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WHAT IS THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD???

Science projects use the scientific method to answer science questions. The
Scientific Method is the tool that scientists use to do this. It is the standard
by which all experiments are judged. It involves the process of thinking through
the possible answers to a question and testing each one to find the most
accurate solution. The results must be reliable and able to be reproduced if
someone else were to repeat your experiment.

The Scientific Method involves:


1. Choosing a problem (I wonder): The problem is the scientific question
you want to answer by doing an experiment. Coming up with a question can be
difficult since you want it to be unique. It is best that the question be openended (can have several possible answers) rather than a simple yes/no
question. Choose a problem that you are able to solve by conducting an
experiment. For example, if you do not have access to a lab, Petri dishes,
growth media and a microscope, you wouldnt want your question to be about
the colony counts of mold on bread. However, a good question might be, I
wonder if mold grows faster on certain kinds of bread. This is something you
can test and find an answer to by doing an experiment. If youre interested in
ants, you might want to find out if black ants walk faster than red ants. Your
goal, or purpose for doing this experiment would be to find out which color ant
walks fastest.
The best place to get ideas for your topic is your brain! Are you curious
about something in your home or yard? Do you wonder why some paper
airplanes designs fly better than others? Is there anything youve been
wondering about lately that youd like to know more about? You might also get
some ideas from TV shows about science and nature, magazine articles and
newspapers. You can try to prove if what a T.V. commercial says is true. You
can go to www.SARSEF.org for a list of possible topics/questions. An Internet
search for Science Experiments will give you many websites as well. Some
good, kid-friendly ones are:
www.scienceclub.org, www.sciencebuddies.org, www.sciencebob.com
Keeping a journal that describes your thoughts, ideas and sources about your
topic is highly recommended.

2. Conducting research: Once you have chosen your topic, its time to
research it. This is to help you understand your project so you can come up with
a good problem statement, hypothesis and design an experiment. There are
many different sources of information you can use. They include books, the
Internet (with your parents permission and supervision), and people who are
knowledgeable in your topic area. You can even be matched up with a science
mentor by going to the SARSEF website, www.SARSEF.org. They can connect
you with a scientist from the U of A who specializes in your topic. If you are
keeping a journal, you might want to include notes about our research process,
how your thoughts or ideas changed, etc. Remember to always cite (list and
give credit to) the resources you use in your journal or on your project board.
3. Forming a hypothesis (I think): Now that youve come up with a
unique, testable question/problem that youd like to learn more about, you can
form a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a prediction about the solution to a problem,
or outcome of your project. This is like an educated guess based on your
research, past observations and experiences. Your hypothesis should be a single
statement such as, Mold will grow faster on whole wheat bread than on white
bread. Another would be, Red ants walk faster than black ants. Remember
that your hypothesis must be testable. You cant predict that, My school bus
will arrive at school faster if we take route A instead of route B if your bus only
takes route A. If you are keeping a journal, you might want to list some of the
other hypotheses you considered.
4. Designing your experiment (What will I do?): The experiment is how
you test your hypothesis. Think about some ways in which you could conduct an
experiment that would give you the answer to your question. Remember, its
best to perform your experiment more than once (do several trials) so you can
collect more data to check for the consistency of your findings. This makes your
experimental results more valid or likely to be accurate and not just a fluke.
Think about the factors that could change the results of your experiment like the
time of day, the surface you use, light, heat, cold, breed of dog, and humidity for
example. These are called variables. There are three types of variables you
need to identify in your experiment. They are:
*Controlled variables: These are aspects of your experiment that you do not
want to change. An example would be making sure all the types of bread you choose
are the same brand and have the same expiration date. If mold grew on the oldest
bread first, it may not be because the bread was wheat or white, but because it was
older.
*Independent, or manipulated variable: This is the variable that you are
purposely manipulating or changing, such as the type of bread or color of ant. You
should have only one independent or manipulated variable.

*The dependent variable: This is the factor that you are observing or looking
for. This would be mold growth or walking speed of the ants. How this variable
responds, depends on your independent variable.

5.
Procedure (I did): Your procedure is like a recipe, a step-by-step
description of exactly what you did when performing your experiment. It
should be very detailed so that another person can repeat your experiment
simply by reading your procedure. You should also list the MATERIALS you
used when you did your experiment. If you are keeping a journal, you may
want to include any difficulties you encountered and how you dealt with them
or any unexpected occurrences.
6. Results (I found out): You now need to communicate your results to
your audience, the people looking at your experiment. You have prepared
them so well through your research, hypothesis and procedure that now they
are anxious to see what happened!
Your data (results) should be
organized and presented neatly. This can be done with charts, graphs,
pictures, drawings and written records. You might want to include any
materials or props you used that were vital to your experiment. DO NOT
include the moldy bread or the ants please!! You can take a picture of the
bread and maybe draw the ants. Remember that no items besides your
journal/notebook are allowed at the science fair. You might want to describe in
your journal how you felt as you were seeing your results.
7. Conclusion: Here you will make a statement about your results and how
they relate to your hypothesis. Why do you think you got the results you did?
What did your experiment prove? Was your hypothesis correct or incorrect?
Your results may, OR MAY NOT support (prove) your hypothesis. It is OKAY if
your hypothesis was incorrect. This is how scientists learn! However, you
should think about some possible reasons for the difference between your
hypothesis and your results. Do you think you may have forgotten to account
for a variable or two? Could you have designed or performed your experiment
differently? Do you think your experiment would show the same results if you
performed it again? Did you do enough trials? Or, were you just wrong, and
now as a result of your experiment, youve learned something new? If so,
then it was a success! Science is all about learning, and having fun while you
do it! Finally, you may suggest other ways your experiment could be done in
the future or identify other areas that could be explored and studied to find out
even more information about your topic.

**Your project display board, pictures, and notebook/journal will


be the only things the judges see. Youll want your board to be
well organized and neat. It should include the title, problem
statement, hypothesis, experiment (materials and procedure,
data, results and conclusion.