Fictional detective Sherlock Holmes solved crimes employing a proven technique scientists use to make important discoveries. The scientific method also helps real-life investigators and law enforcement personnel solve crimes by following methodological steps that increase objectivity and reduce errors during a criminal investigation.
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- First Steps: Observation and Data Collection
- Create Your Hypothesis
- Test the Hypothesis
- Interpret Results and Form Conclusion
- Crime Investigation Tips
1 First Steps: Observation and Data Collection
As a criminal investigator, you should begin by making observations. At a robbery scene, you may notice a lipstick tube lying partially hidden in a corner. That could be a clue that leads you to make further observations and look for additional evidence — data collection is step 2 in the process.
2 Create Your Hypothesis
In hypothesis formulation — the next step in the scientific process — you make an educated guess about the crime based on data you’ve gathered. The more observations you made and data you collected in the first two steps, the better your hypothesis will be. Form a hypothesis you can test using deductive reasoning — for example, “The theft occurred at night and the thief was a smoker who wore sneakers.” You could use deductive reasoning to test the hypothesis if you had tangible evidence that supported those theories. Deductive reasoning, often used by Sherlock Holmes, is a thought process wherein you reach a conclusion based on information you already have. Your hypothesis should also list your evidence along with items detailing possible criminal motives and personality characteristics of the offender.
3 Test the Hypothesis
Armed with a hypothesis that paints a picture of the offender, review your evidence and reevaluate that picture as new evidence and information arrive. If certain aspects of your evidence leave you with questions, you should consult “appropriate forensic scientists,” according to criminal profiler Brent E. Turvey in the book “Criminal Profiling: An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis.”
4 Interpret Results and Form Conclusion
At this point in the investigation — just before you make a conclusion based on the hypothesis — you should interpret your results. Do so by reviewing the offender characteristics you derived and eliminating those that your data and evidence do not support. Draw your conclusion by emulating Sherlock Holmes and writing a profile that describes the offender based on your evidence. Profile characteristics should include items such as the offender’s personality, emotional state and psychological state. You may even be able to include gender-specific information if your evidence supports it.
5 Crime Investigation Tips
Take your time forming a hypothesis and think logically and objectively — like a scientist performing an experiment. As with any analysis that uses the scientific method, you may discover that your hypothesis is wrong. Ensure that your data is correct and formulate another hypothesis using what you’ve learned to create a better one. You can then repeat the scientific method steps and hopefully arrive at conclusion that helps you nab your suspect.
- 1 ASU Schoold of Life Sciences: Using the Scientific Method to Solve Mysteries
- 2 PBS KLRU: Masterpiece Theatre | The Hound of the Baskervilles | Essays + Interviews
- 3 Criminal Profiling; An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis
- 4 Kansas State University: Animal Parasitology
- 5 University of Maryland University College: Online Guide to Writing and Research
About the Author
After majoring in physics, Kevin Lee began writing professionally in 1989 when, as a software developer, he also created technical articles for the Johnson Space Center. Today this urban Texas cowboy continues to crank out high-quality software as well as non-technical articles covering a multitude of diverse topics ranging from gaming to current affairs.
What is the Scientific Method?
The scientific method is a process for experimentation that is used to explore observations and answer questions. Does this mean all scientists follow exactly this process? No. Some areas of science can be more easily tested than others. For example, scientists studying how stars change as they age or how dinosaurs digested their food cannot fast-forward a star’s life by a million years or run medical exams on feeding dinosaurs to test their hypotheses. When direct experimentation is not possible, scientists modify the scientific method. In fact, there are probably as many versions of the scientific method as there are scientists! But even when modified, the goal remains the same: to discover cause and effect relationships by asking questions, carefully gathering and examining the evidence, and seeing if all the available information can be combined in to a logical answer.
Even though we show the scientific method as a series of steps, keep in mind that new information or thinking might cause a scientist to back up and repeat steps at any point during the process. A process like the scientific method that involves such backing up and repeating is called an iterative process.
Whether you are doing a science fair project, a classroom science activity, independent research, or any other hands-on science inquiry understanding the steps of the scientific method will help you focus your scientific question and work through your observations and data to answer the question as well as possible.
