Scientific Method and the Way Science Works

Contributor: April Stokes. Lesson ID: 10778

We all have questions about the world around us. That's the first step of gaining knowledge! Using videos, music, and online activities, learn the Scientific Method of finding answers.


Scientific Method

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5), Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • What comes to mind when you think of the word science?

Grab a pencil and paper and give yourself 60 seconds to write down everything that comes to mind when you think of science.

Ready, set, go!

stop watch

It doesn't matter if you filled a whole page or just one line.

What is important is that you discuss your thoughts with your parent or teacher. Then, take another minute to brainstorm some more ideas about science.

Welcome back!

I'm sure you have a quite a bit of science-related thoughts floating around your mind now. Maybe you immediately thought of things like test tubes and chemicals. Maybe you thought of space travel and the moon, or perhaps you began thinking about the human body and how it functions.

There may even be some whose thoughts went to technology and video games.

If your mind went to any of these places, you were in fact thinking about science!

  • How can science be so many things, you may ask?

Let's start with the origin and definition of the word.

The word science, as defined by Google's handy dictionary, is broadly defined as, "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment."

Basically, science is the study of the world around us, but to break things down into more simple terms, let's go to the root of the source.

Science comes from the Latin word scire, meaning knowledge.

  • What do you get when you study the world around you?

You get knowledge.

It Starts with a Question

Before any scientist — whether it be a chemist, a computer scientist, or a specialized doctor — sets out on a discovery of new knowledge, he or she typically does so with a specific question and procedure in mind.

This is where the scientific method begins.

The scientific method is a structured process that scientists use to help answer questions. Since there are so many areas of science and so many different types of scientists, not all scientific methods are the same. However, there are basic steps that are part of the scientific method that just about all scientists take when trying to find the answer to a question. This helps scientists stay organized and keep track of their methods and findings, so they don't do the same things over again.

When seeking knowledge, or looking to answer a question about the world around them, all scientists begin with the first step of the scientific method: the identification of a problem or a question to be answered and an organized method for conducting and analyzing an experiment.

The Hypothesis

That problem leads the scientist to come up with a hypothesis, an educated guess about what is going to happen when they put their question to the test through experimentation.

After this step, the scientist will check to see what type of research has already been done, and try put together the best experiment possible to answer the question and prove the hypothesis.

Experiment Design and Controls and Variables

The next step is to create a step-by-step experiment, complete with materials, a defined control group, and a defined test group.

Depending on your experiment, you may have more than one test group, but let's distinguish between a control group and a test group.

With most experiments, you are testing how something reacts to something else.

Let's say we want to test a group of thirteen-year-olds to see how long it takes them to notice the text feature has been disabled on their smart phones. We want to test this under a few different scenarios.

  1. We'll take thirty kids and leave ten with their phones as is, just with text disabled. This group will be our control group since we're not doing anything special to distract them.
  2. We'll take another ten kids and give them each a $10 iTunes gift card. We'll call them Group A, and the variable, or thing that's different about this group, is that they have an iTunes gift card to distract them.
  3. We'll take our last group of ten — Group B — and, in addition to disabling their text, we'll install the top 10 hottest new apps on their phones. The variable for Group B is the apps.
  4. We'll put all three groups in the same situation (on a bus or just hanging out at home) and monitor how long, on average, it takes each member of each group to realize they don't have text.

Now we have our control group, materials, and variables for the experiment part of the scientific method. (Feel free to come up with a problem and hypothesis for practice!)

The next thing we need to do is set the experiment in motion and carefully observe and record the data. The data is basically everything we see — all the information we observe that may have an impact on our question or hypothesis.

Collect and Analyze Data, Draw Conclusions

Once you have collected all the data in the given amount of time, you will analyze the data.

  • Did it answer your questions?
  • Did it prove or disprove your hypothesis?
  • If yes, you can move forward and write a report detailing your findings.
  • If not, you may want to re-think your experiment and try again until you do have a solid answer.

Let's review those steps:

scientific method

Still sound complicated? Here are two quick videos that will help you review.

For those of you who like straight to the point, no gimmick videos, watch The Scientific Method: Steps, Terms and Examples:


If you prefer a little song and dance number to help you remember, here's a fun one for you - Scientific Method Song Video:

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