Keep Your Idea as Yours. Tips for Keeping a Research Notebook
Why keep a research notebook?
It is not uncommon that more than one person can be working on the same new idea and be completely unaware of one another. By carefully keeping a good research notebook, you can organize your thinking as it happens to document when and how your idea developed. This could be crucial if you have to defend the idea as your intellectual property. The notebook and its content become your evidence to prove and validate your work.
Tips for keeping a research notebook.
- Notebook pages should all be glued or sewn-in. Not loose or perforated in which pages can be easily added, substituted or removed. Composition notebooks are often used.
- Always use dark blue or black permanent ink for your notes. If you make an error, draw a single line through the note and write your correction next to it. Don’t obliterate anything.
- There should be no blank spaces on pages. Either draw a line at the end of each day’s entries and start the next day under the same line, or draw an X to fill any empty spaces.
- Neatness helps‚ try to avoid too much "doodling."
- Glue or tape graphs‚ tables‚ pictures, visuals or emails or to the notebook’s pages.
- Not everyone agrees on keeping electronic notebooks:
- Some don’t recommend computer logs claiming you can’t really prove when the file was created and hard drives have been known to crash with data lost.
- Others suggest electronic records may be validly archived by copying them on a disk or tape that is then held in a location inaccessible to the researcher‚ or by using a time-stamping program that automatically dates an entry in to the system.
- Number and date all pages in the upper right corner. Date all entries as well.
- Accurately note all sources of information and create a bibliography where appropriate.
- Make it a habit to keep your notebook current – develop the discipline so that you don’t put off recording your information.
- Record all of your thoughts regarding your idea – it is too easy to lose good thoughts when they are not written down.
- Protect your notebooks and keep them in a safe place.
For more detailed suggestions and guidelines, click here. Or for more information on documenting the development of an idea or discover, request our brochure: Common Sense Guidelines for Maintaining an Inventor’s Notebook.