The Scientific Method – Part 4

Step Three— form a hypothesis

The only  good is knowledge, the only evil is ignorance.

Socrates BCE:  469 – 399

the-death-of-socrates

Welcome back to our Be Amazing! Parents’ Blog.  This entry is the fourth in our seven-part series on the scientific method.  As a reminder, the steps of the scientific method are:

1.  Define a question or problem

2.  Gather information and resources (observe)

3.  Form a hypothesis

4.  Perform experiments and collect data

5.  Analyze data

6.  Interpret data and draw conclusions

7.  Publish results

8.  Retest

You can read an overview of the scientific method and more information on the previous steps in our earlier blog entries.  This week we are highlighting step three, “Form a hypothesis.”  The important part of this step in the scientific method is understanding exactly what a hypothesis is.

A hypothesis is a theory or idea that:

1.  is based on known and observed information

and

2.  can be tested

Although this seems simple, a misunderstanding of hypotheses is the downfall of many would-be scientists and Science Fair projects.  Even beyond the Science Fair, though, an ability to form good hypotheses is an important step for your young scientist in learning to think scientifically, and as a “learning facilitator,” you can make all of the difference.

It is very important to remember that a hypothesis should be a statementrather than a question.  For instance,

“I wonder what will happen if I water a seed with only soda.”

is not a hypothesis.  It is a great question (and identifying a great question is step one of the scientific method!) but to turn a great question into a great hypothesis, known information should be incorporated into a testable theory statement, such as,

“I think plants will grow better if given soda instead of water because they won’t have to work so hard to make their own sugar.”

would be a great hypothesis.  This statement of theory incorporates information observed or gathered (plants need water, and plants use water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide to make sugar.)   Additionally, this theory statement can be tested by setting up and performing experiments (which is the next step in the scientific method and the subject of our next blog entry!)

Known and observed information can come from many different sources, including previous experiments, personal observation, or information gathered from books, interviews with experts, or reliable webpages.  In our last entry, we discussed the importance of writing observations and information down, which comes in handy when it’s time to review what you know before creating a hypothesis.

It is also important to remember that it’s OK if your hypothesis is wrong.  The goal of science is not to be right before doing experiments–science is really about learning things after the experiments.  That’s one of the things that is so great about the scientific method.  In the example we discussed above, whether seeds grow better with only soda or not, you would still learn something about plants by testing your hypothesis.

Join us next week as we tackle the next step of the scientific method:  perform experiments and collect data.

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