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Electronic Laboratory Notebooks

A guide able electronic laboratory notebooks for the sciences


The Electronic Laboratory Notebook (ELN) is a software that can be used in place of a traditional paper lab notebook. An ELN can be utilized to store notes, protocols, and any type of data. They can be particularly useful for searching previously recorded data, sharing data with collaborators, or to timestamp different versions of a document. Some ELNs can also provide computational capabilities and advanced functions to analyze data.

There are many ELNs currently available that come with a wide range of functions. Different fields of research may require different capabilities to store and analyze data. There are many ELNs to choose from. This guide offers resources to help choose an ELN.

Features of ELN

Benefits of using an ELN:

  • Instant searching of documents by keyword
  • Enables real-time data sharing with collaborators
  • Better oversight of laboratory work by lab PI 
  • Preservation of experimental procedures and protocols for future use 
  • Enables download and storage of large data sets
  • Eliminates legibility issues related to a paper notebook
  • Facilitates reproducibility of research

What can we store in an ELN?

  • Experimental protocols, data, results. 
  • Data from instruments, analysis, graphs
  • Email communication, and discussions with peers and PI
  • Inventory management
  • Apparatus documentation

Selecting an ELN

There are a number of factors to consider when selecting an ELN for your research. 
Some to consider are:

  • Essential research capabilities, as per the research field requirements. 
  • Storage
  • Cost
  • Security
  • Integration abilities with instruments used in the experiment
  • Text processing and spreadsheet utility

These resources below describe these factors in more detail:

Other Resources