Have you ever been just sitting around, enjoying nature, when you WONDERed about something? Perhaps it was something you noticed for the first time. Maybe it was something an animal did. Whatever it was, it made you WONDER and a question probably popped into your mind.
Did you find the answer to your question? In today's world, how would you go about learning more about whatever it is that made you WONDER? You might have asked a friend, family member or a teacher. You may have grabbed the nearest computer or smartphone to harness the power of the Internet to answer your question.
The Internet is a powerful tool that puts so much of the world's information right at our fingertips. But what would you have done before the Internet came along? How would you have answered questions about the world around you hundreds of years ago?
Most of the world's greatest scientists and inventors didn't have the luxuries of instant information available today. And that's probably a good thing. The methods they developed for systematically exploring the world around them led to great discoveries and ways of doing things that have laid a fantastic foundation for modern science.
What are we talking about? The scientific method, of course! You've probably heard that term before in your science classes. The scientific method is simply how scientists learn about and study the world around them. When you learn about the scientific method, you're really learning about how to learn!
The great thing about the scientific method is that it's so basic. Although science might sometimes seem complicated, the scientific method can be used to study and learn about anything, from a frog or a tree to Mars or an entire galaxy.
The scientific method really boils down to questions and answers. The world is full of questions. Scientists use the scientific method to try to come up with answers to the questions they have about the world around them.
- Identify a question or a problem.
- Do your research. Make observations and collect information.
- Form a hypothesis. Come up with your best guess about the answer to your problem or question.
- Test your hypothesis. Perform experiments to determine whether your best guess is accurate.
- Analyze the results of your experiments.
- Come to a conclusion and present your results to others.
Once you have a problem or question identified, you need to collect information. Performing research today is much easier thanks to the Internet. Real scientific study, though, will almost always require you to go beyond the Internet to make real-world observations.
Based upon your observations and research, you'll need to form a hypothesis, which is often referred to as an “educated guess." This is your best idea of what the answer to your question or problem is.
To make it more than a guess, you need to test it. This requires experimentation. Science experiments come in all shapes and sizes. They don't always need a laboratory with beakers full of chemicals. Sometimes your experiments may occur in social situations at home, school, or in a mall.
Scientists just need to make sure that their experiment is designed to test their hypothesis, while also excluding other events that could shape or affect the outcome. Once you have conducted an experiment—or many experiments!—you'll need to analyze your results to see if your hypothesis was correct.
If it was correct, you'll want to present your results to others. Scientific inquiry is truly valuable when its results are shared with the world, so that others can benefit from your work. Other scientists may use your results as a starting point for additional research.