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Good Science Guide - Key Stage 3

What does 'good science' look like?

Science can be used to answer huge questions like 'Are we alone in the universe?' and also some really silly ones like 'What's the perfect way to make a cup of tea?'

It doesn't really matter what the question you're trying to answer is - the important thing is how you try and get your answers. This guide will break down the Scientific Method into steps you can follow when you do an experiment.

Explore
Step 1 - Explore

Before we start our experiment we need to know what you're actually going to be able to do. Find a topic you're interested in. Think of a question you don't know the answer to. Find something that you don't know how it works. Do you have things in your home that could help you find out?

You might want to know what the best crisps are, for example.

Step 2 - Plan

To decide what we’re going to do with our experiment we need to find out a few things. Can you use a search engine to find out more? How have other people tried to answer questions like this? This section is a more in-depth look at the question you started to think about in the 'explore' section - start to add some details and get specific about what you want to find out.

In our 'crisps' example - which ones are the best is too vague. What does 'best' mean? Could you find out which packet has the lowest amount of salt and are healthier? This is something that you could get a real answer to.

Then we need to work out how we are going to find out – can you think of a way to test out your idea?

Plan
Predict
Step 3 - Predict

Before you do an experiment you should have an idea of what is going to happen. You can make predictions based on what you have set up. A technical type of prediction - a hypothesis - is like an answer you suggest to the research question you're asking. You can suggest exactly what you think might happen and have a way to test whether you were right at the end.

Again for 'which crisps are the saltiest?' you might predict that Ready Salted are actually the saltiest since that's the only flavour. Your hypothesis would be really specific about that and be something you can measure, such as - Hypothesis: Ready Salted crisps contain the most grams of salt per pack.

Step 4 - Test

We're going to need to test out your idea. This is where we say how we are going to find out the answers. What is the test you're going to do? How will you measure the results? What might the results mean?

Let's find out if you were right with the predictions you made! Do your experiment and observe everything that you can. Start to make some measurements. A good measurement is something that you can repeat and get the same results, that someone else could copy and understand, and tests just one thing at a time. If your measurement is testing lots of things at once - how do you know which one is giving you the result? If you eat 5 different flavours of crisps at the same time, how will you know which one is your favourite?

Test
Research
Step 5 - Research

Now that you've done your first tests you will know so much more than you did at the start. Did something surprise you? Did your experiment not work the way you had hoped? Here is where you can go back to searching for more information on how you might be able to do the experiment better or answer the question more completely.

Go back to the plan you made at the start and try to find out whether there were ideas and suggestions you missed the first time around. Research can be overwhelming - there's so much to take in, so there's a good chance that an idea was staring you right in the face before and you didn't spot it!

Step 6 - Improve

How can we get your test results to be even better than they were before? Can we get closer to a definitive answer to your first question? This section is about trying to do your experiment in the best possible way. Can we get the results to be more reliable? Can we improve the accuracy of your measurements? Do you just need more data to plot a better graph?

Improve
Review
Step 7 - Review

What have you learned? What do your results tell you? If something didn't work, can you explain why it didn't work? If you've measured lots of things and you've plotted a graph - what does your graph tell you? What is the best way to share your new knowledge with other people?

Golden Rules of Good Science

Before you go out searching don't decide what you will find

Keep an open mind

It's okay to be wrong, the whole point is to find out something new, not to back up what you thought at first.

Examples

Okay - let's take those golden rules and the steps to good science and work through some questions. Pick a question you are interested in and we'll go through the steps.