Coaches/Teachers: Suggestions on Using Scientific Methods

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Suggestions on Using Scientific Methods

What are scientific methods?

For years students were expected to perform scientific investigations using a single scientific method. This approach required formulating a hypothesis, designing an experiment to test the hypothesis, collecting data and drawing a conclusion. While this methodology represents one standard approach to scientific inquiry, it is only one of many methods employed by practicing scientists.

Participants in this program will identify community-based problems across a wide range of topics and conditions. They may be environmental, mechanical, technological or social in nature. The unique dimensions of the subject will determine which scientific methods are most appropriate. Teams may use a variety of methods in order to progress successfully through their work, and should be encouraged to find out what methods are used by scientists and community members who may be assisting them as mentors.

In general, the following suggestions represent the range of scientific methods in practice today. Student teams should be creative in selecting the most appropriate methods for their work, effectively describe the techniques they use and document their results as a part of their record-keeping for the project.

  • Observe a natural phenomenon.
  • Observe a human interaction with a natural phenomenon.
  • Ask questions about the natural world.
  • Identify a problem that involves human interaction with the natural world.
  • Research background information on the topic, problem or observed phenomenon.
  • Brainstorm possible explanations and/or answers to the team's questions.
  • Propose possible solutions to the problem.
  • Design experiments that test the team's ideas.
  • Document the results of experiments.
  • Research others' work on similar problems.
  • Refine ideas based on the results of experiments and research findings.
  • Re-test ideas with refined experiments, more focused research.
  • Analyze the combined research and experimental data.
  • Select a best explanation or proposed solution.
  • Construct a prototype or model of the solution to further test its validity and help communicate the idea to others.