Diagram of the scientific method. The Scientific Method starts with aquestion, and background research is conducted to try to answer that question. If you want to find evidence for an answer or an answer itself then you construct a hypothesis and test that hypothesis in an experiment. If the experiment works and the data is analyzed you can either prove or disprove your hypothesis. If your hypothesis is disproved, then you can go back with the new information gained and create a new hypothesis to start the scientific process over again.
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Just a quick insight for today’s post, which is all about the strategy or methodology behind how I change myself. This framework is behind all of the work I do with clients and staff to help them succeed at their goals better, faster and easier.
OK, maybe fun isn’t a word you would all use, unless you’re scientists, however science is behind the strategies that the most successful people use to improve their lives consistently over time. Today we are going to briefly cover scientific method, so you can start lining up your own personal success strategy with what is proven to work.
I’ll do a brief description of each stage, but then I’ll use an example to make it real – for this post, let’s say you want to get in better shape through eating and exercise, as a goal.
1 ) COLLECT FACTS
This is where most people fail to follow scientific method and why they then go on to get frustrated time and again. What do I mean by collect facts? I mean find yourself some real, unbiased, unemotional evidence. Most people talk absolute crap a lot of the time, so a lot of the ‘facts’ you hear people spout are actually not even close to reality. Ever watched the programme “Mythbusters”? Isn’t it amazing how many of them get busted.
You need to go out and collect information from good sources. To demonstrate using our health example of how to collect facts, ask yourself which out of each of these options is the best source of information:
– a personal trainer, or your friend who goes to the gym occasionally?
– a well-known health-based magazine and website, or the random email you got about some new secret 5 step weight loss diet from someone you’ve never heard of?
– the advice of someone who is healthy and active, or someone who is overweight and inactive?
Hopefully most of you will choose option one for each of these, and it may even seem obvious. However, isn’t it funny how in real life, when your friend says something like “You should only eat protein after 3pm, no carbs because you don’t burn them off”, it sounds legitimate, yet they are not a health expert and not in very good shape themselves?
So we listen to them because… .
2 ) HYPOTHESIZE CAUSE AND SOLUTIONS
You need to figure out the problem you are trying to resolve, or the challenge you wish to conquer. The cause is all about why you are not where you want to be already. Again this is a step many people make errors in, which can have disastrous effects. It never ceases to amaze me when I’m coaching someone how obvious the cause of their issue seems to me and yet they cannot see it. It’s the same for me, which is why I have my own coach.
If you don’t get the cause right, then your solution can’t possibly be very effective. But hypothesizing means that you are basically making an educated guess with the facts you collected in the first place. If you knew the correct answer you wouldn’t need to hypothesize, but when you’re not sure you start by making reasonable guesses.
Using our example, look at the possible causes and possible solutions:
– if a personal trainer says people should exercises 4 times per week, and I only currently exercise once per month, then one of the causes of me being overweight is probably not being active enough. Solution: try working out more often
– if a nutritionist says people should cut all extra sugar out of their diet, and I’m eating four tonnes of sugar a day, then sugar is probably contributing to my lack of energy and excess weight. Solution: cut back on sugar
3 ) TEST AND EXPERIMENT
This one is what it sounds like: try out different ideas, methods and techniques until you find out what works. Don’t just accept the first thing you hear and do nothing else. This is what most people do for years, only to finally open their eyes to a better method later down the track and go “Damn, that’s way quicker/better/easier!”
For our example this might mean:
– try a certain work out regime for 2 months and take before and after photos to see it’s effect on you
– change your diet for a month and keep a diary on your energy levels, weight, body fat etc
– hire, rather than buy, an exercise bike to see if you have the willpower to stick to using it
I cover this in even more detail in my article The Brute Force Method Of Success.
4 ) CHOOSE A PROVEN SOLUTION
Once you’ve tried a range of things, from what seems like a good idea all the way through to “out of it” ideas, stick with what works best. Over time of course you need to revisit everything and try new things along the way to make sure you are doing what is most effective and enjoyable.
Using our example, everyone has different health needs. The diet and exercise plan I use might make someone else gain weight, or feel drowsy because they need more food, and so on. We all have different genes, metabolic rates and environmental factors that means you have to find your own best proven solution.
