The Process of Science

Learning Objectives

Course Outcomes for this section:

Apply the scientific method to biological questions by designing experiments and using the resulting data to form a conclusion.

  1. Design a controlled experiment to answer a biological question.
  2. Predict the outcome of an experiment.
  3. Collect, manipulate, and analyze quantitative and qualitative data
  4. Answer a biological question using data.

Select, evaluate, and utilize discipline-specific information and literature to research a biological topic.

  1. Differentiate between questions that can and cannot be answered using science.
  2. Identify appropriate credible sources of information to research a topic.
  3. Evaluate sources of information for their strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Differentiate between popular and scholarly sources.

Like geology, physics, and chemistry, biology is a science that gathers knowledge about the natural world. Specifically, biology is the study of life. The discoveries of biology are made by a community of researchers who work individually and together using agreed-on methods. In this sense, biology, like all sciences is a social enterprise like politics or the arts. The methods of science include careful observation, record keeping, logical and mathematical reasoning, experimentation, and submitting conclusions to the scrutiny of others. Science also requires considerable imagination and creativity; a well-designed experiment is commonly described as elegant, or beautiful. Like politics, science has considerable practical implications and some science is dedicated to practical applications, such as the prevention of disease (see Figure 1). Other science proceeds largely motivated by curiosity. Whatever its goal, there is no doubt that science, including biology, has transformed human existence and will continue to do so.

pill-shaped E coli
Figure 1 Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, seen in this scanning electron micrograph, are normal residents of our digestive tracts that aid in the absorption of vitamin K and other nutrients. However, virulent strains are sometimes responsible for disease outbreaks. (credit: Eric Erbe, digital colorization by Christopher Pooley, both of USDA, ARS, EMU)


OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. May 27, 2016


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Principles of Biology by Lisa Bartee, Walter Shriner, and Catherine Creech is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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