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Scientific Inquiry: Science is a process of thinking critically, using observations, inferring, comparing, contrasting and looking for cause and effect

Jan 17, 2016



  • Scientific Inquiry:Science is a process of thinking critically, using observations, inferring, comparing, contrasting and looking for cause and effect.

    There are several skills you must learn when you are setting out to study something in a scientific way.

  • Skills you will learn during this UnitObservingAnalyzing ObservationsInferring Types of VariablesPredictingInvestigatingHypothesizingOrganizing DataInterpreting (Analyzing) DataExperiments compared to SurveysMaking a ConclusionCommunicating your findings

  • Observing:Using your senses to pay close attention. You can observe in two ways.

    Qualitative:Looking for the qualities of an object or results. Usually made with your senses. Anecdotal evidence Not Exact

    Quantitative (Measuring):Finding the amount or specific size of something.Exact measurements

    OBSERVATIONS use your SENSES, you should NOT interpret them. We will get to interpret them later!

  • Ways of analyzing observations:

    Compare and contrast look for similarities/differences

    Cause and effect observing an event, inferring a cause

  • Inferring:Explanation for observations; must be logical and make sense based on observations. Inferences are made without performing experiments or tests. A hunch. Remember, in an inference you are using your experiences to interpret your observations (your brain is involved here!)

  • Observations and Inferences ActivitiesTest how well you make observations without the use of sight.Mystery Bags.In the coming days, we will complete a few observations and inferences worksheets

  • Identifying and manipulating variables and constants:In any experiment, there are many variables.

    Independent Variable: are chosen by the experimenter. Sometimes these are called Manipulated variables. THIS IS WHAT YOU CHANGE IN AN EXPERIMENT!!! DRY MIX

    Dependent Variables: are the results of the experiment. Sometimes called the responding variable. THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO FIND OUT!!! DRY MIX

    Constants: This is what you will keep the same. You need constants so that you can make a fair comparison. These are sometimes considered the controlled variables.

  • Spongebob ScienceLearn independent and dependent variables and lots of ways to do science poorly from SpongeBob.

    Controls and Variables Part 1Controls and Variables Part 2

  • Independent vs Dependent variables on a graphLook at the graph on the right Which is the independent variable?Which is the dependent variable?Graphs and graphing advice from

  • Whats wrong with this graph?Find three things wrong with this graph

  • Quiz reviewIn a nutshell: Science is a process of thinking critically, where we observe, infer, compare, contrast and look for cause and effect relationships between events or objects.What does it mean to observe?What are two ways to observe something in science?

  • Quiz reviewWhat is the difference between qualitative and quantitative observations?

    After you observe, it is natural for your brain to make an _______________.

    What is the definition for inference?

  • Quiz reviewWhat are two other ways to analyze your observations of objects or events?

  • Quiz reviewWhat is the dependent variable in an experiment?

    What words help you identify the dependent variable?

  • Quiz ReviewWhat is the independent variable? What words help you identify the independent variable?

  • Quiz Review

    What is a constant?

    What words help you find the constant in an experiment?

  • Good luck on the quiz tomorrow!Know your definitions you will have to match the word to its definition.Youll have to show that you write three observations and make an inference about a cartoon.Finally, you will be presented with an experiment, and youll have to identify the variables, and analyze it.

  • Predicting: Forecasting of future events based on past observations and available data

  • Penny PredictionsClassify the variables Remember DRY stands for Dependent also known as Responding, Y axisRemember MIX stands for Manipulated also known as Independent, X axisBefore you start in your groupsMake a prediction about how many drops of water you can get onto a PENNY.AFTER you test your penny prediction, make a prediction for a NICKLE. Test it.Continue with the dime and quarter.See if your predictions improve as you collect your data.

  • InvestigatingInvestigating is finding out the cause of a situation or event.Major events, such as weather changes, or ecological systems are normally to big to study, so we break it down into variables.Usually when we investigate we start with a research question or a hypothesis.

  • Hypothesizing: Making a prediction about how one variable (the independent variable) will affect another variable (the dependent variable).

    Example: The density of a bouncy ball does not affect the height of its first bounce.

  • Galileos ExperimentThis activity will test your ability to write an accurate hypothesis, determine the dependent, independent and controlled variables.You will collect and organize your data as a group and individually make a graph of your data.Once you have graphed your data you will interpret it and write a short lab report that includes your conclusion.Each part of the experiment will be graded.

  • Organizing DataData is information, usually numbersThese numbers represent exact measurements-QUANTITATIVE observations.How long is it? How much does it weigh? How fast is it going?Data tables and graphs help you organize this data.When you collect data in a data table, put the Independent (manipulated) variable in the left column, and the Dependent (responding) variable in the right columns

  • Interpreting (Analyzing) DataThis is the main reason we collect and graph data (remember data are quantitative observations).A graph is valuable tool for interpreting what you have observed, and helps you make sense of what happened during an event.Graphs are also important as visual evidence for decisions that you make.

  • ExperimentsExperimentsAnswer how one variable affects another.The affect of the independent variable on the dependent variable.Based on a research question that is made into a hypothesis and then tested.

  • SurveysAnswers questions about variables that cannot be manipulated in a lab.This information is observed directly.Surveys are not necessarily questionnairesSurveys may be a count of how many organisms are in a one meter square area of a streambed or soil.

  • Making a ConclusionA conclusion is a factual summary of data and may or may not include the experimenters interpretation of the data.All inferences should be stated as an inference based on data.ALL conclusions must be backed up by quantifiable data (observations).Some experiments will be inconclusive and may require more experimentation.

  • Communicating your FindingsPosterSame information as an article, however, condensed into an abstract and results.Usually presented at a meeting of scientists with common interests.How a poster presentation may look

    Article submitted to a scientific journalSome samplesScience, Nature, JAMASpecific formatFormat may vary by journal

  • IntroductionThis is a Microsoft Powerpoint template that has column widths and font sizes optimized for printing a 36 x 56 posterjust replace the tips and blah, blah, blah repeat motifs with actual content, if you have it. Try to keep your total word count under 500 (yea, this suggestion applies to everyone, even you). More tips (18 pages!) can be found at Advice on designing scientific posters at my web site ( To see examples of how others have abused this template to fit their presentation needs, perform a Google search for powerpoint template for scientific posters. This paragraph has justified margins, but be aware that simple left-justification (other paragraphs) is infinitely better if your font doesnt space nicely when fully justified. Sometimes spacing difficulties can be fixed by manually inserting hyphens into longer words. Powerpoint doesnt automatically hyphenate, by the way.Your main text is easier to read if you use a serif font such as Palatino or Times (i.e., people have done experiments and found this to be the case). Use a non-serif font for your title and section headings.

    Materials and methodsBe brief, and opt for photographs or drawings whenever possible to illustrate organism, protocol, or experimental design. Viewers dont actually want to read about the gruesome details, however fascinating you might find them. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah.

    AcknowledgmentsWe thank I. Gor for laboratory assistance, Mary Juana for seeds, Herb Isside for greenhouse care, and M.I. Menter for questionable statistical advice. Funding for this project was provided by the Swarthmore College Department of Biology, a Merck summer stipend, and my mom. [Note that peoples titles are omitted.]ResultsThe overall layout for this section should be modified from this template to best show off your graphs and other result-related illustrations. You might want a single, large column to accommodate a big map, or perhaps you could arrange 6 figures in a circle in the center of the poster: do whatever it takes to make your results graphic