1. Observing


Making sense of our observations is fundamental to Science. Humanity has used and passed on observational knowledge for millennia. Science takes these qualitative observations further and adding a process of investigation that encourages improved reliability through the methodology and quantitative observations. This has lead to the creation of renewed understandings about the world around us.

Neil Degrasse Tyson interview regarding scientific literacy.

Here are some links that have some good background information that can be used to help with designing experiments and perhaps some depth studies.

Glossary of terms 

glossary of keywords 

Role of Observations

Inquiry question 1 : How does observation instigate scientific investigation?

The role of observation in science

An activity on the role of observations.

Observations and inferences and types of observations

Observing v inferring simple definitions and explanations


Carry out a practical investigation to record both quantitative and qualitative data from observations, for example:

Burning a candle floating in a closed container

The behaviour of slaters in a dry/wet or light/dark environment.

The Bernoulli effect

Stata in rock cuttings




There are many other investigations you can also do to collect qualitative and quantitative data, for example;

  • You could conduct a field trip to collect observational data
  • the effect of temperature the solubility of various substances
  • forces investigations
  • abiotic factors in the environment and their effects on living things, such as plant growth
  • using data loggers to collect data

Activity 1: Carry out the investigations and record your qualitative and quantitative data in a table for each investigation. How can these observations be used for further experimentation?

This rock shows distinct layers or strata that have been formed over each other and then tilted due to geological forces.

Cause and effect

Research how observation has instigated experimentation to investigate cause and effect in historical examples, including but not limited to:

  1. Archimedes observing the displacement of water 

2. Alexander Fleming’s observations of the effect of mould on bacteria 

3. Galileo’s observations of the movement of Jupiter’s moons 

There are also many other examples of observations that have instigated experimentation. The following links may give you some ideas that you may want to investigate further.

Activity 2: Summarise these scientists observations, indicating how they discovered their understanding of using cause and effect investigations.


Moons of Jupiter

Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander observations and science 


Assess ways in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples use observation to develop an understanding of Country and Place in order to create innovative ways of managing the natural environment, including but not limited to:

1. Fire-stick farming

and a video Bill Gammage discusses ‘The Biggest Estate on Earth’

2. Medicinal plants

Some extra information on some of the science and technologies developed from observations by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

An excellent book with hundreds of examples and references

Pascoe, Bruce Dark Emu. Black seeds: agriculture or accident, 2014 Magabala Books

Activity 3: 

1. How have observations made and communicated by Aboriginal society led to an understanding of Country and place?

2. How have these understandings led to innovative products?

A selection of seeds collected from native plants that need to be prepared before eating due to toxins.


Inquiry question 2: What are the benefits and drawbacks of quantitative and qualitative observations?

Carry out a practical activity to quantitatively and qualitatively describe, for example;


1. Microscopic images of a variety of cells 

2. Geological strata in rock faces and road cuttings.

  • Rock strata can be studied in various ways including;

Relative dating and absolute dating

3. The motion of a free-falling object due to gravity

4. Characteristics of acids and bases

There are many other experiments that you can conduct to collect quantitative and qualitative data.

Activity 4: Discuss the value (in terms of accuracy and reliability) of the different observations made when conducting these investigations. 

Observations as Evidence

Inquiry question 3: How does primary data provide evidence for further investigation?

Whenever a scientist conducts an investigation and tries to answer a question, they usually come up with a whole bunch of unanswered questions that can also be tested. Primary data that had been collected in a valid way can lead to other experiments that can test other variables that could affect the outcome of the experiment. Scientific inquiry is more fluid and cyclic and ideas can come at any stage. This is why it’s important to keep accurate and comprehensive written/graphics/video observations at all times when conducting experiments. The scientific method is taught in steps, however, it must be emphasised that this is just to be able to clearly communicate results using a standard scaffold that all scientist understand. A good analogy is a novel, the chapters may not be written in order or thought of in a linear way, however, the published novel is written in a conventional way.

Evaluate how observation is limited by the observational tools available, including but not limited to:

  1. Observing the Universe

2. Digital versus analogue technologies

How does primary data provide evidence for further investigation? ( cont)

This is your chance to plan and conduct an investigation based on data collected earlier. You will use data you have gathered in an earlier investigation to complete the following below.


See the working scientifically page for specific information on the aspects of conducting investigations. It includes much of the information needed when addressing the following points below.


  • use data gathered to plan a practical investigation to:
  • pose further questions that will be investigated
  • discuss the role of variables
  • determine the independent and dependent variables
  • formulate a hypothesis that links the independent and dependent variables
  • describe at least three variables that should be controlled in order to increase the validity of the investigation
  • develop a method to collect primary data for a practical investigation by:
  • describing how to change the independent variable
  • determining the characteristics of the measurements that will form the dependent variable
  • describing how the data will be collected
  • describing how the controlled variables will be made consistent
  • describing how risks can be minimised.

Some useful links

NOTE: More information can be found in the section of this website called working scientifically.

Activity 5:  You will be conducting a simple investigation and analysing the various components of the investigation in reference to the points above.

Flow diagram of the scientific method.From Science Buddies

Activity 6: What are some limits in our ability to observe phenomena in the world around us?

Observing, Collecting and Recording Data

Inquiry question 4: How does the collection and presentation of primary data affect the outcome of a scientific investigation?

This flows from the enquiry question above where you will plan and conduct the practical activity and represent the resulting data in various formats.



  • carry out the planned practical investigation, above, to collect primary data
  • apply conventions for collecting and recording observations to quantitatively and qualitatively analyse the primary data, including but not limited to:
  • tabulation
  • graphing
  • visual representations
  • digital representations

Some links to more information below;

Data analysis and graphs

collecting data a fair testing ( DET external)

How the scientific method is used to test a hypothesis.

Experimentation in scientific research

Increasing the ability of your investigation to measure cause and effect.(science buddies)

Activity 7: You will use the investigation from activity 5 to further develop your investigation skills relevant to the points above. You will then be required to; 

  • compare the usefulness of observations recorded in the initial practical activity with the primary data gathered in this planned practical investigation.

Conclusions Promote Further Observations

Inquiry question 5: How do conclusions drawn from the interpretation of primary data promote further scientific investigation?

This flows from the enquiry question above where you will be evaluating your results and writing your conclusion.



  • draw conclusions from the analysis of the primary data collected in the practical investigation
  • evaluate the process of drawing conclusions from the primary data collected
  • assess the findings of the scientific investigation in relation to the findings of other related investigations
  • assess the need to make further observations by gathering data about other phenomena arising from the practical investigation.

Activity 8: You will use the information from activity 5 and 7 to investigate conclusions made from your investigation.

KWL chart

evaluating and experiment ( fair test)

sciconclusions Writing a Conclusion Paragraph




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