GeneratingExperimentalIdeas

GeneratingExperimentalIdeas - Objectives «a Use the Four...

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Unformatted text preview: Objectives «a Use the Four Question Strategy and a prompt to brainstorm numerous variables,_constants, and hypotheses for experiments. a Describe a variety of props for use in brainstorming: general topics, iists of materials, science articles, questions, demonstrations, and textbook laboratory activities. as Use a checklist to evaluate your responses to the Four Question Strategy. National Standards Cannectians as Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigation (NSES). as Design and conduct scientific investigations (NSES). he fear of the blank page frequently paralyzes the thought processes of would—be- poets when they are suddenly asked to write a poem. This same fear may grip you when you are asked to generate an original experiment for a class assignment or for a science competition. It does not matter how well you have memorized the ‘scientific method’ or even the definitions of variables, controls, and repeated trials. The result is always the same—panic and random thoughts. “What problem should I investigate? Why can’t I think of a problem? Hey! I’ve got it! But, who cares? What about . . .? No, that would take too long and besides I don’t have. . . And so it goes. Most successful writers have learned long ago to talk through a topic, list ideas, make brief notes, write a draft, then revise and edit. These writers know that good writing does not begin by trying to write the final product. First, a rough draft is made to get the major points on paper. Spit and polish comes later. Similarly, you should explore the possible variations of a research topic before you attempt to state a problem, a hypothesis, variables, constants, and the control. In this chapter, you wiil learn to brainstorm ideas for an original experiment. Students assigned the task of bringing a Specific research problem to class often pro»« pose broad topics such as plants or electricity. They frequently do not understand what the term specific research problem means to a scientist. Even experienced graduate students 5: 2:5 3,. _ J .2';-=24'-5-5Chapter 3 in college find the task of determining a specific research problem very difficult. Their first drafts are often too general and must be re—written. in the past, some students were given sources of well-defined projects that they often followed as a recipe. Later, when a judge asked them why a certain method was used, they _ could only reply, “That’s what the book said to do.” You and other students do not need recipes. You need a strategy to help you develop an interesting topic into a well-designed experiment. You also need that strategy modeled and practiced several times before you design an original experiment of your own. The Four Question Strategy Realistically, how can you change a general topic into a quality original research project? Because the typical idea of a-specific research problem is a general topic like plants, it will be used to introduce the strategy to you. Begin by reading the following sequence of four questions for generating experiment ideas from a general topic such as plants. Q1: What materials are readily available for conducting experiments on (plants) ? Soils Plants Fertilizers Water Light/hear Containers Seeds You might have also listed warmth and other environmental conditions that plants need. The more things you list in your responses to Question 1, the better an experiment you will be able to design. Choose materials that are inexpensive and easy to find. You may be able to borrow materials from your school, parents, or people in the community. Next, ask yourself Question 2. Q2: How do (plants) act? Plants grow, will, flower The major thing that plants do is grow, but you may have brainstormed other actions as well. Plants also flower, wilt, produce fruit, and die. The action you choose will deter— mine what your dependent variable will be when you get to Question 4. Question 4 is about how you will measure the action you choose. Continue on to Question 3. Q3: How can I change the set of {plantl materials to affect the action? Water Amount Scheduling Method of application Source Composition pH u.,...,.,W,_..m..a,,.Wu ' K- .:. i -E Plants Spacing Kind Age Size Containers Location of holes Number of holes ‘ Shape 3' Material Size Color Responses to Question 3 are possible variables you could choose when designing an _§ experiment. The longer the lists, the more choices you will have. For water, maybe you also thought of temperature and time of watering. Did you think of any other ways to :1- change plants or containers? Each variable you generate is a potential independent vari- E. able. When you choose a variable to manipulate, for example, amount of water, it becomes your independent variable. All the rest of the potential independent variables must become constants in your experiment. Assign each of these constants a value and take care that they do not vary in your experiment. In addition to the responses listed above you should also have added these: Soil Seeds Composition Size Amount Color Depth Number Compaction Planting depth Age Similarly, you need to also deve10p lists for light, fertilizer, and environmental condi» = tions. The last question in the Four Question Strategy is next. ' Q4: How can I measure or describe the response of gplants) to the change? Count the number of leaves Measure the length of the longest stem Count the number of flowers Determine the rate of growth Mass (weigh) of the