High School > Science > Scientific Inquiry
Scientists, whenever they do research, use a very specific method to arrive at their conclusions. This is called the scientific method, and today it is taught in schools to kids of young ages. It is a method that can be applied to any curiosity someone might have.
There are a few steps to follow in the Scientific Method: first, define the problem. Next, make a hypothesis (also known as an educated guess). Third, perform experiments and gather data. Lastly, analyze the data and make a conclusion.
The fun part is usually in the third step. Designing experiments and conducting them are really great ways to stimulate one’s mind, especially for kids. However, there are certain things that need to be controlled, known as variables. These are stuff like temperature, wind, humidity, sunlight, and many others. When doing an experiment, several variables need to be kept unchanged, while only one or two variables are allowed to change. The latter are the factors being tested.
Let’s say someone wanted to test what would melt eggshells faster: Coke or vinegar? This person believes that vinegar will; this is the hypothesis. What he’ll do next designs an experiment: prepare equal amounts of Coke and vinegar in identical cups, then put identically-sized fragments of eggshells in both cups. The cups must be set on only one table in one place to make sure the temperature and other conditions are the same. The variable being tested here is time, so he sets a timer and waits for either eggshell to completely melt away. Let’s say Coke dissolves the eggshell first; he can then make the conclusion that Coke melts eggshells faster than vinegar does. This then disproves his earlier hypothesis.
That is basically how science works. The more hardcore scientists just deal with more advanced problems, design more complicated experiments, and use more high-tech equipment. But that doesn’t mean an ordinary person cannot apply the methods of scientific inquiry. Actually, anyone can.