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Learning Objective #1 Resource home get printable version of this document

Understanding scientific inquiry and the scientific method

You're probably using this tutorial because you are taking a science laboratory course. When you are in that lab you are expected to think like a scientist and act like a scientist, so it's a good idea from the beginning to talk about what that means--to think like a scientist and act like a scientist.


Here are some questions to think about: (answer them in your own words)

What is a scientist?
What do scientists do?
What does it mean to think like scientists?
When you are done, click here for more ideas.

One helpful way of understanding what science is all about is to think of it as an act of inquiry.


Think of something youíve always wanted to know about, something that really intrigues you. Then, write down a series of questions about it that you would like to answer. Click here when you're done.

Now that you are familiar with scientific inquiry, you are ready to explore it in the context of the scientific method. Scientific inquiry is grounded in the process of the scientific method.


Before we explore the details of the scientific method, let's find out how much you already know about the scientific method. On a sheet of paper, write the words "scientific method" inside a big circle in the middle of the page. Think about everything that comes to mind with respect to the scientific method and connect your ideas to the main circle by drawing lines extending outward from the circle. It should look something like this:

NEXT, take the ideas you generated above and try to organize them into a series of steps you think scientists take when solving problems or answering questions.

Click here when you're done

More information on the scientific method


Everyone uses steps similar to those of the scientific method when solving problems in everyday life. Think about some ways you've used the scientific method in the past week. Start out with a problem or question. Next, try to formulate a hypothesis. What experiment or test would you use to check your hypothesis?

Click here for some ideas


Now that you are somewhat familiar with the scientific method, try practicing how to formulate hypotheses and design experiments by reacting to different real-life scenarios.

Choose a scenario

When practicing the scientific method, most people are engaged in "scientific thinking."


Go back to the scenarios above, and review your responses. Think about how you arrived at the hypotheses and experimental designs you wrote above. Try to identify your line of thinking. Was it consistent with scientific thinking? Write down your ideas.

Continue on to Objective #2...




© Copyright LabWrite Project 2003

Sponsored and funded by
National Science Foundation
(DUE-9950405 and DUE-0231086)

We welcome your feedback!

Rev. EW 8/18/03

LabWrite Project Team

Michael Carter, Ph.D., Science Communication, Dept. of English
Eric N. Wiebe, Ph.D., Graphic Communications Program,
Dept. of Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education
Miriam Ferzli, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Associate, Science Education
Trina Allen, Graduate Research Assistant, Science Education

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