Thursday, April 24, 2008

Understanding the Scientific Method

Author: Jeremy Roehrich

Understanding the scientific method and how to follow it is critical to building a good reputation in the technical community. In regards to science fairs, as a student progresses in grade levels the judges are going to demand more and more focus on using the scientific method.

Here is my seven step description of the scientific method.

1. Define the question 2. Gather information and resources 3. Form hypothesis 4. Perform experiment and collect data 5. Analyze data 6. Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypotheses 7. Publish results

In science fair competitions, if you can show that you are following the scientific method, you are well on your way to impressing the judges.

Basically, start out by defining your question and topic. After that, form a hypothesis and perform your experiments. Step 6 is where you use that data to make any new hypotheses or theories about your science topic. If you want, you can take that new hypothesis you just developed and start again from step 3, then move your way back to 6. Follow this cycle as much as you want. The more focused your information and experiments the better.

Would you like an example to clarify how to use the scientific method?

Imagine you are doing your project on ""Hot water"" and we are going to follow the scientific method steps.

1. Define your question.

How about something silly, like ""Will boiling water burn a person's hand?""

2. Find lots of information about hot water and learn everything you can about it.

3. Now form a hypothesis based on your research. Our hypothesis is, ""A person will not suffer any burns due to contact with boiling water."" Hopefully you are smart enough to know this isn't true, but let's pretend we aren't just for the sake of the example.

4. Now we do perform our experiements. In real life we know we will burn ourselves with boiling water, and we should never touch it! But, suppose the experimenter has no idea. They run tests to see if contact with boiling water burns a person. BAD IDEA!

5. Now look at your data. Probably everyone in the experiments burned their skin during the tests. Looks like boiling water does cause burns! DUH!

6. Interpret the data. Hmm...our hypothesis was completely wrong. Our experiments showed that boiling water can cause burns.

7. Publish your results. I certainly hope you never make a project just like this, but here's your chance to show the world what happens when you touch boiling water!

Keep in mind, don't change your hypothesis because your final data did not agree with it. You don't get more credit for having a correct hypothesis. You get credit for following the scientific method and coming to a correct conclusion based on your data.

Don't forget to include possible reasons for experimental error.

If you follow these steps your project or experiment will make sense to anyone who views it and you have a good chance of succeeding!

For more information go to Science-Ideas.com.

Jeremy Roehrich holds a B.S. in Computer Security and is currently pursuing research in securing mobile devices.

Science Fair Project Idea articles like this one are available at Science-Ideas.com .

About the author: Jeremy Roehrich holds a B.S. in Computer Security and is currently pursuing research in securing mobile devices.

Science Fair Project Idea articles like this one are available at Science-Ideas.com .

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