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Recommendations for the use of notebooks in upper-division physics lab courses

TitleRecommendations for the use of notebooks in upper-division physics lab courses
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsStanley, JT, Lewandowski, HJ
JournalAmerican Journal of Physics
Pagination45 - 53
Date Published2018-01

The use of lab notebooks for scientific documentation is a ubiquitous part of physics research. However, it is common for undergraduate physics laboratory courses not to emphasize the development of documentation skills, despite the fact that such courses are some of the earliest opportunities for students to start engaging in this practice. One potential impediment to the inclusion of explicit documentation training is that it may be unclear to instructors which features of authentic documentation practice are efficacious to teach and how to incorporate these features into the lab class environment. In this work, we outline some of the salient features of authentic documentation, informed by interviews with physics researchers, and provide recommendations for how these can be incorporated into the lab curriculum. We do not focus on structural details or templates for notebooks. Instead, we address holistic considerations for the purpose of scientific documentation that can guide students to develop their own documentation style. While taking into consideration all the aspects that can help improve students' documentation, it is also important to consider the design of the lab activities themselves. Students should have experience with implementing these authentic features of documentation during lab activities in order for them to find practice with documentation beneficial.

Short TitleAmerican Journal of Physics