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A Simple Lab Notebook Admin System

All of the hard work you do in the lab goes into your lab book. So if you’re not careful it can get quite difficult to find stuff in there after a while, especially if, like me, you use a number of different lab books at the same time. This simple numbering system can help you keep track of your lab book data more easily.

Give each lab book a unique ID.

The key to this numbering system is to give your lab book a unique and systematic identification code. A good format is your initials, followed by a numbering code. So Bitesize Bio’s first 3 lab books might be numbered BSB-001, BSB-002, BSB-003. But I prefer letters so I’ll use the alternative: BSB-AA, BSB-AB, BSB-AC.

Now the pages have a unique ID too

Now each lab book has a unique ID so if we number the pages of our lab book, each page we work on will have a unique ID too. So the first page in our first lab book would be numbered BSB-AA-01, and no other page we ever use will have this number.

Why is this useful?

Giving each page a unique and totally systematic name is very useful because now if we routinely label samples, experiments and protocols with the ID number of the page they were created/performed on we can easily track back to the original data.

It is also very easy to identify samples. For example if we are doing an time course experiment with 5 different samples, the sample labeling can normally get a bit ambiguous and/or cumbersome, especially if we are looking at the samples a few weeks after performing the experiment.

But, if in our lab book page (with it’s unique ID number) we make a table showing the 5 samples and label them 1-5, then it’s easy to make a unique identifier for each sample and time point. e.g. For an experiment in lab book BSB-AA, on page 1, sample 2 at the 24 hour time point would be BSB-AA-01-2-24h. And no other sample can have that identifier, ever.

The diagram below shows some examples where this labeling system can be used.

 

Would/do you do it like this? …or do you have a better way? Tell us in the comments.

Image Credit: Hash Milhan

10 Comments

  1. Dan on April 5, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    For all you highly organized researchers out there–please explain to us struggling slobs how in Goddess’ good name you can do this? This tip is the best example; I can’t fit more than “A1” on an eppie tube, and that’ll rub off after two uses (the tiny pens that would be required seem to smear even worse). I’d also like to know how you find the time to intricately needle “BSB-AA-01-2-24h” onto 100 half-ml tubes before your next timepoint comes up. These are just some of the mysteries that continue to baffle us less productive folk.

    • Nick on May 12, 2009 at 7:54 am

      Hi Dan

      First off, on the smearing I would use a non-smear label rather than writing directly on the tube. As for labelling 100 half mL tubes before the next time point… well I would never do 100 samples per time point as that would make the experiment unmanagable – or maybe it’s me who’s the slob! 🙂

  2. David G. on December 16, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    I write every sample with the date and my first letters then the number.
    For example If I do 3 plasmid prep the 25 Dec. 2008 I write 081225DG1 081225DG2 081225DG3 and of course the plasmid name and others things on the eppendorf. It’s the same for XLS doxuments or word.

    When I come back on my lab book I just need to find the date.
    Also people in the lab know that it’s my tube because of the first my letters “DG” and they can come back on the experiments if I’m not here…

  3. Sterling Smith on June 11, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    For the side of the lab book I enter the time period (summer 06) and the lab name (showman). Then for every days work I use the months number (6) and then the day of the year (163) So the days work is notated at 6-163. If there are multiple experiments that day then it is notated with the alphabet. (6-163A) (6-163B) etc. It seems to work for me !!

  4. Nick on June 11, 2008 at 10:13 am

    @Chad – I agree – this sort of labeling is a real pain, but well worth it. Right now I am doing a tonne of experiments using HPLC and labeling every vial with “NO-AG-40-2-2h” or whatever is time consuming but at least I know I’ll be able to pinpoint every sample at a later date. It’s much less time consuming that having to re-do the experiment later because I can’t work out which sample is which 🙂

    @Hn – That’s a good idea. I’ll look into that… if you have any favorite lab notebook software, feel free to send me the link.

  5. hn on June 10, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    how about an overview software lab notebooks?

  6. Chad on June 10, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    It was kind of a pain, but when I was doing a lot of microdissections my lab would label slides with numbers corresponding to each individual lab member. For instance, my PI had numbers 001-100, I had 101-200, and so on. It was a bit cumbersome with all of the other labeling information you had to write, but as long as each person stored slides separately and the spreadsheet with all of the information was kept up to date it was next to impossible to not know where a slide was.

  7. Nick on June 10, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Sounds good Marie-Claire… colors are a great way to do it!

  8. Marie-Claire on June 10, 2008 at 7:11 am

    I use color stickers that correspond to a given period, to find out samples in the many boxes labeled : “ungoing good experiments” !!!

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