fruit produced Measure the diameter of the stems This final question helps you decide how to measure or describe changes in the de— pendent variable you selected from Question 2. You might have also added: measure root development, record color, assess health quality, or still other ways to measure plant growth. To design an experiment for a science project, all you have to do is select an indepen— dent variable from your responses to Question 3, such as amount of water. Then select a dependent variable from Question 4, such as number of flowers. To make your experi— ment 3 fair test of the effect of amount of water on the number of flowers produced, all Generating Experimental IdeasiiiiQSs! * :52 :26; :-=: Chapter 3 other responses to Question 3 must be kept the same. They become constants if you as- sign a value to each and keep their value the same throughout your experiment. You can write a hypothesis by predicting how changes in the independent variable will affect the dependent variable. Use the following format: If (an independent variable cho— . sen from Question 3) increases/decreases, then (a dependent variable selected from Ques— tion 4) will increase/decrease/remain the same. If this is your first experiment, you should design an experiment with only one independent variable and one dependent variable. Later, you will learn how to design more complex experiments with multiple independent and dependent variables. Notice how two different experiments can be designed using different responses to Questions 3 and 4. Experiment 1 Independent variable Amount of fertilizer (increments of 5 g) Dependent variable Height of plants Constants Except for amount of fertilizer, all the potential variables listed as responses to Question 3 become the constants for this experiment. Experiment 2 Independent variable Amount of water (increments of 50 mL) Dependent variable Number of leaves Constants Except for amount of water, all the potential variables listed as responses to Question 3 become the constants for this experiment. In Experiment 1, the levels of the independent variable might be 0 g, 5 g, 10 g, and 15 g of fertilizer. Repeated trials would be 30 identical plants for each amount of fertilizer. The 30 plants that receive 0 g of fertilizer serve as a standard of comparison, or control group, for the experiment. The growth of the plants without fertilizer helps you understand how different amounts of fertilizer affects the height of other similar plants. For Experiment 2, what would you use as the control? How many repeated trials would you use? Why? Applying the Four Question Strategy You should now be ready to practice designing experiments on your own. Using the gen- eral topic of motors, work with a small group of classmates to brainstorm responses to the following four questions. Q1: What materials are readily available for conducting experiments on (motors) ? Q2: How do tmotors) act? Q3: How can I change the set of (motor! materials to affect the action? Q4: How can I measure or describe the response of gmotors! to the change? After you have brainstormed your responses to these four questions, compare your re— sponses to the following. How are yours similar? Different? For information about safety precautions when using electricity, see Section C in Safety Procedures in Chapter 4. e i s l ._ .What materials are readily available for conducting experiments on {motors} ? Hobby motors Batteries String . Weights ' How do (motors! act? Motors lift weights Motors turn How can I change the set of lmotorsl materials to affect the action? Batteries Brand Voltage Age and so on Hobby motors Brand Size Shape and so on String Length Diameter Type and so on How can I measure or describe the response of {motors} to the change? Speed of lift Amount of weight lifted Number of times lifted Prompts for Brainstorming Ideas for Experiments Ideas for experiments are all around you. Consider-the following: > simple and available materials listed in activities in textbooks and lab manuals; your hobbies, part—time jobs, or chores; > science demonstration and “tricks” found in science activity books located in the children’s science section of libraries and bookstores; > “what if" questions, brief news summaries, and articles that suggest interesting follow up investigations. V Scientists do experiments to learn more about topics familiar to them. You can do the same. Start with lists, questions, and brief articles related to familiar objects, events, or— ganisms, or the science subject you are studying. A list of materials, containing such items as various motor oils, a graduated cylinder, a balance, and squeaky wheels, might suggest some interesting experiments if you are Studying the physical sciences. If you are a biol— ogy student, your thinking might be sparked by a list that includes beetles, grain, insecti- cides, and boxes. Questions involving familiar objects or pets, such as “What shapes Generating Experimental Ideas do pets notice most?” might prompt a topic for investigation. Hobbies are a particularly good source of ideas for experiments. Use the F our Question Strategy to brainstorm ways you could vary the materials associated with one of your hobbies. Turn your hobby into a scientific investigation! Books of science demonstrations, activities, and “tricks” can be great sources of ideas for experiments. Because they provide a list of necessary materials and a description of what action will occur, these books already answer Questions 1 and 2 of the F our Ques— tion Strategy. Select something from one of these books and answer Questions 3 and 4 to generate original experiments of your own. Consider the following science demonstration. _:Ial's-.;___vvatenl 'penniesf'aiid; a' i _ 3.3”; 2 3 ? ' -' Er tedu_re:-_;aj I I " Piaceii'thie glass” on' a level-table or 'other'"5.urface_. .1_.jthe.'glass-tOthe rimyviihzwateruu’g j _. ;_ ; 3 Hold fthe penny. so that'it : isE perpendicular; to'the surface;- ot the” water sapwiy',‘ lower the penny/intethe‘waijerénd release-it, Repeat-Step 4'_unti!