2. Inferences and generalisations

Ensure that you also utilise the Working Scientifically page for extra resources


The scientific inquiry follows on from humans making inferences and generalisations from commonly held understandings. Such inferences and generalisations have led to a wide range of investigations being performed throughout history, culminating in breakthroughs in scientific knowledge. Many hypotheses, when found to be correct, have generated further inquiry and created the need to develop new technologies for further observation.

Observations and Inferences

Inquiry question 1: What inferences can be drawn from observations?

Observations are what we make using our senses. However, these can be enhanced using scientific tools such as a telescope or microscope. When we make an observation, we usually use these observations to make an inference. Inferences are more than guesses, they rely on our interpretation of our senses, past experiences and knowledge and thus are subject to our biological limits, individual bias, and depth of understanding. Effective science practice acknowledges this and aims to build inferences with effective and valid experimental methods that lead to factual conclusions.

Observations and inferences simple definition and explanation 




Investigate the practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples that relate to observations and inferences, including but not limited to:


 1. Removing toxins from bush tucker

2. Locating fresh water within bodies of saltwater


Conduct collaborative, practical investigation and collect a range of qualitative and quantitative primary data from one of the following:

Using Secondary-sourced Data

Inquiry question 2: How is secondary-sourced data used in practical investigations?

Collect qualitative and quantitative secondary-sourced data to validate the inferences and conclusions drawn from the practical investigation carried out above, based on one or more of the following:

Observing Patterns

Inquiry question 3: How does humans’ ability to recognise patterns affect the way they interpret data?

Interesting reading regarding pattern recognition and the human brain

Describe  patterns that have been observed over time throughout the Universe and in nature using, for example:

1.Animal migration

2. Movement of comets

3.Formation and shape of snow crystals

4. Elements exhibiting certain properties

The parabolic shape made by a comet in its orbit

Formulating a hypothesis from pattern recognition

Interpret data in order to propose a hypothesis based on an irregular pattern observed over time in the Universe and in nature using, for example:

1.Aurora Australis

2. Fractals in nature

3. The behaviour of unstable isotopes

Examine the human tendency to observe patterns and misinterpret information, for example:


Discuss how the tendency to recognise patterns, even when they may not exist, can lead to

  • misinterpretation of data
  • discuss the role and significance of outliers in data

Developing Inquiry Questions

Inquiry question 4: How can hypotheses and assumptions be tested?

Gather secondary-sourced data describing historical instances of long-standing assumptions that have been updated by scientific investigation, including but not limited to:

1. Spontaneous generation

2. Radioactivity

3. Phlogiston theory

4. Human influence on atmospheric pollution


Propose an inquiry question, construct a hypothesis and conduct an investigation that tests a common assumption, for example:

Use appropriate representations to analyse the data gathered from the investigation

Generalisations in Science

Inquiry question 5: What generalisations and assumptions are made from observed data?

based on the investigation from above;
● make generalisations to describe any trends found in the data
● draw conclusion based on generalisations


Peer Review

Inquiry question 6: What role do peers play in scientific investigation?

1. Assess the input that collaborative teams and alternative perspectives have had on the development of hypotheses and research questions that have contributed to the development of, for example:

General links 

A great research article about the role collaboration has in science.

a.Particle accelerators 

b.The periodic table

c Bioastronomy

  • study of bioastronomy
  • A TED talk. The SETI Institute’s Jill Tarter makes her TED Prize wish: to accelerate our search for cosmic company. Using a growing array of radio telescopes, she and her team listen for patterns that may be a sign of intelligence elsewhere in the universe.

d.Geological uniformitarianism


The search for alien life continues…


2. Assess the scientific community’s current understanding of scientific mysteries and outline why this understanding remains incomplete, including but not limited to:

a. Where does life on Earth originate?

  • origins of life on the Earth
  • The line between life and not-life.A TED talk. In his lab, Martin Hanczyc makes “protocells,” experimental blobs of chemicals that behave like living cells. His work demonstrates how life might have first occurred on Earth … and perhaps elsewhere too.

b. Is feynmanium the last element that could exist?

c. Is the universe expanding?

  • the expanding Universe and Hubble constant
  • A TED talk. The telescope that might show us the beginning of the universe. When and how did the universe begin? A global group of astronomers wants to answer that question by peering as far back in time as a large new telescope will let us see. Wendy Freedman headed the creation of the Giant Magellan Telescope, under construction in South America; at TEDGlobal in Rio, she shares a bold vision of the discoveries about our universe that the GMT could make possible.

3. Evaluate biases that may have affected the scientific thinking of European settlers about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ ecological understanding and knowledge of Country and Place in relation to agricultural practices and the biological and natural resources of Australia.

The following articles offer differing perspectives to facilitate discussion.

  • Western science and Aboriginal people – Imperialism has devastating effects on Indigenous peoples the world over, and science is often used to ‘prove’ western superiority over ‘primitive’ Aboriginal groups. This justified in the eyes of white invaders the conquering of Aboriginal people, resulting in the breaking down of traditional social, political and economic structure: cultural and physical genocide.
  • Indigenous science is at the core of social, economic and political change-Indigenous science has long been an untapped resource in the scope of mainstream national science, but at this year’s National Science Week event(2016), prominent Indigenous science educators will take the stage.

  • It’s taken thousands of years, but Western science is finally catching up to Traditional Knowledge While new to Western science, the behaviours of the nighthawks have long been known to the Alawa, MalakMalak, Jawoyn, and other Indigenous peoples of northern Australia whose ancestors occupied their lands for tens of thousands of years. Contrary to most scientific studies, Bonta and Gosford’s team foregrounded their research in traditional Indigenous ecological knowledge. They also note that local awareness of the behaviour of the firehawks is ingrained within some of their ceremonial practices, beliefs and creation accounts.

    Australian raptors start fires to flush out prey from the COSMOS magazine.



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