I hope you saw from the first blog that one of my goals is to make Chemistry and science easy to understand. The essential thing to know about Chemistry is that it has certain rules that have been developed about the way things work. In a broad sense, this is called the Scientific Method. We will be talking about that here, and how you can use it at home. This will help you use it throughout your whole life as you continue to become more knowledgeable about Chemistry and science.
There are a series of steps that have to be followed in a specific order for you to be able to say that any question you ask has been properly solved using the Scientific Method. So let’s begin by choosing something that is a chore around your house that you have to do.
Taking out the garbage.
- Ask a question.
That question is likely to be ‘why do I have to take out the garbage’. Asking why something is the way it is often is one of the best questions a student of science can ask.
- Do background research.
You can ask what will or will not happen if you choose not to take it out. For examples, besides your parents getting upset with you (a cause and effect concept) you can research things like rodent infestation, vermin, odors, or the decomposition of organic matter. These latter two topics are related to Chemistry. Learning what is already known will save you oodles of time in deciding how best to answer the question.
- Construct a hypothesis.
This is a scientific way of saying, “If I do this, then that will happen.” Here, you might say if you let the garbage pile up then the organic matter will begin undergoing a chemical change. This part of the Scientific Method should be stated in a positive way (if I do this, rather than, if I don’t do this) and needs to be specific and clear.
- Create an experiment to test the hypothesis.
It is not recommended that you let the garbage pile up at home, but if you had your own laboratory you could set aside a contained space that would let you see and measure what happens to the organic matter. You might see that a Hostess Twinkie exhibits to change over a 30 day period, while the McDonald’s French Fries actually start turning color. Both are valid results of the experiment, even if nothing happens.
- Analyze the data and draw conclusions.
There are a few steps before and after this one, but right now it is OK to leave them be. We will get to them later. Notice that you have to have data, meaning whatever you are seeing happen has to be measurable and can be recorded for others to see. Doing this means that other people will be able to see not only what you have done, but how you did and check to see if they can produce the same results.
That wasn’t so bad, was it? This blog is about Chemistry, but you can see how the Scientific Method applies to Biology, Etymology, Psychology, and many other sciences. No matter what area of science you choose to pursue as a career (I’m hoping it’s Chemistry) you will use the same method to create and conduct experiments, and draw conclusions for others to test.