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LABEXERCISE:ScientificInvestigation

LaboratoryObjectives
Aftercompletingthislabtopic,youshouldbeableto:
1. Identifyandcharacterizequestionsthatcanbeansweredthroughscientific
investigation.
2. Definehypothesisandexplainwhatcharacterizesagoodscientifichypothesis.
3. Identifyanddescribethecomponentsofascientificexperiment.
4. Summarizeandpresentresultsintablesandgraphs.
5. Discussresultsandcritiqueexperiments.
6. Designascientificexperiment.
7. Interpretandcommunicateresults.
Introduction
Biologyisthestudyofthephenomenaoflife,andbiologistsobservelivingsystemsand
organisms, ask questions, and propose explanations for those observations. Science
assumesthatbiologicalsystemsareunderstandableandcanbeexplainedbyfundamental
rules orlaws.Scientificinvestigationssharesomecommonelements andprocedures,
whicharereferredtoasthescientificmethod.Notallscientistsfollowtheseprocedures
inastrictfashion,buteachoftheelementsisusuallypresent.Scienceisacreativehuman
endeavorthatinvolvesaskingquestions,makingobservations,developingexplanatory
hypotheses,andtestingthosehypotheses.Scientistscloselyscrutinizeinvestigationsin
theirfield,andeachscientistmustpresenthisorherworkatscientificmeetingsorin
professional publications, providing evidence from observations and experiments that
supportsthescientistsexplanationsofbiologicalphenomena.
EXERCISEI:PRACTICINGTHESCIENTIFICMETHOD
Readthefollowingexampleandanswerthequestionsthatfollow.
INVESTIGATIONOFTHEEFFECTOFSULPHURDIOXIDEON
SOYBEANREPRODUCTION
Agricultural scientists were concerned about the effect of air pollution,
sulfurdioxideinparticular,onsoybeanproductioninfieldsadjacenttocoal
poweredpowerplants.Basedoninitialinvestigations,theyproposedthat
sulfur dioxide in high concentrations would reduce reproduction in
soybeans.Theydesignedanexperimenttotestthishypothesis(Figure1).In
thisexperiment,48soybeanplants,justbeginningtoproduceflowers,were
dividedintotwogroups,treatmentandnotreatment.The24treatedplants
weredividedintofourgroupsof6.Onegroupof6treatedplantswasplaced
in a fumigation chamber and exposed to 0.6 ppm (parts per million) of

sulfurdioxidefor4hourstosimulatesulfurdioxideemissionsfromapower
plant.Theexperimentwasrepeatedontheremainingthreetreatedgroups.
Thenotreatmentplantswereplacedsimilarlyingroupsof6inasecond
fumigationchamberandsimultaneouslyexposedtofilteredairfor4hours.
Followingtheexperiment,allplantswerereturnedtothegreenhouse.When
thebeansmatured,thenumberofbeanpods,thenumberofseedsperpod,
andtheweightofthepodsweredeterminedforeachplant.

Figure1.ExperimentalDesignforsoybeanexperiment.Theexperimentwasrepeated
fourtimes.Soybeanswerefumigatedfor4hours.

DeterminingtheVariables
Readthedescriptionofeachcategoryofvariable;thenidentifythevariabledescribedin
theprecedinginvestigation.Thevariablesinanexperimentmustbeclearlydefinedand
measurable. The investigator will identify and define dependent, independent, and
controlledvariablesforaparticularexperiment.
a)TheDependentVariable
Withintheexperiment,onevariablewillbemeasuredorcountedorobservedinresponse
to the experimental conditions. This variable is the dependent variable. For the
soybeans,severaldependentvariablesaremeasured,allofwhichprovideinformation
aboutreproduction.
Whatarethedependentvariables?

b)TheIndependentVariable

Thescientistwillchooseonevariable,orexperimentalcondition,tomanipulate.This
variableisconsideredthemostimportantvariablebywhichtotesttheinvestigators
hypothesisandiscalledtheindependentvariable.
Whatwastheindependentvariable?

Canyousuggestothervariablesthattheinvestigatormighthavechangedthatwouldhave
hadaneffectonthedependentvariables?

Althoughotherfactors,suchaslight,temperature,time,andfertilizer,mightaffectthe
dependentvariables,onlyoneindependentvariableisusuallychosen.
Whyisitimportanttohaveonlyoneindependentvariable?

Whyisitacceptabletohavemorethanonedependentvariable?

c)ControlledVariables
Considerthevariablesthatyouidentifiedasalternativeindependentvariables.Although
theyarenotpartofthehypothesisbeingtestedinthisinvestigation,theywouldhave
significanteffectsontheoutcomeofthisexperiment.Thesevariablesmust,therefore,be
keptconstantduringthecourseoftheexperiment.Theyareknownasthe controlled
variables. The underlying assumption in experimental design is that the selected
independentvariableistheoneaffectingthedependentvariable.Thisisonlytrueifall
othervariablesarecontrolled.
Whatarethecontrolledvariablesinthisexperiment?
Whatvariablesotherthanthoseyoumayhavealreadylistedcanyounowsuggest?

