Many of us remember dutifully reciting the steps to the scientific method / lab report. C'mon, now, say them with me:
Your version may have differed slightly, but I bet it was all pretty much the same.
But now there is new buzz word in science town, and that is "inquiry." NSTA
, in The National Science Education Standards
defines scientific inquiry as "the diverse ways in which scientists
study the natural world and propose explanations based on the evidence
derived from their work. Scientific inquiry also refers to the
activities through which students develop knowledge and understanding
of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists
study the natural world."
NSTA also recommends that teachers help their students understand that "there is no fixed sequence of steps that all scientific investigations follow. Different kinds of questions suggest different
kinds of scientific investigations." In fact, all of the recommendations
The Scientific Method is essential for lab reports, Inquiry is essential for scientific thinking. This chart below illustrates some of the differences in these two terms. Feel free to modify or add your own!
| Scientific Method|| Scientific Inquiry|
|Linear / defined order ||Non-Linear / fluid|
|Answers a single posed question||May end up generating more questions|
|Results may be communicated at the conclusion of the experiment||Communication is a key component throughout|
| || |
These illustrations are helpful in visualizing the (sometimes messy) process of scientific inquiry.
IMAGE SOURCE: TBD
However, there is a time and a place for the formal lab write-up, and many science fairs require such a report at the conclusion of the investigation. Some hints:
Hypothesis (specific and supported)
Procedure (written in specific steps)
Results (any observations, data tables, graphs)
Do you accept or reject your hypothesis?
Tell your results (use numbers)
Any errors or things you could not control?
Future questions or investigations?
Connections to the real-world?