Physical Science Introduction to Scientific Inquiry Background Scientific inquiry is a process scientists use to study the natural world in order to answer questions or solve problems. It consists of several steps including asking questions, conducting research, forming hypotheses, conducting experiments, collecting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and communicating experimental results to others. In today’s activity, you will follow some steps of the scientific inquiry process as you investigate a natural phenomenon known as Charles’ Law. Introduction 1. Posing Questions Have you ever observed what happens to a sports ball when it is left in the sun all day, or left outside overnight? What questions could you ask about how a change in temperature affects the air inside of a sports ball? The process of scientific inquiry often begins with questions that can be answered by making observations. In today’s activity, you will be investigating how a change in temperature affects a gas inside of a container. Write a question about how changing temperature affects a gas. (Keep in mind, the question you ask must be one that can be answered by making observations.) 2. Developing Hypotheses Once a question has been posed, developing hypotheses is usually the next step in the scientific inquiry process. A hypothesis is a possible answer to a scientific question or a possible explanation for a set of observations. A hypothesis is an idea that must be tested with an experiment. Your observations from the experiment may or may not support your hypothesis. If your hypothesis is not supported by your observations, it does not mean your experiment was wrong. It simply means that the hypothesis is wrong and further exploration is needed. Write a hypothesis about the effect a change in temperature will have on the volume of a gas. © 2014 Connections Education LLC. All rights reserved. 3. Designing an Experiment After developing your hypothesis, the next step in the inquiry process is to design a controlled experiment in order to test your hypothesis. In a controlled experiment, all variables are kept constant except the one that you are testing. The variables you keep the same are called controlled variables. The variable that you change or test is called the manipulated variable. The variable that responds to changes you make is called the responding variable. a. How would you design a controlled experiment to test the hypothesis you made about the volume of a gas? b. What is the manipulated variable in your experiment? c. What is the responding variable in your experiment? 4. Collecting and Analyzing Data There are two types of observations: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative observations use words to describe what is observed during the experiment. These notes are kept in a journal or logbook. Quantitative observations use numbers, such as calculations and measurements that are recorded in data tables. Scientists around the world use the same system of measurement called the metric system. In your experiment the unit for volume is cubic meters (m3). The unit for temperature is Kelvin (K). Analyze and Conclude 1. Communicating (Qualitative Data) Your written observations about what happened in the experiment is qualitative data. Write a short summary of what you observed. © 2014 Connections Education LLC. All rights reserved. 2. Making a Graph (Quantitative Data) The data you recorded in the table on the student exploration sheet is quantitative data. Plot the information from the data table onto the grid below. Plot the manipulated variable on the horizontal axis (x-axis). Plot the responding variable on the vertical axis (y-axis). a. Which measurement (with its units) is plotted on the x-axis? b. Which measurement (with its units) is plotted on the y-axis? c. At 350 K, what is the approximate volume? d. What will be the approximate volume when the temperature is 900 K? © 2014 Connections Education LLC. All rights reserved. 3. Drawing Conclusions After analyzing, or interpreting your data, the next step in the inquiry process is to draw conclusions about the hypothesis. Your conclusion should state whether or not the data supports your hypothesis. Review your hypothesis, your qualitative data, and your quantitative data. What conclusions can you make about your hypothesis? 4. Communicating Another important step in the inquiry process is to share your ideas, experimental results, and conclusions with others through writing and speaking. Imagine you are a blogger for an online science magazine. Briefly summarize the process of scientific inquiry for your readers. Use details from this as experiment, including the procedures and results, as an example. © 2014 Connections Education LLC. All rights reserved.
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