Well I hope you all use scientific method to improve your lives and maybe through this post you can catch yourself out when you base your actions on assumptions, lack of testing, bad advice, and other traps!
For a complete guide on how you can apply scientific method to every part of your life that you wish to improve, check out my book Driven !
Have a great week and I’ll catch you guys later
Illustration by J.R. Bee. ThoughtCo.
- B.A., Biology, Emory University
- A.S., Nursing, Chattahoochee Technical College
The scientific method is a series of steps followed by scientific investigators to answer specific questions about the natural world. It involves making observations, formulating a hypothesis, and conducting scientific experiments. Scientific inquiry starts with an observation followed by the formulation of a question about what has been observed. The steps of the scientific method are as follows:
The first step of the scientific method involves making an observation about something that interests you. This is very important if you are doing a science project because you want your project to be focused on something that will hold your attention. Your observation can be on anything from plant movement to animal behavior, as long as it is something you really want to know more about. This is where you come up with the idea for your science project.
Once you’ve made your observation, you must formulate a question about what you have observed. Your question should tell what it is that you are trying to discover or accomplish in your experiment. When stating your question you should be as specific as possible. For example, if you are doing a project on plants, you may want to know how plants interact with microbes. Your question may be: Do plant spices inhibit bacterial growth?
The hypothesis is a key component of the scientific process. A hypothesis is an idea that is suggested as an explanation for a natural event, a particular experience, or a specific condition that can be tested through definable experimentation. It states the purpose of your experiment, the variables used, and the predicted outcome of your experiment. It is important to note that a hypothesis must be testable. That means that you should be able to test your hypothesis through experimentation. Your hypothesis must either be supported or falsified by your experiment. An example of a good hypothesis is: If there is a relation between listening to music and heart rate, then listening to music will cause a person’s resting heart rate to either increase or decrease.
Once you’ve developed a hypothesis, you must design and conduct an experiment that will test it. You should develop a procedure that states very clearly how you plan to conduct your experiment. It is important that you include and identify a controlled variable or dependent variable in your procedure. Controls allow us to test a single variable in an experiment because they are unchanged. We can then make observations and comparisons between our controls and our independent variables (things that change in the experiment) to develop an accurate conclusion.
The results are where you report what happened in the experiment. That includes detailing all observations and data made during your experiment. Most people find it easier to visualize the data by charting or graphing the information.
The final step of the scientific method is developing a conclusion. This is where all of the results from the experiment are analyzed and a determination is reached about the hypothesis. Did the experiment support or reject your hypothesis? If your hypothesis was supported, great. If not, repeat the experiment or think of ways to improve your procedure.
Enjoy teaching scientific method! Start with some simple experiments. Soon, your little scientists will understand how to conduct a fair test.
Ms. Sneed Is Teaching the Scientific Method
Let’s look in on our favorite fourth grade teacher. First, Ms. Sneed stapled some Dollar Store shelf liner to the backsplash of her sink area. Next, she added some colorful borders. Finally, she matted her scientific method posters on black paper. Voila!
Just as she was finishing up, the teacher next door popped in to borrow some salt. “Hey,” said Mr. Aaron, “I like what you’ve done with the place.”
“Thanks! These posters on the top help me teach the steps in the scientific method:
- Ask a question.
- Conduct research.
- Design a fair test.
- Make observations.
- Record results.
- Draw conclusions.
- Share results.
“And the four on the bottom remind the kids of what makes a fair test: compare, control variables, use tools, and replicate.”
Teaching Scientific Method with a Simple Graphic Organizer
Just then, Mr. Aaron noticed a template on the table. “This is great. Can I have one?”
The next day, Ms. Sneed was ready to rock and roll. “Okay everyone, today we’ll explore processes scientists use in a fair test.”
As she began the scientific method PowerPoint presentation, a kid at the side table called out, “Hey, look! Those are the same pictures as on the wall over there.”
“You’re right, Kevin. We’ll be referring to those posters all year long.”
As Ms. Sneed continued teaching scientific method with the PowerPoint, a simple experiment unfolded.
- Question: Which will evaporate more, water in an open or closed container?