ChoosingorDesigningtheProcedure
The procedure isthestepwisemethod,orsequenceofsteps,tobeperformedforthe
experiment. It should be recorded in a laboratory notebook before initiating the
experiment,andanyexceptionsormodificationsshouldbenotedduringtheexperiment.
Theproceduresmaybedesignedfromresearchpublishedinscientificjournals,through
collaborationwithcolleaguesinthelaborotherinstitutions,orbymeansofonesown
novelandcreativeideas.Theprocessofoutliningtheprocedureincludesdetermining
controltreatment(s),levelsoftreatments,andnumbersofreplications.
a)LevelofTreatment
The value setforthe independent variableis called the leveloftreatment. Forthis
experiment, the value was determined based on previous research and preliminary
measurements of sulfur dioxide emissions. The scientists may select a range of
concentrationsfromnosulfurdioxidetoanextremelyhighconcentration.Thelevels
should be based on knowledge of the system and the biological significance of the
treatmentlevel.
Whatwastheleveloftreatmentinthesoybeanexperiment?

b)Replication
Scientificinvestigationsarenotvalidiftheconclusionsdrawnfromthemarebasedon
one experiment with one or two individuals. Generally, the same procedure will be
repeatedseveraltimes(replication),providingconsistentresults.Noticethatscientistsdo
notexpectexactlythesameresultsinasmuchasindividualsandtheirresponseswillvary.
Resultsfromreplicatedexperimentsareusuallyaveragedandmaybefurtheranalyzed
usingstatisticaltests.
Describereplicationinthesoybeanexperiment.

c)Control

Theexperimentdesignincludesacontrolinwhichtheindependentvariableisheldatan
establishedlevelorisomitted.Thecontrolorcontroltreatmentservesasabenchmark
that allows the scientist to decide whether the predicted effect is really due to the
independentvariable.
Whatwasthecontroltreatmentinthisexperiment?

What is the difference between the control and the controlled variables discussed
previously?
EXERCISEII:DESIGNINGANEXPERIMENT
Introduction
Inthisexercise,theentireclass,workingtogether,willpracticeinvestigatingaquestion
usingwhatyouhavelearnedsofaraboutthescientificprocess.
a)Question
Cardiovascular fitness can be determined by measuring a persons pulse rate and
respirationratebeforeandafteragiventimeofaerobicexercise.Apersonwhoismore
fitmayhavearelativelyslowerpulserateandalowerrespiratoryrateafterexercise,and
hisorherpulserateshouldreturntonormalmorequicklythanthatofapersonwhois
less fit. Your assignment is to investigate the effect of a welldefined, measurable,
controllableindependentvariableoncardiovascularfitness.
Specificquestionscanbeaskedaboutanindependentvariablerelatedtothebroadtopic
ofcardiovascularfitness.Forexample,yourquestionmightbeDoescigarettesmoking
have an effect on cardiovascular fitness? List the questions in the space provided.
Choosethebestquestionandproposeatestablehypothesis.

b)Hypothesis
Recordthehypothesischosenbytheclass.

TheExperiment
Atest,calledthesteptest,thatisoftenusedforassessingcardiovascularfitness(Kusinitz
andFine,1987).Herearethebasicelementsofthistest:
1. The subject steps upanddownonalow platform,approximately8in.from the
ground,for3minutesatarateof30stepsperminute.
2. Thesubjectspulserateismeasuredbeforethetestandimmediatelyafterthetest.
Thesubjectshouldbesittingquietlywhenthepulseiscounted.Usethreefingersto
findthepulseintheradialartery(thearteryinthewrist,abovethethumb).Countthe
numberofbeatsperminute.(Countthebeatsfor30secondsandmultiplyby2.)
3. Additionally,thepulserateismeasuredat1minuteintervalsafterthetestuntilthe
pulseratereturnstonormal(recoverytime).Countthepulsefor30seconds,rest30
seconds,count30seconds,andrest30seconds.Repeatthisprocedureuntilthepulse
returnstonormal.Recordthenumberofminutestoreturntothenormalpulserate.
(Donotrecordthepulserate.)
*Asagroup,designanexperimentandrecordthecomponentsbelow:
Dependentvariable(s):

Independentvariable:

Controlledvariables:

Control:

Leveloftreatment:

Replication:

Summarizetheexperimentaldesignedbyyourclass:

Prediction
Predicttheresultsoftheexperimentbasedonyourhypothesis(if/then).

