Lab Labeling Essentials: Best Practices for Labeling Specimens

Clear and detailed labels are essential for maintaining data integrity and traceability in scientific research.

This is especially true in fields such as genetics and genomics, where a single specimen can be analyzed multiple times using different techniques and over an extended period.

With the proper labeling and tracking of specimens, researchers can ensure that they have access to accurate and reliable data that can be used to make important discoveries and advancements in their field. But what constitutes “proper labeling”?

Below, we provide the standard information that is best practice to include on a specimen label.

Below we provide the standard information that is best practice to include on a specimen label.

What Does a Specimen Label Need?


Including the date on a label helps to avoid errors and provides essential information for quality control. In addition, it assists with monitoring the stability and shelf-life of samples, which is crucial for research involving drug development and clinical trials. It helps all researchers know when the sample was collected and allows them to link the specimen to any associated data or observations.

Sample ID

A sample ID enables the identification and tracking of specific samples, from the collection stage to the analysis stage. This helps to prevent mix-ups and errors that could compromise the accuracy of the research findings. Additionally, sample ID facilitates the organization and management of large data sets, ensuring that results are assigned to the correct sample and interpreted accurately.


Including the temperature or storage conditions on specimen labels is essential for maintaining the integrity and stability of the samples. Many samples, such as biological materials and drugs, are sensitive to temperature and environmental conditions, and any deviation from the recommended storage conditions could affect their properties and efficacy. Including this information on labels allows researchers to monitor and maintain the samples under the correct conditions, ensuring that they remain stable and retain their quality throughout the research process. This information is also critical for regulatory compliance, quality control, and ensuring the reproducibility of results.


Scientists’ Identifiers

Including a scientist’s identifier, usually a name, on specimen labels is important for ensuring the accountability and traceability of the research process. It allows for the easy identification of the researcher responsible for a particular sample or experiment, making it easier to track down any errors or issues that may arise during the research process. Additionally, the scientist’s identifier facilitates collaboration among team members, as it enables colleagues to identify who worked on a particular sample and who to contact for further information or assistance. Finally, including a scientist’s identifier on specimen labels is critical for regulatory compliance, as it provides a clear record of who handled the samples and any associated data.


When combined with a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), barcoding can significantly improve laboratory efficiency, accuracy, and data management. Lab staff can store information in barcodes to reduce the amount of data included on the label, as well as to reduce manual data entry and improve the accuracy of data input.

Dangerous Properties

Notes on dangerous properties are critical to ensure the safety of researchers and the environment. Some specimens may have hazardous properties that require special handling, such as biohazardous materials, or samples that are corrosive or flammable. Providing this information on the label allows researchers to handle the specimen safely and ensure that proper precautions are taken to protect themselves and the environment.

Proper Labeling for Lab Specimens

Missing information on specimen labels can have serious consequences. Misidentification of specimens can lead to wasted time and resources, while improper storage or handling can compromise the integrity of the specimen. The loss of specimens can also have severe repercussions, as it can make it impossible to replicate results or conduct further research and can have a significant impact on the scientific community, which may result in a loss of trust and funding. Because of this it is crucial that you properly label lab specimens, and following the above guidelines is a great place to start.

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Lab Labeling Essentials: Best Practices for Labeling Specimens

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