Twelve tips for an amazing record book

These 12 suggestions can help you easily create a successful 4-H record book.


Record books are often used in 4-H and within other organizations to keep track of the work that goes into a project or activity. If you are working on a record book, you want it to be the best it can be to showcase the work you have accomplished. Michigan State University Extension has some great tips to help make completing your record book a successful and smooth process.

  • Spell check. Grammar, spelling and punctuation matter. These tools help convey your message. If the words are not clear, the reader will not be able to clearly understand the great work you have done.
  • Phone a friend. It is helpful to ask someone to proofread your record book before submitting it to ensure it looks good and makes sense. Ask teachers, 4-H leaders or staff, or other caring adults in your life. It may be best to ask someone who doesn’t know much about your project because they can give you an honest outsider perspective about the clarity of your work.
  • Start early. The work you do on your record book can start as soon as you get your animal or start your project. Think about working on specific pages as a club each month; this ensures everyone is keeping up on their record keeping and gives members a chance to help each other or ask questions about the project.
  • Personalize it. Include pictures and other creative elements. Consider putting the record book in a binder or making a Power Point presentation to support the content.
  • Document. Save receipts, pictures of you working on your project, and other loose documents in a folder or clear binder sheet protector. That folder can either go along with your record book or individual pieces can be included into the final product.
  • Take notes. Keep a journal where you record your efforts, thoughts and challenges. This journal can be a small notebook and can be kept near your project. It can get dirty or damaged in the process of your work because when the time comes, you can transfer that content to your clean record book for display.
  • Cleanliness counts. Neatness and organization are important. You might want to type your answers. If not, use your best penmanship. It might work best to keep a rough draft copy of your record book throughout the year and neatly transfer that to your final copy once edited.
  • Be thorough and complete. Make sure to follow directions and answer all questions completely. Some questions have more than one part to them, so ensure you have answered each component to the question.
  • Do your research. If you don’t understand a section, ask someone for help like a 4-H leader or staff, local vet, etc..
  • Learn from examples. Try to find other record books as models; these can be from other members in your club, other clubs or even other county programs. They can help give you a guideline for your work. Do not copy those books but use as inspiration for the work you do on your record book.
  • Review. Don’t forget to review last year’s record book before starting this year’s project! Revisiting challenges and triumphs from a previous year will help you make more informed decisions in the current year and help you think about how you could try something new. Including reflections and lessons learned in your new year’s record book is a great addition.
  • Share it. A record book is most useful when others get to see it. The record book can be a supporting document when talking to potential buyers or when giving presentations about your project. Take it with you when you meet a new buyer or share at your pen during the auction. You can also share it at a school meeting or community organization group.

In addition to these suggestions, you probably have some tips of your own from your experience. Consider having a club meeting where you brainstorm your own tips and share them with each other. Learning to keep thorough records is a skill that can be transferred to many aspects of adulthood, so start early and strive to make the best better. More information on market animal record books and record-keeping can be found in the Michigan 4-H curriculum, “Youth Business Guide to Success.”

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives.

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