Are you ready to take on the world of science?
You better get ready to conduct some experiments.
You’ll need to utilize your best science friend, the scientific method. If it sounds familiar, it should be.
The scientific method is taught in schools across America, though versions differ slightly depending on grade and geographic region.
No matter where you are or how old you are, it goes something like this:
- Observe what interests you
- Construct a hypothesis based on your observations
- Observe the process and results
- Draw a conclusion
Not so hard, is it? Well, today we’ll be talking about the unsung hero and (according to some) most important part of the method: Observation.
Read on to discover why this little word means so much in a scientific context, and how you can observe correctly to form a hypothesis and draw a conclusion from the results of your experiment.
Defining and Realizing the Importance of Scientific Observation
What’s the most important part of every scientific experiment?
To observe something basically means to watch it. However, the observation definition isn’t as simple as just “looking” at something. This holds especially true when you’re observing in a scientific context.
Scientific observation is the most vital skill a scientist possesses. It’s paramount to forming a logical hypothesis and reaching a conclusion.
In order to really observe, you must perceive. You have to look at something and from it draw a question, a prediction, and a conclusion all at the same time.
Sounds kind of difficult, right?
Not at all. Luckily for you, there are methods of observing things that make it easier to train your brain to think more scientifically.
How to Make a Scientific Observation to Form a Hypothesis
Observing something means asking yourself a series of questions. You then answer those questions based on what you see or perceive, and from those results you may form your scientific hypothesis.
Your hypothesis is your theory on why something is the way it is.
For example, say you are interested in learning about why your cat seems lethargic. Ask yourself these questions to help form your theory.
1. Who or What am I Observing?
The object you are observing is known as a subject, which you must identify. In this case, your subject would be your cat.
2. What is the Subject Doing?
Your cat seems lethargic. But go a bit deeper than that. Is she sleeping a lot? How much?
Record all of this in a notebook. Likewise, anything else you notice about her should be recorded as well. This means odd noises, movement patterns and bathroom habits.
Realize that all of this could play a role in helping you determine why she is lethargic.
3. What is the Environment of Observation?
Observe the environment around the cat. Is it your house? Take into account harsh lighting, loud noises, or other environmental factors which may affect her behavior.
4. Are there Any Outside Factors Affecting Behavior?
Consider any abnormal or newer environmental factors. Do you have a dog which interacts with the cat? Did you recently switch her cat food over to a new brand?
All of these things could have a large impact on her behavior.
Once you have observed and recorded your observations, you may see something you missed before. Say you notice your mom has recently switched her food from dry kibble to a wet brand.
Logically, you could form the hypothesis that her new diet is causing her to be lethargic.
Creating an Experiment and Using Observation to Draw Conclusions
The next thing you must do is figure out how to test your hypothesis with an experiment. Your experiment must be designed in a way that answers the question within your hypothesis: is her new diet causing her to be lethargic?
All you have to do is change her diet to test your hypothesis. In this case, you could try feeding her different food for a week and see what happens. When the week is up, you must again use observation to draw conclusions.
Ask yourself what the subject (your cat) is doing after the experiment. Is she still lethargic? If the answer is no, you can reasonably conclude that your hypothesis was correct.
If the answer is yes, you must repeat the pattern of observation and form a new hypothesis. Although at this point, you may want to take her to the vet.
Tools of Observation in Scientific Research
Observation is possible with all five of your senses, but sometimes requires other tools.
There are a number of tools researchers and scientists use in observation, which vary with different experiments.
These include measuring equipment like rulers, barometers, microscopes, and more. They all have a place as tools of observation in the scientific world.
Observation is the Most Important tool in Your Shed
Observing your surroundings and your subject matter is essential to the scientific process, but it’s more than that. Really perceiving the world around you will open your eyes to all sorts of possibilities, scientific and otherwise.
So put your science goggles on, and get to observing.