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How to keep a geological field notebook

August 6th, 2010 by karenmartin


A very tangible field notebook (via fieldnotebookcom)

Following on from the paper versus digital notebook conversation the other day I came across this post describing how to keep a geological field notebook. What I liked was how few of the characteristics and possible uses of a geologists field notebook they list actually have to do with the content and how many are to do with the form!

“A well-kept field notebook can function not only as a recording device in the field, but as a scale for photographs, an umbrella, a signal, and most importantly, as a guidebook for the next time one is schlepping through the same area. The notebook itself should be small and easy to carry, and preferably a bright colour, making it hard to lose. It should be bound so the pages will not fall out, and have a hard cover, so that one can write in it easily. Also, because geologists work in all sorts of weather and locations, the notebook should be waterproof, with synthetic or coated paper on which pencil marks will remain legible when wet.”



A field notebook being used to show the scale of a mineralised water droplet (via www.uwec.edu);

The author then describes the type of content you might want to include in your geological notebook and formats you might want to use (and very sensible advice it seems too) Of more interest to me though is the discussion that followed on from this post where the first person asked “can one not have a digital note book ?”and was told that while you could have a digital notebook..

“your trusty notebook cannot get a virus, cannot crash or freeze, will not run out of batteries, is generally impervious to moisture (see bit in the entry about using pencil – though biro isn’t bad), does not require backups or upgrades (other than a new one once that one is full) is easily archived and retrieved, can be used as a fly swat, impromtu dinner plate, signalling device, flat plane for getting an average dip using the compass-clino, scale in photographs… oh, and it doesn’t break when put in rucksack or pockets along with rocks, hammers, tape measures, lunch etc…”

Which I think pretty much covers all of the ways in which paper notebooks can be used – though of course computer notebooks can do some of these tasks too. (And the authors did say that digital notebooks do have their advantages to geologists such as GPS and GIS.) Now I’m going to go away and think about how I can make a bookleteer eBook that can function as a signalling device, dinner place, fly swat and umbrella..


A notebook being used as a plate (via www.seriouseats.com)

p.s. I have to admit, partly I wanted to write about this post because it begins with this sentence.. “A geologist’s field notebook is analogous to the hitch-hiker’s towel – it is indispensable.”

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