Before you take off

The importance of a literature study and lab notebook

Literature study

Before spending significant amounts of time starting or applying for a research project (and money, e.g. upon filing patent applications) you must perform a thorough literature study. Scientific literature can be searched by using the universities’ library catalogue. A lot of researchers make the mistake of only checking the scientific literature they are very familiar with.

However, another important source of information is the worldwide patent system. A study by OECD estimates that of the published technical knowledge globally available, 80% is published only in patent specifications. How to find valuable information in patent databases is further discussed here.

Another useful tool is Google Scholar, which provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: peer reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations.

Lab notebook

From the very beginning of your research activities, it is important to keep a laboratory notebook. This is for a number of reasons. First of all, it will help you to keep a complete and chronological track record of your experiments. Furthermore, it will provide a person who will continue your research work with all necessary information to allow them to repeat (or not) and extend (or focus) your work. Correct record keeping of all your original work is essential to allow Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Erasmushogeschool Brussel to defend their intellectual property rights. When properly kept, a laboratory notebook is a permanent record that can be referred to in order to prove what was done during the course of a project and particularly what inventions were made by whom and when.

VUB TechTransfer provides free laboratory notebooks to any interested researcher. Fill in this registration form and send it to Tania Bauwens (+32-2 629 2207,, VUB TechTransfer Management Assistant, campus Etterbeek, Building M, room 429).

Need to know more? Download the full version of VUB TechTransfer's "Knowledge, innovation and technology transfer issues. Finding your way through the jungle".