What Are Evidence Notebooks in the Science Classroom?

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In the science classroom, students must learn how to record evidence to support their analyses and conclusions. Rather than relying on traditional lab and field notebooks, you may want to instruct students to keep what’s often referred to as an evidence notebook.

How Do These Tools Differ from a Traditional Lab and Field Notebook?

An evidence notebook is similar, but it is much more open-ended and less prescriptive. Students use it to record observations and predictions, make sketches, and note questions that they have, all as evidence related to specific claims that they are evaluating.

Research shows that communicating ideas through writing enhances thinking and helps commit ideas to long-term memory. Plus, writing is an important tool for transforming claims and evidence into knowledge that is coherent and structured.


The Next Generation Science Standards* (NGSS) philosophy surrounding evidence notebooks can be likened to student-driven open inquiry with minimal teacher guidance. A core precept of NGSS is engaging in argument from evidence. As students read about science, perform lab activities, engage in discussions, and write explanations, they will need to cite factual evidence to support their ideas and claims.

Evidence notebooks can run the gamut from spiral-bound, lined-paper notebooks to digital documents. Digital formats can easily be shared with other students, and even with you—the teacher. If resources are available, don't restrict the students to traditional pencil and paper evidence notebooks; go digital!

The Teacher’s Role

You might need to help students with starting or maintaining an effective evidence notebook, so suggest writing strategies; encourage drawings and diagrams; suggest video capture, if appropriate; and remember—don't dictate what students are to write in their notebooks. Students' notebooks should be an opportunity for them to use their own unique voice.


Evidence notebooks can also be used as formative assessment. From time to time, have students turn in their notebooks. Make sure they're putting them to best use; give useful, targeted feedback.

Analyzing Evidence Related to Claims

As you can see, an evidence notebook is much more than a simple record-keeper. I like to think of it as a type of working memory in which students construct understanding as they analyze the evidence related to specific claims.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.


This blog is based on a Professional Development video found within HMH Science Dimensions.

*Next Generation Science Standards and logo are registered trademarks of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and they do not endorse it.

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