magnifying glass Observation: The First Step in the Scientific Method

To observe means to look at something and to notice the details. When people observe things they often wonder
why it is that way. Scientists work to answer that question. They make observations as the first step
to the scientific method.

Observations are also called data. There are two kinds of data.

* Qualitative data are descriptions that do not have numbers.

There are many colorful birds at the backyard feeder is an example of qualitative data.

* Quantitative data are obtained by measuring and have numbers. Scientists use instruments (tools) to obtain numbers based data.

Example: 9/18/08 0700 hours GMT- There are 2 White-breasted Nuthatches, 1 male Northern Cardinal, 1 female Northern Cardinal, 3 Black-capped Chickadees, and 4 Blue Jays consuming the sunflower seeds that were placed in the silo feeder. The feeder is hung in a red maple tree. Temperature: 0 degrees Celsius. Precipitation: 1meter heavy snow and ice pellets.

It is important to be a careful observer. The smallest detail can be important to finding the answer to a question.

Hone your observation skills: Look at this photo. How many details you can identify?


If you click here, a closer view will appear. Use the Back Button of your browser to return to this web page.

1. Write your observations - one per line - on a piece of paper.

Make as many observations as you can.


2. Imagine - If you were standing at the site:

What tools (instruments) would help you to be a better observer?

What tools (instruments) might you use to measure what you are observing?


3. Write at least three questions that you have about what you have observed.


4. How should the homeowner handle this situation?


5. Read Crittercam: More Than an Animal's-Eye View National Geographic News

What are the challenges of using this technology to gather data?


Explore further:

About Units of Measurement - IB Biology | Observing Biology how to's

Steps of the Scientific Method - Science Buddies | Tales from the hive - NOVA

Observation - Science Skills Builders | The Scientific Process | Learn about the Scientific Method Activity

"The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist.
For man it is to know that and to wonder at it." Jacques Yves Cousteau


Collecting Data | Bluebirds Project | Milkweed and Monarch Butterfly Mania | Learn about Scientific Method

meter ruler

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Posted by Cynthia J. O'Hora 2/2009

Aligned with Pennsylvania Academic Standards | Rubric Template at Bernie Dodge site

tree icon Save a tree - use a Digital Answer Format - Highlight the text. Copy it. Paste it in a word processing document. Save the document in your folder. Answer on the word processing document in an easily read, contrasting color (Not yellow ) or font. Avoid fancy fonts like: Symbols, Techno, blakmore fancy font fonts). Save frequently as you work. I have never liked losing my work. You will not like it either. Be sure to enter your name & the date at the top of the document. Submit via email attachment or class dropbox. Bad things happen: Save a copy of the response document for your records.

Proof your responses. It is funny how speling errors and typeos sneak in to the bets work. smiling icon Make your own printer paper answer sheet

Pennsylvania Academic Standards - The Nature of Science
Processes, Procedures and Tools of Scientific Investigations
• Apply knowledge of scientific investigation or technological design in different contexts to make inferences to solve problems.
• Use evidence, observations, or a variety of scales (e.g., time, mass, distance, volume, temperature) to describe relationships.