do not skip pages.  If a page is accidentally skipped, an X must be marked on it from corner to corner, and the page must be initialed and dated.  All pages must be initialed and dated at the bottom as they are completed.  Pages at the end of the written lab records can be left untouched, with the asumption that they may be filled in at a later date.


No specific line-skipping or blank line devices are required for the lab book, but a protocal can be used.  Normally, no lines are skipped.  Empty space can be filled in later, so a process is normally in place to prevent this from happening, reducing the potential for fraud and error.  If lines are to be skipped to allow for a formatting protocol, then a device or initial should be used on the line to clearly indicate that the line has been intentionally left blank.


No specific marking-off of empty space is required for the lab book.  However, there should be no unused empty space on a page, except for the printed margins. Large blocks of blank space are usually treated like a blank page, with a large X marking it from corner to corner to assures that no information can be added later.


Errors must be marked out with a single line through the error so that the original writing can be read.  A correction can be inserted legibly to the right of the error.  The corrector must initial and date the line being modified on the right margin.  A number coding may be used to identify additional information on a following page wherein a correction is further explained.


Lab notebooks are individual items that should not be copied from others.  Group work, however, can include common descriptors.  All participants in a group laboratory must be clearly indicated in the lab documentation.  There is no problem with all of the lab notebooks of the group participants having the data in duplicate.  Group work must be referenced, to identify the lab notebook volumes and start pages that the other participants in the group are using in their own lab notebooks.  This allows easier cross-checking and referencing.




The contents of the lab notebook will include the following:

Page 1 = Preface

Page 2-3 = Table of Contents

Pages 4+ = Laboratory notes and records



The first page of the lab notebook should include information related to the notebook keeper and the subject of study.  For our purposes, the following information will be required:

First Name, Last Name

(contact phone number &/or e-mail)

Semester, Year

Course Name and Number

Instructor Name
College Name

No title or other information is required


Table of Contents

Label this page ‘Table of Contents’ at the top.  As the laboratories are entered into the notebook, develop this section page by page.  Enter the name of the laboratory as the instructor provides it starting on the left side of the page, followed by the date the lab was performed (on the same line).  Identify the page that the lab notes start on the right hand side of the page.  Include a line between the date and the page number.



Lab 1 (Morphological characteristics & Gram Stain) (Jan 11) -------pg. 4




Morphological characteristics & Gram Stain (Lab 1), 1/11/12 ------pg. 4

Table of Contents must include the following entries in the following order:

Morphological characteristics & Gram Stain
Cultural characteristics
Oxidase test
Catalase test
Glucose fermentation
Lactose fermentation
Nitrate reduction
Citrate utilization
Starch hydrolysis (if completed)
Urea hydrolysis
Kligler Iron & mixed fermentation test
Tryptophane hydrolysis
Gel liquefaction (if completed)
Additional tests completed (such as anaerobic culture)


Laboratory Records


Each lab write-up must contain the following sections:


1. Title – The main item should match the entry in the TOC.  Include your name (and any lab partners) and the date the lab started.


2. Statement of purpose – Keep this short, and describe the purpose of the experiment without using the phrase, ‘The purpose of this experiment/lab/exercise is to…’


3. Background – Important references, reactions, tables, and other items can be included here for immediate reference.  Hypotheses, observations, predictions, and variables go here, too.


4. Procedure – A step-by-step overview of the laboratory process.  Do not just copy this from original lab manual sources, but instead reword things and paraphrase.  This can be highly abbreviated, but must clear enough to demonstrate the process involved.  Assume that sterile technique is a give when needed. 


5. Results and Calculations – This is the only place that results will be entered.  Attachments may be necessary (a photo or graph).  Plan for this as the experiment proceeds, and identify spaces that may accept information later.  Data collected and entered must be chronological ordered.  Again, sufficient information must be included to ensure that the experiment can be reproduced.  Include any calculations that were necessary here.  It should be clear as to how calculation results are obtained.


6. Conclusions – Summarize the results and implications of the results here.  Additional items of interest may be included, in written terms that is (e.g. comparisons to other work).  Make a note of contradictory results or explain unexpected results here.

Most, if not all, Micro Lab Notebook labs will only require one page, depending on the size of the writing and size of the ruled lines.

Most Important Points to Remember

1. Use pen
2. Have the title page, followed by a TOC

3. Keep the labs in the correct order
4. Include all 6 of the required sections for a lab record (title, purpose, etc.)
5. Strike out mistakes with a single line, and insert initial, date, & correction (if needed)
6. X out blank pages between lab records