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Scientific Method

Key Concepts

  • Scientific method refers to the process of thinking about scientific questions.

  • This process of thinking about scientific questions includes:

    (a) making observations to accumulate information

    (b) deriving scientific laws by organising the information and looking for regularities or patterns

    (c) making an hypothesis to explain why the regularities or patterns exist

    (d) tesing the hypothesis by a suitable experiment and communicating the findings and probable explanations to others

  • The scientific method is a cycle.

    By testing the hypothesis we make new observations which require us to look for patterns thereby formulating new laws which require new hypothesis that then need to be tested, etc.

Observations

Seeing is NOT the same as observing.
To "see" is to use your eyes to perceive something, but to "observe" the same thing requires you to use as many of your senses as possible in order to really take notice of the thing.

Observation requires concentration and alertness.

The senses a Chemist uses to make observations are:

  • sight (wearing eye protection in the Lab)

  • smell (gently wafting the smell to your nose using your hand)

  • hearing (from a suitable distance if safe to do so)

  • touching (only if considered safe to do so)

  • tasting (but NEVER in the Lab, and never taste anything you found or produced in the Lab!)

Observations also include making measurements.

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Observations which are recorded are called scientific data.
This scientific data is essential for the next step in the process of the scientific method.

Scientific Laws

Deriving a scientific law requires that:

    (a) the data (recorded observations) be organised

    (b) the data be examined to determine whether there is a pattern

(a) Organising the Data: tables and graphs are commonly used to organise the data.

How you organise the data can influence the patterns you see in the data.

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(b) Examine the organised data to see if there is a pattern

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In order to find out which patterns in the data are useful, we need to set up a testable hypothesis.

Making an Hypothesis

An hypothesis is a statement of the possible answer to a scientific question we have asked.

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Testing the Hypothesis

Testing an hypothesis requires:

    (i) the design of a suitable experiment

    (ii) communicating the results of the experiment (in a lab report).

(i) Designing an Experiment to Test an Hypothesis

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(ii) Communicating the Results

In our lab report we would make a conclusion based on how the data relates to the hypothesis.
We would then make suggestions about future possible hypotheses to test by looking at the data again in order to see if there is a different pattern and therefore a different hypothesis that could be tested.

Example

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