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How to Test Ideas by Creating Experiments: The Scientific Method (8+)

This is the grade 8+ (ages 13+) version of this lesson. There is also a grades 4-7 version on the site.


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Collecting information isn’t the only way to know if an idea is true. Another way is to test the idea itself using the scientific method. Even though it's called the scientific method, it's not just for science! This method can be used for other subjects and problems, too.

 

What is the scientific method?

One way to find out if something is true or not is to develop a way to test it. By testing something, we can see if it is correct, or incorrect, or perhaps even partly correct. There are six steps to the scientific method. Let’s use the story about dangerous pencils as an example.
 

 

 

1 - Identify a problem

What are you trying to figure out? In our example, we want to know if pencils can cause lead poisoning. 

 

 

2 - Turn the problem into a question

Phrasing your problem as a question will help you to understand it better.  “Are the cores in pencils safe? Can using pencils make you sick?”

 

 

3 - Answer your question with your best guess, called a hypothesis

Think of a possible answer to the question in step 2. This is what you are testing. In our example, it might be: “Pencil lead is not made out of lead. Pencils cannot cause lead poisoning and make you sick.”

This guess is also known as a hypothesis. A hypothesis is an uncertain, testable answer to a question.
 

 

4 - Test your question by doing an experiment

Think of a way to test your question. The test must provide an answer to the question in step 2.

Make sure your test is safe. We don’t want anyone to get hurt! In our case, we definitely don’t want people to scratch themselves with a pencil. Instead, you could test what the material in pencils is. 

Your test could be: “Test or find out the materials in pencils, to see if they contain any lead.”

This test is also known as an experiment.


 

5 - Analyze your findings

After you complete your experiment, decide if your hypothesis was correct. What were the results? Can you explain them? In our case, we might find that none of the pencils we tested had lead in them.

 

 

6 - Make a conclusion, then repeat and repeat and repeat...

Now that you have analyzed your experiment, it’s time to make a conclusion. In our case, it might be: “We analyzed the materials in many pencils and found that there was no lead. Therefore, you can’t get lead poisoning from pencils.”

But that’s not where it ends! After you make a conclusion, it’s important to start the whole process all over again. Do you now have a new question based on your findings? Or perhaps you have a new hypothesis? It’s important to keep asking questions and to keep testing your findings. 

For example, now you might want to find out whether the materials in pencils are safe, even if they do not contain lead. Look at tests others have done on pencils, and let other people do your test, too! It’s this repetition of each experiment that makes the scientific method work so well. When many people consistently get the same results from doing the same tests, then you can trust the conclusions (such as “Lead pencils are safe”). No matter the topic, the scientific method helps us build an understanding of our world.  

The best research combines collecting information and testing. By doing both, you can build on what other scientists have done but also create your own tests based on what you think!

 


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 This was just one of the lessons in our Critical Thinking section. There are over 200 lessons on Kids Boost Immunity just like this one on a variety of subjects. Each lesson includes a quiz, and every time a student scores 80% or higher on a quiz, we will donate life-saving vaccines to UNICEF Canada. Sign up now!

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LAST MODIFIED:
  Dec 9, 2021