ERIC Number: EJ1122456
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Abstractor: As Provided
Lab Notebooks as Scientific Communication: Investigating Development from Undergraduate Courses to Graduate Research
Stanley, Jacob T.; Lewandowski, H. J.
Physical Review Physics Education Research, v12 n2 p020129-1-020129-11 Jul-Dec 2016
In experimental physics, lab notebooks play an essential role in the research process. For all of the ubiquity of lab notebooks, little formal attention has been paid to addressing what is considered "best practice" for scientific documentation and how researchers come to learn these practices in experimental physics. Using interviews with practicing researchers, namely, physics graduate students, we explore the different experiences researchers had in learning how to effectively use a notebook for scientific documentation. We find that very few of those interviewed thought that their undergraduate lab classes successfully taught them the benefit of maintaining a lab notebook. Most described training in lab notebook use as either ineffective or outright missing from their undergraduate lab course experience. Furthermore, a large majority of those interviewed explained that they did not receive any formal training in maintaining a lab notebook during their graduate school experience and received little to no feedback from their advisors on these records. Many of the interviewees describe learning the purpose of, and how to maintain, these kinds of lab records only after having a period of trial and error, having already started doing research in their graduate program. Despite the central role of scientific documentation in the research enterprise, these physics graduate students did not gain skills in documentation through formal instruction, but rather through informal hands-on practice.
Descriptors: Undergraduate Students, Undergraduate Study, Graduate Study, Science Laboratories, Science Instruction, Science Education, Physics, Science Experiments, Hands on Science, Science Curriculum, Science Process Skills, Educational Research, Laboratory Experiments, Notetaking, Documentation, Technical Writing, Semi Structured Interviews
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Colorado (Boulder)
Grant or Contract Numbers: DUE1323101; PHY1125844