Designing Experiments

Scientific Problem

A scientific problem is something you don’t understand but you can do an experiment to help you understand. Scientific problems are usually based on observation of scientific phenomena. Here is some advice to help you identify a scientific problem you can address by designing your own experiment.

1) Find a topic:

A topic is a relatively specific area of knowledge, or subject, you will be working in, such as smoking and lung cancer, sexual selection in birds, gravity, Newton's Laws of Motion, properties of water, etc... If you have been given a topic, you may need to narrow it, to identify a more specific topic within the broader one. This can make it easier to work with. If you are supposed to choose your own topic, do some brainstorming about things you have learned about in your science course that was particularly interesting for you, something you’d like to know more about. Write down some possible topics and choose the one that seems most interesting to you.

2) Identify a problem within the topic:

The problem is something you’d like to know more about, a question you’d like to answer. Questions can come from many different sources: from lectures or textbooks, from an experiment you have done that raised other questions, from articles you’ve read in scientific journals or even newspapers and magazines. To identify a scientific problem, then, you can find sources that relate to your topic and look to see what problems are raised in your search. Write down the problems that you find. Choose one that would be interesting to solve and that is feasible for you to solve. Now you are ready to return to the PreLab page and answer the PreLab questions.







© Copyright NC State University 2004
Sponsored and funded by National Science Foundation
(DUE-9950405 and DUE-0231086)

Site design by Rosa Wallace

Rev. MF 6/6/05