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
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.
- General Slater information
- An experiment in relation to slaters response to temperature.
The Bernoulli effect
- the Bernoulli effect Bernoulli effect
- Bernoulli’s principle – physics experiment
- Adventures with Bernoulli Demonstrations in Physics was an educational science series produced in Australia by ABC Television in 1969. The series was hosted by American scientist Julius Sumner Miller, who demonstrated experiments involving various disciplines in the world of physics. There is also a TED Ed lesson with this video
- A quantitive approach to this effect from the Khan Academy.
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?
Cause and effect
Research how observation has instigated experimentation to investigate cause and effect in historical examples, including but not limited to:
Archimedes observing the displacement of water
- Archimedes observing the displacement of water
- Archimedes of Syracuse: the man that gave us the ‘Eureka moment’
- TED-ed video on The real story behind Archimedes
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.
- Exploration and discovery
- 10 Awesome accidental discoveries
- TED talk- How simple ideas led to scientific discoveries( Adam Savage)
Activity 2: Summarise these scientists observations, indicating how they discovered their understanding of using cause and effect investigations.
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’
- Firesticks: Cultural burning
Reading trees: Using cultural burning to reinvigorate dying landscape
- Firesticks -Jervis Bay
2. Medicinal plants
- knowledge about plants for medicinal purposes Plants used as medicine by Aboriginal people
- Bush medicine.
Some extra information on some of the science and technologies developed from observations by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Technology from plant /rock use
- Pigments and palettes from the past – the science of Indigenous art
- Traditional aboriginal painting methods
- Aboriginal people spreading native plants by hand( Black bean seeds)
The world’s oldest observatory? How Aboriginal astronomy provides clues to ancient life
- The secret history of the native hibiscus ( MP3 file)Aunty Fran Bodkin grew up in inner Sydney, and first learned about the natural world from her mother, who was a descendant of the Dharawal people.Her father, who was passionate about science, taught her some of the key principles of physics and biology from a young age.
An excellent book with hundreds of examples and references
Pascoe, Bruce Dark Emu. Black seeds: agriculture or accident, 2014 Magabala Books
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?
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
- Cell image library
- The wacky history of cell theory, a TED-ed lesson.
- calculating the size of cells activity and info
- Exploring cells with the microscope and links to other articles about cells and microscopy.
- My Scope outreach is an excellent interactive that describes magnification with an SEM( scanning electron microscope)
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
- a simple experiment that can be done to observe the motion of a free-falling object
- calculating free fall
- Physics info- falling from the Physics hypertextbook.
- Which hits the ground first( video by Veritasium)
- Using a pendulum to determine the value of g experiment.
- pendulum simulation by PHET
4. Characteristics of acids and bases
- characteristics of acids and bases acids and bases characteristics and typical reactions ( higher level)
- an experiment on Properties of Acids and Bases
- Acids and Bases in the home ( click view sign-in required)
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:
Observing the Universe
- Teach astronomy- random and systematic errors
- mapping the universe.
- The human body in space– challenges and ways to overcome them by NASA
- TED talk series– how we study space includes a variety of speakers who talk about discoveries and challenges they face when describing the universe.
2. Digital versus analogue technologies
- digital v analogue technologies.
- Digital technology can influence the way research is done- An interesting article by the conversation
- telling time( a video)
- Indigenous ways to tell time
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
- The validity of scientific investigations
- Steps the scientific method
- Tenses to use when writing investigations, university procedures to work towards.
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.
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:
- visual representations
- digital representations
Some links to more information below;
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.
evaluating and experiment ( fair test)
sciconclusions Writing a Conclusion Paragraph