- Research: Water in an open container will continue to evaporate until it is all gone. When water is placed in a closed container, it also evaporates. This happens only until the air in the cup is saturated, or full of water vapor. Then the water molecules begin to return to the water. This happens at the same rate that others are evaporating.
- Hypothesis: A small amount of water will evaporate from a closed cup. More will evaporate from an open cup.
- Procedure – (1) Measure 50 milliliters of water into six cups. (2) Cover three cups in plastic wrap. Leave the other three cups open to the air. (3) Wait two days. (4) Measure the amounts of water in each cup. Record.
- Variable – open or closed cup
- Controls – same cups, same cover, same liquid, same temperature, same light, same humidity
- Observations : An average of 38 milliliters of water remained in the open cups. An average of 50 milliliters of water remained in the closed cup.
- Conclusion : Water in an open cup evaporates, but water in a closed cup does not.
“Notice how the simplest questions can lead to profound conclusions,” said Ms. Sneed.
The Students Design and Conduct Experiments
Now it was time for the kids to explore on their own. “Let’s read this article on evaporation,” said Ms. Sneed. “As we read, think about a scientific method experiment you’d like to try.”
When they finished, each group received a scientific method template. After some debate, each team came up with their own question and got started.
“You know what?” asked a girl in the front corner. “This is fun.” Ms. Sneed smiled silently to herself. Yes, it was.
Teaching Scientific Method = A Happy Teacher
Yes, Ms. Sneed was ever so pleased with her scientific method unit. As the year went on, Ms. Sneed found more ways to energize her science instruction. In addition to using the fair test, she also asked her students to use inquiry and make generalizations. Her kids ate it up – especially the STEM activities she added each month. When the kids got their hands on science, engagement went up, behavior issues went down, and learning skyrocketed. And you know what? Ms. Sneed enjoyed teaching even more.
Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.
How to Make Observations Using the Scientific Method. The scientific method is a tool used by researchers to explore and understand relationship variables in an experiment. There are seven steps in the scientific method. The first is observation. If conducted correctly, observation leads researchers to develop questions and possible outcomes of their work. Observation ensures a solid foundation as you experiment and use the scientific process.
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- Gather as much information as
- Observe the phenomena
1 Gather as much information as
Gather as much information about the phenomenon you are observing as possible. The more information you have on the subject, the better your experimental design. Gather information from experience, books, the Internet, other experiments, instructors and librarians.
2 Observe the phenomena
Observe the phenomena you are interested in studying using one or all of your five senses. Use the senses that are the most appropriate to the given situation. What you see, hear, taste, smell and feel are all very important tools in collecting good data.
Separate your observations into two sections: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative observations describe what you see while quantitative observations measure what you see.
Use your sensory observations to generate as many questions as possible about your subject. The purpose of your observations is to develop research questions that guide your hypothesis, which is the next step in the scientific method. The more questions you have, the easier it is to devise a valid hypothesis. The better your hypothesis, the stronger your experimental design.
- The validity of an experiment depends on your ability to recreate what you observe. Collect as much information in the observation stage of the scientific method as possible. Collecting data is easiest and the most useful at the beginning stage when you still have control over the circumstances.
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Scientific Method Steps
As more proof that there is no one way to “do” science, different sources describe the steps of the scientific method in different ways. Some list three steps, some four and some five. Fundamentally, however, they incorporate the same concepts and principles.
For our purposes, we’re going to say that there are five key steps in the method.
Step 1: Make an Observation
Almost all scientific inquiry begins with an observation that piques curiosity or raises a question. For example, when Charles Darwin (1809-1882) visited the Galapagos Islands (located in the Pacific Ocean, 950 kilometers west of Ecuador, he observed several species of finches, each uniquely adapted to a very specific habitat. In particular, the beaks of the finches were quite variable and seemed to play important roles in how the birds obtained food. These birds captivated Darwin. He wanted to understand the forces that allowed so many different varieties of finch to coexist successfully in such a small geographic area. His observations caused him to wonder, and his wonderment led him to ask a question that could be tested.
Step 2: Ask a Question
The purpose of the question is to narrow the focus of the inquiry, to identify the problem in specific terms. The question Darwin might have asked after seeing so many different finches was something like this: What caused the diversification of finches on the Galapagos Islands?
