3 Uses for a Research Notebook


In the year 2019, with digital recording technology everywhere, it might seen old-fashioned to continue taking notes in paper notebooks. Many consider using a laptop or a digital voice recorder to be a more efficient method of taking notes and recording research progress. However, there are many reasons why scientists, college students, or other researchers might choose to record their notes in a research notebook. The purpose of this article is to look at some of the uses of a research notebook in these environments.

  • Permanent Archival Materials: One reason to use a research notebook is that it provides a source of permanent archival materials for posterity. One downfall of using digital technology to record research is that it is far too easy, even with saving on an external hard drive, for all of the data to be erased in an accident. With hard copies of research recorded in notebooks, important scientific research progress can be recorded for all time and remain accessible for years to come. Paper notebooks can be preserved and stored in archives for years to come without fears of the data becoming corrupted, a danger that is all too real with digital copies of data.
  • Easy Way to Record Student Progress: Another reason to use research notebooks, especially if you are a teacher, is that it is an easy and convenient way to record student progress. Some science and engineering courses in college will require students to record the results of labs or other projects in an individual research notebook that must be turned in periodically. This allows the teacher to keep track of each student’s progress over the course of a semester. In some classes, the completed notebook can be turned in at the end of the year as a final project.
  • Keep Track of Research Progress: Scientific research can take a very long time. It can take anywhere from ten to fifteen years to develop just one new medicine or vaccine. With a process that takes this long, some researchers prefer to keep track of their research progress in notebooks. With research divided by year, it can be easy for a researcher to go back to a specific notebook and review any progress or discoveries they made at that time and apply that information to whatever they’re working on in the present. Also, if they come across a problem, it’s easy to just send a notebook with the notes to a colleague so they can look over the notes and help with the issue.

In conclusion, there are a number of places where scientists or researchers, or even students might want to use research notebooks instead of using digital technology like a laptop. These include wanting to provide permanent archival materials for the future, they’re an easy way for students to record their progress for a class, and they let scientists keep track of long term research projects in a way that’s easy to store and look through as a project continues. These are all valid reasons to continue using paper research notebooks in their projects or classes.

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