Guidelines for Field Notebooks

The field notebook should have enough information that it could be handed to a colleague or supervisor (or you could pick it up yourself a year or two after doing an experiment) and that person would have all of the information needed to analyze your data or repeat your experiment.

IF YOU ARE TAKING NOTES, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING SURE YOU GET ALL THE INFO NEEDED.  If you have to ask for things to stop a bit while you get the info, that is fine.  Great data with poor notes is unfortunate: the data could even be worthless. This includes neatness!

Essential components include:

Each new entry should include your name and date on the top of the page. The names of the others in your field party (those associated with making measurements recorded in the book) also need to be recorded.
A short description of what you are doing and what your goal is. Descriptions like “gather seismic data” are inadequate.  What do you hope to learn about the earth from your experiment? Keep in mind the scale of your observations and the likely depth in the Earth you might be able to interpret. Descriptions like "learn how to use a seismometer" are also inappropriate. In all cases, we are acquiring data to learn something about some part of the earth, and while it is certainly a major goal for *you* to learn how to manage or deploy the equipment, the point of this in the notes is to indicate what we are looking for in the data collected. (If you view this as somebody reading the notes to see what was done, this can inform such a person about the possible weaknesses of data acquisition--if we weren't looking, say, for reflections from a pipeline nearby, we might have overlooked such reflections and we also probably didn't construct the experiment in a way to optimize our chances of seeing such reflections).
Location Map and description
Include a location map and description of experiment location with sufficient detail that the site could be reoccupied and the experiment repeated by you or someone else.This should include both a scientific location (latitude, longitude, and datum used) and a more descriptive location (on south side of hwy 52 5 miles east of intersection with hwy 5, 100 m east of small dirt road).  In some instances a legal description is also worthwhile (e.g., when using a section corner monument for elevation or as a reference point). Frequently printed topo maps are provided for you to mark on; please write in the margin the date, the experiment(s) and your name as well as marking the position(s) of measurements. Ideally the map should be attached to a blank page at the start of the field notes, or at minimum placed in that part of the field notebook. In some instances, the detailed location map and the diagram might be one and the same (though in such cases location on a topo map is still desired).
Show the essential features of the experimental situation in a neat sketch (an elaborate artistic drawing is not necessary). Show the relationships of different parts of the apparatus, dimensions to be measured, distances covered, spacing between measurements, etc. You don't need to sketch a piece of equipment on its own (for instance, it is pretty worthless to try to draw a gravimeter all alone); the sketch is to provide information relevant to making interpretations and being sure that equipment was deployed properly. Inadequate diagrams are a frequent source of unhappiness later on. In many instances it is valuable to include local landmarks within your diagram.
Identification of Apparatus
Identify each important piece of apparatus by the manufacturer's serial number and full instrument name and model number. This is particularly helpful for tracking down problems with faulty equipment.
Data should be arranged in neat, tabular form with column headings showing the quantity to be recorded and the units. All measurements should be recorded directly on the data page in ink. Ideally each measurement should have some associated identification. For gravity readings, this might take the form of an instrument ID and the measurement number from this year's class (e.g., CUB-009); a magnetic reading, if part of a profile, might be the profile number and the reading within the profile, say P5-14. A refraction profile might combine the profile and shot position and shot number. Record the numbers you see on the instrument; multiplying by factors and corrections should be recorded separately. If you record the wrong number, draw a single line through the entry and make the correct entry above, below, or to one side. Blotting out mistakes is generally a bad idea because sometimes the nature of the mistake turns up other problems much later in processing. It is good practice to record data to the nearest tenth of the smallest scale division. This practice introduces a random error of about two or three-tenths of the smallest division. When only the final digit in a measurement is doubtful, it is said to be written in the proper number of significant figures.

Photocopies of the field notebook will be used by everyone in class to interpret the observations.

Move on to Lab Report Guidelines

Please send mail if you encounter any problems or have suggestions.

GEOL 4714/5714 home | C. H. Jones | CIRES | Dept. of Geological Sciences | Univ. of Colorado at Boulder

Last modified at August 23, 2016 12:22 PM