Using the Scientific Method

The scientific method is an important tool for developing scientific knowledge and skills. In simple form, it consists of five basic steps that provide a general structure to get the most out of any scientific study or experiment.

1. Define the Problem - Before you start any experiment or study, ask "What do I want to know?" For example, I want to know: "Why do Alka-Seltzer tablets produce bubbles in water?"

2. Gather Data - This is the process of gathering information related to the problem. For example, from the Alka-Seltzer label I learn it contains aspirin and sodium bicarbonate. Looking up sodium bicarbonate I learn it is a source of carbon dioxide.

3. Form a Hypothesis &endash; In this step you predict an answer to your problem based on the data gathered. For example, "I think Alka-Seltzer contains sodium bicarbonate which produces carbon dioxide gas bubbles in water."

4. Perform & Interpret Experiments &endash; This is the step where you design, perform and analyze experiments to test your hypothesis. For example, I learn that limewater turns cloudy, indicating carbon dioxide, when contacted with the gas collected from Alka-Seltzer and water. My explanation of this may be that, "Alka-Seltzer produces carbon dioxide gas when put in water."

5. Draw Conclusions &endash; In this final step you make a reasoned judgement that addresses the problem you set out to solve. For example, I conclude that "Sodium bicarbonate, a component of Alka-Seltzer, produces carbon dioxide bubbles in water.