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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
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 will do 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
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
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
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