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; experiment.[Chapman]

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.


Include what?


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] Uncompressed postscript, and sources
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.
1996.Dec.02        Reading.