Writing with Scientists
Writing with Scientists Home Step 1: Discover Your Big QuestionStep 2: Explain the Hows and WhysStep 3: Present Your InformationStep 4: Conclude with New QuestionsStep 5: Show Your SourcesStep 6: Publish OnlineRead Student Writing Words to Know


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Step 2: Explain the Hows and Whys

How did you test your hypothesis?
You asked a question and then did background research to find the information to form a hypothesis. Now it's time to explain how you went about proving or disproving your initial best guess.

You may have:

• observed and taken notes
• made measurements over time
• compared two different groups: an experiment group and a control group
• done research to get additional background knowledge or any combination in order to gather information to try to answer your big question.

Describe your investigation step by step. This will help the person reading your report understand exactly what you did, and recognize the value of your observations and information.

Be sure to include the important details that show what you did. Details might include:

• date and time of day
• weather and/or temperature
• tools used, such as thermometer, ruler, scale, or microscope
• other variables that may have affected your results

Example in Action
See an excerpt from a student scientist's report.

Why did you test it that way?
There’s often more than one way to approach answering a question. Briefly explain why you made the choices you did — and also why you chose not to do other kinds of tests or research — to show the person reading your report that you’re really thinking about what you’re doing. You want someone reading your paper to say: "Oh, I see why following these steps was a good approach to testing this hypothesis."

Example in Action
See an excerpt from a student scientist's report.

Next Step

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Dr. Susan Perkins

Scientist at Work

I decided to test my hypothesis that there are two different species of malaria parasites by collecting two types of data, or information.

First, I measured the size and shape of the parasites I found in the lizards' red blood cells and white blood cells. While the parasites look very similar, by taking detailed measurements and studying them with a computer program, I hoped to learn if there were differences that the human eye could not pick out.

I also collected genetic information from the parasites. I wanted to know if the DNA code of the parasites in the red blood cells was different from that of parasites in the white blood cells. One of the best parts of this work was that I got to travel to Caribbean islands to collect the colorful lizards and look for infections!

When I wrote about my methods, it was important to include information like the instruments I used to measure the cells and the software I used to do the calculations. This kind of information lets people who read my study repeat my steps, if necessary, or to use it to begin new studies. On the other hand, I didn't need to provide unnecessary details that anyone would know or that didn't make a difference in my results such as the time of day when I caught each lizard.

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