Background: Scientific inquiry in biology starts by observing the living species around us. Science is a way of knowing. It is not the only way, but it is a good way. Other ways of knowing include mathematics, logic, history, philosophy, and theology.
What separates science from the other methods of seeking truth is that it is testable (i.e. one can devise experiments to test the validity of an idea); it is falsifiable (i.e. an experiment can reveal if an idea is false); and, it involves natural causality (i.e. the method involves and depends upon the natural laws of the universe which cause things to happen in a predictable and repeatable manner.)
Observation: Scientific inquiry begins when something interesting gets your attention.
Question: Following an observation, a question arises in your mind. It may be something like: “I wonder what…? Or “I wonder how …? Or, “I wonder why…?
In this assignment, we will take a look at science and the scientific method. Then, you will design a (pretend) scientific study to answer a specific question based upon an observation.
First, choose ONE of the following Observations /Questions:
Observation: During the winter, you spread salt daily on your driveway to melt the snow. In the springtime, when the lawn begins to grow, you notice that there is no grass growing for about 3 inches from the driveway. Furthermore, the grass seems to be growing more slowly up to about 1 foot from the driveway.
Question: Might grass growth be inhibited by salt?
Observation: Your neighbor added a farmer’s porch to his house and painted the ceiling of it blue. When you asked him why, he told you he had read that the sky blue ceiling would fool wasps into thinking it was the sky and they would not build any nests under the eaves of the porch or along the ceiling.
Question: Would a blue ceiling really deter wasps from building nests on the porch?
Observation: When taking a hike, you notice that a ruby-throated hummingbird seems interested in your red hat. It hovers over the hat and then darts away.
Question: Do ruby-throated hummingbirds prefer some colors more than others when visiting flowers?
After choosing ONE of the above options (observation and question), you willdo some library /Internet research about the subject. Once you have become familiar with the topic, propose a testable hypothesis to answer the question; and, follow the rest of scientific method to determine if your hypothesis is correct by designing a controlled experiment.
You will not actually do the experiment or collect results. Rather you will propose a workable controlled experiment and make up what would seem to be reasonable results. You will then discuss those imagined results and draw a conclusion (based upon your imagined results) about whether or not to accept your hypothesis.
Complete the steps of the scientific method for your choice of observation and question using the directions below. Use these headings in your paper, please.
The Introduction is an investigation of what is currently known about the question being asked. Before one proposes a hypothesis or dashes off to the lab to do an experiment, a thorough search is made in the existing literature about the specific question and about topics related to the question. Once one is familiar with what is known about the question under consideration, one is in a position to propose a reasonable hypothesis to test the question.
This is an educated guess, or “best” guess, about what might be the explanation for the question asked. A hypothesis should be a one sentence statement (not a question) that can be tested in an experiment. The ability to test a hypothesis implies that it has a natural, repeatable cause.
What do you predict as an outcome for the controlled experiment (i.e. results) if the hypothesis is true? This should be in the form of an “If…….., then……….” statement.
Controlled Experimental Method:
The hypothesis is tested in a controlled experiment. A controlled experiment compares a “Control” (i.e. the normal, unmodified, or unrestricted, or uninhibited set-up, based on the observation) to one or several “Experimental” set-ups. The conditions in the experimental set-ups are identical to the Control in every way, e.g. temperature, composition, shape, kind, etc., except for the one Experimental variable that is being tested. The results obtained from the Experimental set-ups will be compared to each other and to those obtained from the Control. If done correctly, any differences in the results may be attributed to the Experimental variable under consideration.
When designing an experiment, it is important to use multiples, (i.e. replicates), for each set-up, to avoid drawing the wrong conclusion. If the experiment only has one control and only one experimental set up with just one test subject in each, there is always the chance that a single living organism (test subject) could get sick or even die for reasons not caused by the experimental variable. And, because living organisms are genetically different, the results from just one test subject in a given set up may not be typical for the species as a whole. This could result in errors when interpreting the results. This kind of problem is avoided by using multiple controls and multiple experimental set-ups with multiple test subjects.
Be sure to provide sufficient details in your method section so that someone could reproduce your experiment.
The experimental method section should also state clearly how data (numbers) will be collected during the experiment which will be used to compare results in each test set up.
Since this is a “thought experiment,” you will make up results according to what you think might happen if you actually did the experiment.
Results should include detailed raw data (numbers) rather than just a summary of the results. For example, if data are collected daily for five weeks, results should include the actual data from each day, and not just a summary of what happened at the end of the five weeks. Recorded results should match the experimental method.
In this section, state clearly whether you reject or accept the hypothesis based on the (pretend) results. Discuss what this means in terms of the hypothesis, such as the need for additional experiments, or the practical uses or implications of the results.
Provide references in APA format. This includes a reference list and in-text citations for references used in the Introduction section.
Give your paper a title and number and identify each section as specified above. Although the hypothesis and prediction will be one sentence answers, the other sections will need to be paragraphs to adequately explain your experiment.
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Please submit your assignment.
For assistance with your assignment, please use your text, Web resources, and all course materials. Please refer to the following multimedia course material(s)
- Unit 1: Biology, Bonds, and Chemistry
- Unit 1: The Scientific Method