• Arjane Kerkhoven

An Easy Science Story: How to Do Your Own Experiment!

What is science?

Do you want to know more about science? But are you struggling with the difficult words and the “I’ve never even heard of this” way of scientific writing? Then keep reading! In this blog, you will be introduced to the world of science in an easy-to-understand way. Also, you’ll learn how to do your own science experiment, so let’s go!


The Basic Idea

The basic idea of science is very simple; you have a question that you don’t know the answer to, and you’re going to try and find that answer. You can find it by doing experiments, or by looking it up in books and science magazines.


Science magazines are magazines with articles that describe the questions and answers of professional scientists. They come up with very difficult questions that often are a lot harder than they seem, and though the answer might seem easy or obvious, it can be very hard to prove that that answer is right. As you can imagine, it’s hard to understand all this if you don’t have a diploma for science. So you can either try to get that science diploma, or you can have someone like me explain it to you, in more understandable language! I’ll do my best to open the door for you to science, so you can peek into that world and understand it a bit better.


Where to Start

So you want to learn about science? You want to do your own experiments, but you don’t know where to begin? I’ll tell you all about it!

First, introduce your topic: what do you want to learn more about? What do you already know? Then, explain what question(s) you want to answer and why. We can use a simple example here that is not only very scientific, but you can also easily answer it yourself with the methods I’ll explain later on to you. That question is “What food do birds prefer?”. It might look very simple, but there are actually many sides to this question!

A magpie


How to Find the Answer

All right, so you’ve decided to find out what birds like to eat. Great! Now let’s see how we can answer that question, what methods we can use. There are many sides to this question, maybe more than you expected. You can take a look at food type and location, bird size and species, beak shape, behavior and many more things. The answer to these questions can be found in two ways. You can either read about it in books or science magazines, or try to find it out by doing experiments.

Hypothesis

Before you do this though, there’s one very important thing that you should do. Take a look at the information that you already have, and try to predict what the answer to your question could be. Scientists call this prediction a hypothesis, and it makes it easier to think of what kind of experiment you want to do, or where to find your answer. For our example a possible hypothesis could be “I think birds eat worms”. This means that you try to find information on the kinds of foods birds like to eat and see if they also eat worms. If you do an experiment, you will use worms and other types of food, so you can see if birds eat worms or prefer something else.

Read a Book

The answer to this specific question is easy to find in books and on nature websites. You could look up what birds you find in your own garden, what food they like and find out where they usually get it from. We call this theoretical research, or a literature study. It’s a common scientific method, and very important. You can find out what answers other people found to the same kind of questions, and how they found them. That’s very useful if you want to answer your question properly. Important here is that you have to make sure that the books and especially websites are reliable. Anyone can write things on the internet, but that doesn’t mean it’s also true. I’ll write a blog post on that topic soon, stay tuned!


Do Experiments

Another way of finding the answers to your questions is of course by doing an experiment. You can put down different foods at different spots, write down what weather it is, what birds you see eating the food, etc. Make sure to plan your experiment carefully, just like you see in the table. In another blog post I will soon explain how to write notes like those in the table, because notes are very important. In short, scientific notes allow you to write down everything that happens during your experiments, including special events. In this case that would be how much and what kind of food is eaten, and what bird ate it from which place.


Scientific notes in a table


Look At Your Notes

When your table with notes is complete, take a closer look at it. What did you discover? Did you find the answers to all your questions? Did you notice anything unexpected or unusual? Everything you write down about what happened in your experiment is called the results, and it is a very important part of your research. The answers that you found are pure facts, and often they have many numbers in it. For example, in the table we see that robins ate 6 berries from the ground, and 8 from the table.

Make Your Numbers More Interesting

Of course numbers can be a bit boring and hard to understand, so we’ll write a story around it. Why do you think that the robins ate more berries from the table? Maybe they feel safer up there, because they can see everything from up high? Or maybe you come up with another reason! Be creative, try to think of a reason for what you found. This part is called the discussion, and it also involves looking at other books, experiments or scientific articles that tried to answer the same question. Do they give the same answer? Do you know why (not)?

Draw a Conclusion

Now, you are ready to summarize your answers and discoveries in just a few sentences, as a conclusion. In short, tell what you found, what it could mean and what other scientist said about the subject. And voilà! Now you have your first real science article, consisting of an introduction, methods, results, discussion and conclusion, just like the real scientists have!


Now don’t forget that whenever you want to know the answer to a question, you can use this same method! Write down what you already know about your topic, describe your questions and think about how you want to answer them. Then read about your topic or do your experiment, and see what answers you find! Figure out what the answers mean, and write that down in a few sentences.

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