QUESTIONING: A Self Help Guide to Support the Planning and Carrying Out of Valid Investigations (key questions are in yellow )
What is the problem or question ? The following question will be used as an example. Q: How far does a torch beam travel using a reflector ?
What do I think will happen? How believable is my prediction? Does it fit with any other ideas?
Am I able to use some of my science understanding to support what I think will happen? If not, is there some background information that will help me predict what will happen?
What will I measure ? LOOK at the question / problem statement and identify the word(s) that is (are) linked to measuring or collecting data . e.g. “ how far the torch beam travels ”
Consider the following: • What will I measure ? e.g. the distance that the light beam travels • What will my measurements look like? e.g. could be measured in ‘metres’ • How often will I take measurements? e.g. when I turn on the torch
• What will be my “measuring instrument”? e.g. a 30 metre measuring tape • What should be the accuracy for my measuring? e.g. measure to ‘millimetres’ • Will my measurements be accurate enough for identifying differences / similarities? e.g. wouldn’t need to have measurements smaller than millimetres.
• In what form will I keep my measurements? e.g. at the moment it may look like this Distance light beam traveled (m) Type of reflector
What will I change ? LOOK at the question / problem statement and identify the word(s) that is (are) linked to you changing some aspect (called variable) in your method which will affect the measuring.
The question: How far does the torch beam travel using a reflector? e.g. what will affect how far the light beam travels? answer: “the type of reflector” (flat, curved outwards - convex, curved inwards - concave)
The distance the torch beam travels (what we measure) is dependent on the type of reflector (what we change). Therefore the aspect that we measure is called the ‘DEPENDENT VARIABLE’ and the aspect that we change is called the ‘INDEPENDENT VARABLE’ .
What aspects (variables) will I keep the same and not change ? LOOK at the question / problem statement and identify aspects that could affect the measuring but are not found in the statement.
What are the variables that could affect the measurements? e.g. • type of light bulb, • size of light bulb, • the number of batteries, • battery size, • the total volts, • the type of reflector material, • the darkness of the room,
What is the range of values for each variable? e.g. type of bulb - pointed tip one size of bulb - 3 volts number of batteries - 2 battery size - D type type of material - aluminium darkness - zero light allowed
How will I control those values? e.g. I will check the values for each variable before I begin.
What do I need to do to make sure that those values do not change when I carry out the investigation? e.g. I will need to ensure that the darkness stays the same all the time. Put a “do not enter” sign on the door so no one comes in. Always use ‘new’ batteries. etc
What materials do I need to help me collect worthwhile data? e.g. alfoil batteries (size D) 30m tape 3v bulb long dark room concave shape convex shape black card torch ( removable top )
Do I have the time and equipment to control these variables? e.g. Can I measure the distance on my own? If not, what do I need to ensure that the investigation can be carried out? e.g. Another person to help collect data.
What will my method be now that I have identified some key points in carrying out the investigation? e.g. 1. Find a long dark room. 2. Look for places where light might come into the room. Cover the places. 3. Test the torch in darken room. 4. Shine torch beam on black card to see if the beam can make it visible in dark.
Is my method understandable and is it sequenced correctly? e.g. give it to someone else to read.
Will someone be able to follow my method without asking questions? e.g. if not, then I am not communicating effectively and I will need to change my method so that someone can follow it without asking.
Am I practising safe procedures? e.g. I must make sure I do not shine the light directly into my helper’s eyes. I must use only torch bulbs and not any others.
Where in our method could there be a problem with safety (for me or the organisms I am investigating)? e.g. moving around in a very dark room and it is possible that someone might get hurt. I must make sure that there are not things lying on the floor or in the way when we move.
How many repeated tests will ensure that the data collected is valid? e.g. I think that if I repeat it five times for each reflector, I may have enough data to ‘average’ my results.
Will there be sufficient data to successfully predict events in the range that I am testing? e.g. I am not sure but 10 times would provide more data and probably help me to ‘predict’ more accurately.
How do you know when you have reached the end of testing? e.g. when I get tired of doing it over and over (??). I guess it ends when I am collecting similar data every time after six repeats?
After carrying out the plan, do I need to modify my plan to ensure I have valid data? e.g. the 3v bulb that I choose to use was not very good because the beam did not travel far. I think I should use a ‘halogen’ bulb in place of the ‘pointed 3v bulb’.
How will I organise my data to show a pattern? e.g. I will take the data in my chart and average the results for each reflector. Then I will use a ‘spreadsheet’ to create a graph to show my pattern.
Do I need more knowledge about organising data to show patterns? e.g. There is an ‘appropriate’ graph to use. That depends on what you measured AND what you changed. Check with your teacher.
Is there a relationship / pattern in the data? What is the relationship / pattern? How confident am I that this relationship exist? Are there any accepted ‘scientific evidence or theories’ to support this relationship / pattern?
Does the relationship / pattern match your prediction? e.g. make sure that you answer this question in your ‘conclusion’.
How can the results be used to further your science understanding in this particular area? Are there any further questions that need to be investigated as a result of my discussion?