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Scientific Method


Think of a question

Predict the answer (hypothesize)

Plan the experiment

Collect and record data

Analyze results






































The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method is the way scientists learn and study the world around them. The basis of the scientific method is observing and gathering background information, asking a question, forming an hypothesis (or an educated guess about the answer to your question), and then trying to come up with the answers by collecting and analyzing data.

We use the scientific method all the time.  For instance:

  • Observe: The TV won't turn on.
  • Think of a question: What is wrong with the TV?
  • Predict the answer (hypothesize): The TV won't turn on because the cord is unplugged.
  • Plan the experiment: I will check to make sure the plug is in the outlet.
  • Collect data: The TV is unplugged.
  • Analyze results:  The TV won't turn on because the cord is unplugged.

The scientific method is often divided into steps. This is helpful for organizing the process, but keep in mind that the key element of the scientific method is testing the hypothesis. In other words, can you prove that your hypothesis is wrong?



A good scientist is observant and curious about what is happening around him/her. This step also includes reading and studying what others have done in the past because scientific knowledge is cumulative.

Spend time observing and exploring before coming up with a question to investigate.  


The scientist then raises a question about what (s)he sees going on. The question raised must have a “simple,” concrete answer that can be obtained by performing an experiment.



The hypothesis is a tentative answer to the question based on your observations and explorations.  When forming an hypothesis, remember that a hypothesis is a question that can be tested by an experiment. 

It may be easier to write a hypothesis if you use an "if-then" format.  For example:  "If magpies have an aggressive nature, then there should be fewer birds feeding when magpies are present than when magpies are not present."

Plan an experiment in which you can test your hypothesis. Make a step-by-step list of what you will do to answer your question.

  • Select only one thing to change in each experiment. Things that can be changed are called variables.
  • Change something that will help you test your hypothesis.
  • The list must tell how you will change this one thing.
  • The list must explain how you will measure the amount of change.
  • Each type of experiment needs a "control" for comparison so that you can see what the change actually did.

Observations can be written descriptions of what you noticed during an experiment, or problems encountered. Keep careful notes of everything you do and everything that happens.


Summarize what happened. This could be in the form of a table of numerical data or graphs. It could also be a written statement of what occurred during the experiments.

Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original question. Did your experiment support your hypothesis?

If your hypothesis was not supported, you need to think about what might have gone wrong.  Maybe your hypothesis was incorrect and you need to make further observations and conduct more research (return to Step 1).  Or maybe your experiment design needs some reworking (return to Step 4).  Don't be discouraged!  The Scientific Method is a cycle that helps us better understand the world around us. 

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