Here are some other scientific questions:
- What causes the roots of a plant to grow downward and the stem to grow upward?
- What brand of mouthwash kills the most germs?
- Which car body shape reduces air resistance most effectively?
- What causes coral bleaching?
- Does green tea reduce the effects of oxidation?
- What type of building material absorbs the most sound?
Coming up with scientific questions isn’t difficult and doesn’t require training as a scientist. If you’ve ever been curious about something, if you’ve ever wanted to know what caused something to happen, then you’ve probably already asked a question that could launch a scientific investigation.
Step 3: Formulate a Hypothesis
The great thing about a question is that it yearns for an answer, and the next step in the scientific method is to suggest a possible answer in the form of a hypothesis. A hypothesis is often defined as an educated guess because it is almost always informed by what you already know about a topic. For example, if you wanted to study the air-resistance problem stated above, you might already have an intuitive sense that a car shaped like a bird would reduce air resistance more effectively than a car shaped like a box. You could use that intuition to help formulate your hypothesis.
Generally, a hypothesis is stated as an “if … then” statement. In making such a statement, scientists engage in deductive reasoning, which is the opposite of inductive reasoning. Deduction requires movement in logic from the general to the specific. Here’s an example: If a car’s body profile is related to the amount of air resistance it produces (general statement), then a car designed like the body of a bird will be more aerodynamic and reduce air resistance more than a car designed like a box (specific statement).
Notice that there are two important qualities about a hypothesis expressed as an “if … then” statement. First, it is testable; an experiment could be set up to test the validity of the statement. Second, it is falsifiable; an experiment could be devised that might reveal that such an idea is not true. If these two qualities are not met, then the question being asked cannot be addressed using the scientific method.
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Applying the scientific method to your marketing efforts can help provide data-driven, objective results. When you approach marketing as an experiment, you can make more accurate predictions about what could work, as well as learn why your efforts do work.
For those of us a little more removed from high school science fairs, the steps of the scientific method are as follows: First, ask a question. Then do background research and construct your hypothesis. Test your hypothesis with an experiment, then take the results and analyze them. From your analysis, draw conclusions and determine next steps.
The key to marketing success is to take what youвЂ™ve learned from analyzing your metrics and implement them in subsequent campaigns. Of course, the details to performing tests on your marketing are as important as the steps themselves: Your experiment must be controlled, and you should have measurable variables. In the infographic below, we outline how to apply the steps of the scientific method to your marketing campaigns, including a sample experiment that focuses on the call-to-action button on a landing page. Use these tips to improve your marketing efforts and get valuable, data-based answers for how to make your campaigns succeed.
Omit any of these 5 elements, and the scientific method cannot operate. Despite the ubiquity of illustrations of the scientific method in everyday life, society is filled with examples that fall short of science in one or more steps.
(1) Most prominently, religion is not science, nor does it pretend to be. Most religions are based on specific doctrines and codes of conduct that followers agree to accept. There is no attempt to “improve” religion by changing the mores every few years and assessing the impact. (An exception applies to the Hawaiian ruler Kamehameha II, who in 1819, abolished the nation�s traditional religion, apparently partly in response to the changing economic and cultural conditions in Hawaii brought about by trade with Europeans and the influx of missionaries.)
(2) Nearly all government agencies are established with some specific (or broad) goal. They are also provided with a set of rules (a model) of how that goal should be pursued. But there is rarely a formal procedure for evaluating whether the goal is achieved, and there is almost never a procedure for implementing a new model when the old one is deemed inadequate. Elected officials can and so sometimes bring about change, and the political climate now is more demanding of government accountability than in the past, but agencies generally are not established with the kind of built-in self-improvement system that underlies the scientific method. The federal and state constitutions DO specify how to implement a new model – via amendments.