-th_e~yvatetspilleoyergtheiglass.'.3__ ' any passages-"you addiuntii mesh-ridge;tension'fofthe mama; hoiia'bie- ' m " waterfrom spilling ever the-grim}; '” ' Q1: What materials are readily available for conducting experiments on (surface tension) ? Glass Pennies Water E : How does (surface tension! act? Forms a mound of water above the rim : How can I change the set of (surface tension: materials to affect the action? Glass Pennies Water Size Size Size Shape Age Type Composition Cieaniiness Additives Height Other coins Other liquids and so on and so on. and so on Q4: How can I measure or describe the response of {surface tension! to the change? Height of mound Number of pennies to cause a spill Stuck for an idea for an experiment? Try one of those science activity books. Other ideas can be found with the claims made in advertisements for all kinds of products. De- signing a test for such claims can make a good experiment. Does that special plate really defrost foods faster? What does affect defrosting time? - 85.3.": C hapter 3 i i i g E g i i i _ _ Have you thought about cooking as a source of ideas for experiments? Does overheating I: the batter for brownies really make a difference? Baking soda and baking powder produce 3. barbon dioxide bubbles that make cakes rise. What if you increased or decreased the amount I listed in the recipe? In baking bread there are specific directions about time, temperature, 5. ' kneading, and yeast. Now, just suppose that you changed . . . Experiments are everywhere! .. Practicing Your Skills 5 You know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. You also realize -_ that brainstorming is not the fastest route to generating a topic to investigate. It is diffi- ': cult to resist the temptation to list the first independent and dependent variables that come . to mind, a few constants, a control, some repeated trials, and to yell out, “I’m done!” If 3' you give in to this temptation, there will be‘two major losses. First, if you consider only a few variables, you may overlook a large number of factors that should be held constant. 5 If you do not hold theseconstant, you will not have a fair test of your independent vari— ' able. The second loss is worse. Too rapid a choice of an experiment prevents you from being aware of numerous other variables to investigate that are potentially far more inter- ' esting than one produced by a quick thought. You will miss the intellectual excitement that ' results from personally discovering all sorts of possibilities. " Evaluating Your Responses to the Four Questions How will you know if you have effectively used the Four Question Strategy? Checklists, such as Table 3.1, Checklist for Evaluating Responses to Four Questions, can help you evaluate your responses. Q1: What materials are readily available for conducting experiments on ? Did you produce an excellent, good, or poor list? That is a judgement call, but an excellent response should list all the materials needed to investigate your topic. Q2: How do act? To determine if your responses to Question 2 are correct, read appropriate sections of textbooks, reference materials, and Internet sources and revise your response as necessary. Depending on your topic, you might also wish to informally, but safely, ‘experiment’ with the materials to see resulting interactions or outcomes. Q3: How can I change the set of materials to affect the action? An excellent list would list numerous ways to vary each material. If you only listed a few ways to change a material, try to think of other ways; ask your classmates or par- ents for their ideas. If you forgot one of the materials, add it now and think of ways to vary that material. Q4: How can I measure or describe the response of to the change? Look back at the actions you listed for Question 2. An excellent response to Ques- tion 4 would be several difierent ways to measure each action you previously listed. Helping you develop the skills needed for producing a well—designed experiment is only one of the benefits of using the Four Question Strategy. There is also great satisfac— tion in achieving the scientific value of longing to know and understand. Finding the answer to “I wonder what would happen if I . . makes the effort worthwhile. Generating Experimental Ideas" Excellent list Good list Poor list Excellent answer Good answer Poor answer Excellent list Good list Poor list Q. 4: Ways to measure actions ixcelient list Good list Poor iist Creativity of topic Creativity of brainstorming Searching the Web F or more information about topics in this chapter; use search words or phrases such as: » four question strategy h) brainstorming science project ideas » science project ideas » science fair ideas » ideas for science projects or use specific topic experiments, such as “consumer product experiments,” “experiments with plants,” or “Wisconsin Fast Plants” to find Web sites such as: http://www.science~h0useerg/workshops/web/4questi0n.html Chapter 3 _ae.mw..t..mw.__....n mm ...
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GeneratingExperimentalIdeas - Objectives «a Use the Four...

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