How do I use the scientific
The scientific method is just a list of
steps that you need to follow when you're solving a problem. Depending on who
you talk to, there are anywhere from five to eight steps in the scientific
method. However, all versions of the scientific method involve the person
trying to solve the problem experimenting to find an answer.
The version of the scientific method that
I use in my class has six steps, as follows:
- Purpose: You've got a problem that you want to have solved. The purpose step
in the scientific method is just a restatement of what you want
accomplished. What do you want to find out? What is your goal? You
should write just one sentence for your purpose. You'll see what
I mean in the upcoming example.
- Hypothesis: How do you think you can solve the problem? The hypothesis step
is always written in the form "If ___________, then ___________.
The blank after the "if" is called the independent variable.
The independent variable is just whatever you are going to do to solve
the problem. The blank after "then" is the dependent
variable. The dependent variable is what you think will happen when
you do whatever the independent variable is. For example, if your
hypothesis is that "If I take an aspirin, my headache will go
away," your independent variable is "taking an aspirin"
(this is what you do) and your dependent variable is "the headache
will go away" (what happens as a result of your having done
- Materials: What do you need to have in order to see if your hypothesis is
true? This part of the scientific method is a list of everything
you need to do the experiment. Leave nothing out!
- Procedure: What are you going to do during this experiment.
You should list everything that you are going to do in this
section. Even if it seems obvious, write it down. A good rule of thumb:
If a six-year-old child can understand what you've written, then you've
written it well. If they can't, then you need to go into more detail!
- Results: When you did the experiment, what happened? What did you see,
hear, smell, etc? You should give a complete accounting of all data that
you take (sometimes this is referred to as the "Data"
section). There's an old saying among chemists: "If you didn't
write it down, then it didn't happen." Make sure you write everything
- Conclusion: What do the results mean? Was your hypothesis correct? This
section should be only one sentence long. For example, if you proved the
hypothesis that "If I take an aspirin, my headache will go
away," then the conclusion should be "I took an aspirin, and
my headache went away." Don't make this any longer than it has to