(3) Our criminal justice system comes fairly close to fulfilling all 5 elements. The jury has the goal of discovering whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. This is the goal of deciding between the model advocated by the defense, and the model advocated by the prosecution. Data are presented by the defense and prosecution during the trial, and the jury evaluates the two models based on that evidence. The verdict (guilty or not guilty) is the jury’s evaluation of which model best fits the data, with the proviso that in order to return a guilty verdict, the jury must find that the data presented supports this model “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In terms of our discussion of the inevitable incompleteness of any model (chapter 5), the jury is instructed to interpret uncertainty so as to benefit the defense. Appeal of a verdict would appear to be an example of revision, and it is. However, the types of model revision permitted on appeal are somewhat restricted. For example, after a defendant has been found guilty, it is very difficult to obtain a new trial and introduce into court factual evidence that exonerates him/her. Conversely, the prohibition against double jeopardy prevents the prosecution from reopening a case after a “not guilty” verdict has been returned, even in light of new and compelling data suggesting that the defendant was actually guilty.
(4) Technology does not imply science. Living in the U.S., we are continually bombarded with changes in technology – advances in computers, communications, household appliances, and transportation. Technology and science are interrelated, and technology enables us to do better science, but technology is not science. Science is the process used to develop better technology, whereas technology is simply the application of what has been learned with science. For example, using a computer to analyze data does not increase the scientific content of the analysis; if the analysis was not scientific to begin with, a computer won’t change that.
(5) Astrologers (psychics) claim to have ways of forecasting the future, if only in vague terms. However, their predictions are virtually never evaluated by their clients, at least in a rigorous fashion. So the example of astrology predictions contains goals and models, but the other elements are absent.
(6) Consider the difference between someone playing a card game versus a slot machine. Use of the slot machine is presumably just chance by pulling a lever or pushing a button, a fully automated process, so it does not allow any revision in how the game is played. Playing cards, however, can use the scientific method because there is a lot of strategy that can be adopted and altered by the player.
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By Sarah Shelton on March 17, 2020
Learning about the scientific method can be difficult, and it can be hard to know where to start. Give your student a head start with this How to Use the Scientific Method Guide to help them learn how to use the Scientific Method.
This freebie is jam-packed full of information and tips and breaks down the Scientific Method into an easily digestible format for your students.
This printable pack will cover everything from the start of your critical thinking about your experiment all the way to recording the results.
This how-to guide will make it easy for your student to follow the scientific method and start to talk through the topics covered.
This free scientific method download can be used over and over with every research and experiment project you do in the classroom.
This guide includes the following printable worksheets to help you learn more about the steps in the scientific method and what to do:
- Make an observation
- Form a hypothesis
- Ask a question
- Record your results
Check out this awesome Scientific Method freebie!
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Sarah is a wife, daughter of the King and Mama to 4 children (one who is a homeschool graduate)! She is a an eclectic, Charlotte Mason style homeschooler that has been homeschooling for over 16 years now. She is still trying to find the balance between work and keeping a home and says she can only do it by the Grace of God, and Coffee!
Understanding the scientific method doesn’t just happen overnight. There are many moving parts and pieces to the puzzle when trying to figure out exactly what process to do first or even where to start. Why not give your student a head start with this How to Use the Scientific Method guide? It’s full of information, helpful tips and even breaks down the scientific method in an easy-to-understand format that your child will love. Instead of beginning their science project confused and frustrated during class time, your child will be excited due to the helpful tips found in this guide!
How to Use the Scientific Method Guide – Starting your Homeschooler off on the Right Foot
If you’ve ever wondered about the scientific method yourself, this guide has it all! Every topic is covered, including:
- Make an Observation: Scientists are constantly observing, so your child will need to think like a scientist does and observe as well.
- Form a Hypothesis: Let your homeschooler inform you what they “think” is going to happen, and then see how that varies once you complete the actual experiment.
- Experiment: Have fun with your hypothesis and your theories and see how they play out! You’ll never know if you were right until you’ve done the actual experiment and completed it.
- Ask a Question: Completing an experiments means that you may have questions still to answer. A great scientific method will leave no stone unturned to find the correct and accurate results.
- Record your Results: If you don’t record it, it didn’t happen. Recording every step of the scientific method is critical for scientists!
From the start of the critical thinking to the end of the experiment, every topic is covered in this How to guide. You and your homeschool student will love talking through each and every one of the covered topics and think tank sessions. Who knew that science could be such collaborative fun?
Plus, this printable pack can be used again, and again with each of your research methods and experiments. Talk about a great way to really help your child understand the scientific process! Open the eyes to the scientific curiosity of your child with this How to Use the Scientific Method guide today!