Organic Laboratory Notebook and Reports

The information below can also be found in the laboratory Manual.


Refer to your laboratory manual and textbook for guidance in writing in your laboratory notebook, both in preparation for lab as well as during the laboratory period. For every experiment you perform in lab, you will record preliminary information, the procedure, results, etc. in your lab notebook. Before leaving the laboratory, give me a copy of the day’s work from your lab notebook. Both you and I will then have a record of your experiment. Normally, the notebook will consist of theTitle, Purpose,  References, Chemical Equations, Apparatus/EquipmentData Table ,  Procedure and Observations,  Results,  Summary/Conclusion/Discussion. All of these are explained in the manual. Please do not copy the procedure from the manual or textbook into your notebook. This is a waste of time. The Procedure section of your notebook is where you record what you actually did in lab, and will sometimes vary from the procedure in the manual. It certainly should not read like a checklist! Together with the source of the experimental procedure, the information you record in the notebook should enable the reader to exactly reproduce what you did in the lab.

For example, the lab manual says “Check out a Mel-Temp from the prep-room. Use the thermometer from your drawer. Examine your thermometer for air spaces in the enclosed liquid.” You might say in your notebook: “I used Mel-Temp #15 and the alcohol thermometer from my drawer. I did not observe any separation of the liquid column in the thermometer.” And because accuracy of these thermometers is an issue, you might note the thermometer reading for room temperature, which was not part of the manual procedure.

All parts of the notebook are to be written neatly with a ball-point pen in blue or black indelible ink. You must produce a legible copy that I can read easily. If your handwriting is small or difficult to read, you should print. Use paragraphing, horizontal spacing and wide margins. If I can’t read it, I can’t grade it.


Part 1.

A Report Form for each individual experiment can be found in the back of the laboratory manual. After you complete it, the Report Form will contain a summary of the experimental results from your laboratory notebook record. Generally, the Report Forms are self-explanatory. For some types of experiments such as "Synthesis" or "Identification of an Unknown", there are additional instructions on the lab webpage. Please read that information.

Review significant figures before doing calculations. Be sure you understand the requirements for citing references for physical properties of compounds.

The Report Form should be neatly handwritten in blue or black ink or typed. If you make errors, do not cross out the errors - use white correction fluid. You may make an exact replica of the form with a word processor. Please do not copy/paste molecular structures from the internet. You may use a chemistry drawing program or hand-draw them.

Part 2.

In your written report, you will analyze your results, draw conclusions, and write a summary of the experiment. You should write in the voice of a scientist and use a style and vocabulary consistent with that and the assumption that you are writing for an informed reader (who does not need to be told how to calculate a % yield!). Remember to incorporate the specific information that appears in the experiment for reports on synthesis experiments, identification of unknowns, etc.

The written report should conform to the following structure if alternate instructions for a report are not given:

Introduction: This section informs the reader why you did the experiment (use the Purpose you find in the Manual as a guide that you can expand upon, but don't simply copy it). Include background information/definitions, a working hypothesis (if there was one) that you tested; and any other information that is necessary to prepare an informed reader to understand your results and conclusions to be presented in succeeding paragraphs. Please do not copy extraneous or detailed information from your textbook or the web.

Data/Results: This paragraph should summarize your results and/or what you observed. State whether or not the results were in accord with what you expected.

Discussion/Conclusion: Be concise but comprehensive. You are trying to pull together into one or two paragraphs the salient aspects and important results of the experiment. What is the significance of the data you generated in fulfilling the purpose of the experiment? Explain what you think your data means. Compare your results to those you expected (by saying something more than "My results match what was expected."). Did something go wrong that affected your results? (That's OK, as long as you understand what went wrong and can explain what you learned from it.) What did you learn from the experiment given your results and the original purpose of the experiment?


  • a materials/methods/procedure/protocol section--all of that can be found in your notebook;
  • tables or calculations or a repetition of information that is found in the Report Form and calculation page.

Handwritten reports will not be accepted. Please follow these guidelines: Use 1-inch margins all around; use 12-point font, double-space lines and paragraph indentations (and please use paragraphs!). Print on only one side of the page.

It is not necessary to put any information other than your name and experiment title at the top of the page since it will be submitted with the Report Form (see assembly instructions below). A cover sheet is not necessary.

The report will be partly graded on the basis of organization, presentation, and completeness. You should take care in proof-reading your report before submitting it. Since word processors have spelling and grammar checkers, there should be no errors of that kind. Writing should conform to standard English usage.

Submission of the Laboratory Report

The report is due at the beginning of the lab period due date. It should be completely assembled with the Report Form on top, followed by any calculation pages (where required), and then the written report, and stapled. Please do not take class time by asking for a stapler or writing your name or other information on the report. Late reports incur a 25% penalty, up to one week late. Later reports will be accepted, but only for credit for submission -- they will not be graded. If you know your lab report will be late, you must inform me so I can make arrangements to receive it from you.