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Do you need a science log book?

Posted by on December 21, 2011

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An example of a page from one of my science notebooks

If you want to win, yes – you should have a research notebook detailing what you did for your project.

Science notebooks are a critical tool for scientists. It is where our ideas, observations, experimental designs, and data are maintained and can be referred back to. Even in our digital age, most scientists keep hard copies of their important information and ideas.
Here are some more details from the “stuff you need” page:

Log book – This is usually a bound notebook used for hand-written notes equivalent to the research notebook of a scientist. A 70-page, wide-rule, spiral bound, 1-subject notebook is recommended. You should purchase this as soon as possible. On the first page write the date and the title: Science Fair Project Research. Start the log book by jotting down topics that might be of interest. At this point you do not have to have decided on a project, just have committed to doing something. The earlier the first entry is the better as most judges will check to see when the project was initiated. From this point forward, write everything in the log book such that they could go back through the notes and find details for their report (if required) and backboard and/or if someone were to ask them a question. Another advantage to detailing the process from before the student specifically asks their question is that they will be able to show the origin of their idea and explain how it was developed. All of the handwriting in the log book should be that of the student, unless a mentor is brainstorming or teaching, and then that should be noted directly near the adult’s handwriting.

RED FLAG WARNING: Too much “adult” handwriting in the student notebook or on the backboard is a red-flag for over-coaching (i.e., excessive parental involvement, see major violations under avoiding penalties). It is better to have information in the student’s handwriting even if it is not as neat as the parent’s handwriting would have been.

An example of my real science notebook

Photo log – Take pictures throughout your process. These can be taped into the log book or presented in a separate “photo log”. The more pictures the better because you will have more to choose from when making the backboard. Photos are generally more appealing to look at than a paragraph of text, so use the photos to help communicate what was done in the project. Photos also serve as a record of the process, in the event that the notes were not specific enough on certain details.

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