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Scientific Inquiry

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How Scientists Work

How do scientists work?

What methods do they apply?

What is the process of scientific inquiry?

Working in the field of science requires discipline. Scientists must apply systematic methods to make observations and collect facts. These methods enable them to make discoveries or to develop theories.

Many of these systematic methods came into existence during the Scientific Revolution of the 16th century CE. Numerous discoveries, inventions, hypotheses, theories, were made during that time. (See also: Nature of Science). Many earlier thoughts and theories were proved wrong or were built upon and enriched with new thoughts and evidence.

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Scientific Methods applied by Scientists

In order to establish these new discoveries, inventions, and theories, scientists needed to deploy many systematic methods. Here are the many systematic scientific methods employed by scientists, with examples –

  1. By observing nature – scientists like Copernicus and Galileo observed the motions of heavenly bodies, Charles Darwin studied plants and animals to evolve the Theory of Evolution.
  2. By classifying data – scientists interpret data and organize it to make meaningful sense to everyone else, for example, Mendeleev classified all the natural elements to form a Periodic Table.
  3. By using logic or reasoning to draw conclusions, such as when Newton deduced Gravity by observing an apple fall to earth.
  4. By conducting experiments – scientists were able to determine the laws of nature, the circulation of blood, the properties of light, all by carrying out a variety of experiments
  5. By forming a hypothesis – scientists use talent, skill, and creativity to form a hypothesis and then conduct experiments to test the hypothesis. For example, the planet Neptune was discovered on a hypothesis based on observing the movement of Uranus.
  6. By expressing findings mathematically – many famous scientists like Galileo, Newton, and Einstein wrote mathematical equations to establish the laws of nature.
  7. Scientific Inquiry Process followed by Scientists

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The scientific revolution era brought into existence many laws and rules for working in science, which we follow even today –

  • Observing and Recording data
  • Conducting Experiments and Testing prove a scientific theory
  • Using Logic and Hypotheses to form a theory
  • Using Inference and Prediction to prove a theory
  • Sharing the data and observations of a scientific inquiry for review by other scientists
  • Establishing “Universal Truths” only on the basis of scientific thought, theory, and discovery
  • Publishing only proven and accepted scientific outcomes
  • Insisting on Ethics, Integrity, and Honesty in the process of scientific discovery

Check Point

  1. Many systematic scientific methods of working came into existence during the ________.
  2. Which of the following is NOT a systematic scientific method?
    1. Forming a hypothesis
    2. Conducting experiments
    3. Guessing the result
    4. Observing nature
  3. Which of these is NOT a scientific inquiry process?
    1. Observing and recording data
    2. Publishing untested results
    3. Inferring and predicting to prove a theory
    4. Sharing the data and observations for review

Answer Key

  1. Scientific Revolution
  2. c) Guessing the result
  3. b) Publishing untested results

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