Notes on the Personal Research Notebook / Journal
The idea: personal research notebooks are useful.
Keeping a research notebook helps organize, track, and perhaps most
important, enriches, one's day to day problem solving and
thought. Here are some notes on their use.
Most scientists keep a research notebook. You should too. You've
probably been told this in every science class since fifth grade, but
it's true. Different systems work for different people;
This page is a synthesis of the "research notebooks
are good" sections from a couple of documents (listed at bottom),
targeted mainly at graduate students in non-laboratory fields. My
thrust is notebooks as an aid to personal thought and work, rather
than laboratory notebooks, or notebooks maintained for legal
intellectual policy/property purposes.
- Enrichment of thought.
Ideas are husbanded. Otherwise, they are often misplaced and lost like good
pens.[Quote from somewhere?]
"You'll notice that the bits of random thoughts start to come
together and form a pattern, often turning into "[a project, paper,
[One of]"the ways creative thought emerges [is] from the
accumulation of fragments of ideas."[Chapman]
"When ideas are not allowed to get out and wander about they become
malformed and misaligned."[Bailey]
- Organizing your research - a simple tool for.
- Recording the progress you make. It can be easy
forget what went into reaching the present, one's accomplishments and
struggles, and to lose track of where one intended to go and why.
- "Most scientists keep one" :)
- notes on papers you've read
- summarize for future reference interesting things that you've read
- references read
- references to look up
- interesting quotes
- describe problems and their solutions
- current problems
- interesting problems
- possible solutions
- work through solutions
- keep track of experiments and their results
- stimulate thought
- pose questions
- random ideas
- ideas as they come up
- outlines of papers to write
- Experiment. A research "notebook" can take many
forms. Different systems work for different people. Experiment.
(Online, offline. Spiral notebook, legal pads, bound book. One copy
at home and another at work. Etc...)
- Read back through it periodically.
- Some people make a monthly summary for easy reference.
Some related ideas
- a sheaf of small projects sketches - one or two pages of
formally presented ideas on a single subject.
- skeletal papers - title, abstract, section headings, fragments of
text. May be found useful in documenting what you are up to.[a quote?]
- How to do Research At the MIT AI Lab, MIT AI Lab's
AI Working Paper 316, (version 1.3, September 1988). David Chapman
(editor). [Mostly page 11]
(I've seen an html copy at
- A Letter to Research Students,Duane A. Bailey.
[Mostly page 3]
- How to Succeed in Graduate School: A Guide for Students
and Advisors. Marie desJardins. [Mostly page 3].
The author's page for the document:
Comments encouraged. -
1996.Dec.03 Rearanged intro, clarifying purpose.
1996.Dec.03 13:45 Mumph. Added "Related ideas" section and leading quote.
1996.Dec.03 13:30 Page draft done.
1996.Dec.03 11:49 Page begun, in part as an experiment in quick page creation.