PerformingtheExperiment
Followingtheproceduresestablishedbyyourinvestigativeteam,performtheexperiment
andrecordyourresults.
Results
RecordtotalclassresultsinaTable.Identifythetreatmentconditionsatthetopofthe
table.
PresentingandAnalyzingResults
Oncethedataarecollected,theymustbeorganizedandsummarizedsothatthescientists
candetermineifthehypothesishasbeensupportedorfalsified.Inthisexercise,youwill
designtablesandgraphs;thelatterarealsocalledfigures.Tablesandfigureshavetwo
primaryfunctions.Theyareused(1)tohelpyouanalyzeandinterpretyourresultsand
(2)toenhancetheclaritywithwhichyoupresenttheworktoareaderorviewer.
Tables
Youhavecollecteddatafromyourexperimentintheformofalistofnumbersthatmay
appearatfirstglancetohavelittlemeaning.Lookatyourdata.Howcouldyouorganize
thedatasettomakeiteasiertointerpret? Youcould average thedatasetforeach
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treatment,butevenaveragescanberatheruninformative. Couldyouuseasummary
tabletoconveythedata(inthiscase,averages)?
Table2isanexampleofatableusingdataaveragesofthenumberofseedsperpodand
numberofpodsperplantasthedependentvariablesandexposuretosulfurdioxideasthe
independentvariable.Notethatthenumberofreplicatesandtheunitsofmeasurement
areprovidedinthetableandtablelegend.
Table2.Effectsof4HourExposureto0.6ppmSulfurDioxideonAverageSeedand
PodProductioninSoybeans.
Treatment
Control
S02

Number
24
24

SeedsperPod
3.26
1.96

PodsperPlant
16
13

Tablesareusedtopresentresultsthathaveafewtoomanydatapoints.Theyarealso
usefulfordisplayingseveraldependentvariables.Forexample,averagenumberofbean
pods,averagenumberofseedsperpod,andaverageweightofpodsperplantfortreated
anduntreatedplantscouldallbepresentedinonetable.
Thefollowingguidelineswillhelpyouconstructatable:
All values of the same kind should read down the column, not across a row.
Include only data that are important in presenting the results and for further
discussion.
Informationandresultsthatarenotessential(forexample:testtubenumber,simple
calculations,ordatawithnodifferences)shouldbeomitted.
Theheadingsofeachcolumnshouldincludeunitsofmeasurement,ifappropriate.
Tablesarenumberedconsecutivelythroughoutalabreportorscientificpaper.For
exampleTable4wouldbethefourthtableinyourreport.
Thetitle,whichislocatedatthetopofthetable,shouldbeclearandconcise,with
enoughinformationtoallowthetabletobeunderstandableapartfromthetext.
Capitalizethefirstandimportantwordsinthetitle.Donotcapitalizearticles(a,an,
the),shortprepositions,andconjunctions.
Refertoeachtableinthewrittentext.Summarizethedataandrefertothetable;
forexample,Theplantstreatedwithsulfurdioxideproducedanaverageof1.96
seedsperpod(Table2).Donotwrite,SeetheresultsinTable2.
Ifyouareusingadatabaseprogram,suchasExcel,youshouldstillsketchyour
tableonpaperbeforeconstructingitonthecomputer.
Application
1. Usingthedatafromyourexperiment,designasummarytabletopresenttheresults
foroneofyourdependentvariables,pulserate.Yourtableneednotbethesamesize
ordesignasthesample.Inyourtable,provideunitsofthedependentvariable(pulse
rate). Tell the reader how many replications (if any) were used to calculate the
averages.
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2. Composeatitleforyourtable.Refertotheguidelinesintheprevioussection.
InterpretingandCommunicatingResults
Thelastcomponentofascientificinvestigationistointerprettheresultsanddiscusstheir
implications inlightofthehypothesis andits supportingliterature. Theinvestigator
studiesthetablesandgraphsanddeterminesiftheirhypothesishasbeensupportedor
falsified. Ifthehypothesishasbeenfalsified,theinvestigatormustsuggestalternate
hypothesesfortesting. Ifthehypothesishasbeensupported,theinvestigatorsuggests
additionalexperimentstostrengthenthehypothesis,usingthesameoralternatemethods.
Scientistswillthoroughlyinvestigateascientificquestion,testinghypotheses,collecting
data,andanalyzingresults,untiltheyaresatisfiedthattheycanexplainthephenomenon
ofinterest. Thefinalphaseofascientificinvestigationisthecommunicationofthe
results to other scientists. Preliminary results may be presented within a laboratory
research group and at scientific meetings where the findings can be discussed.
Ultimately,thecompletedprojectispresentedintheformofascientificpaperthatis
reviewedbyscientistswithinthefieldandpublishedinascientificjournal.Theideas,
procedures,results,analyses,andconclusionsofallscientificinvestigationsarecritically
scrutinizedbyotherscientists.Becauseofthis,scienceissometimesdescribedasself
correcting, meaning that errors that may occur are usually discovered within the
scientificcommunity.
Scientificcommunication,whetherspokenorwritten,isessentialtoscience.Duringthis
laboratorycourse,youoftenwillbeaskedtopresentandinterpretyourresultsattheend
ofthelaboratoryperiod. Additionally,youwillwritecomponentsofascientificpaper
formanylabtopics.