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Insight: What to Consider

Scientific Research
By following the seven stages listed below, you should be able to produce a superior scientific experiment:
  1. Be curious, choose a limited subject, ask questions, identify or define a problem.
  2. Review published materials related to your question. Visit Access PA Power Library, a research database, for appropriate resources.
  3. Evaluate possible solutions and make your educated guess (hypothesis).
  4. Design the experiment where only one variable is changed at a time. This makes the experiment a "controlled" experiment.
  5. Challenge and test your hypothesis through experimentation (data collections) and analysis.
  6. Evaluate the results of your experiment and reach conclusions based on your data.
  7. Prepare report and exhibit.
Good scientists, both young and old, follow a similar approach to study what they see in the world. Research is the process by which people create new knowledge about themselves or the world in which they live in order to answer a question or solve a problem. When choosing your topic, give careful thought to how your research might enhance the world and its inhabitants. Questioning is probably the most important part of scientific creativity and is often followed by an "if...then" statement. Questioning usually leads to experiments or observations. Students should learn to be skeptical of all research results, especially their own. A good experiment may or may not answer the questions asked, but almost always leads to fresh questions requiring new experiments or observations. The final hypothesis is often developed after one has run a number of preliminary experiments, analyzed a body of results, and reached a tentative conclusion.

Engineering
What is the difference between a scientist and engineer? Scientists try to understand how nature works, engineers create things that never were or improve on a previous design. An engineering project should state the engineering goals, the development process and the evaluation of improvements. Engineering projects may include the following stages:
  1. Define a need.
  2. Develop design criteria.
  3. Search literature to see what has already been done.
  4. Prepare preliminary designs.
  5. Build and test a prototype.
  6. Retest and redesign as necessary.
  7. Present results.
Other Non Inquiry Based Research
Computer Science Projects - involve creating and writing new algorithms to solve a problem or improve an existing algorithm. Simulations, models or "virtual reality" are other areas on which to conduct research.

Mathematics Projects - involve proofs, solving equations, etc. Math is the language of science and is used to explain existing phenomena or prove new concepts and ideas.

Theoretical Projects - involve a thought experiment, development of new theories and explanations, concept formation or designing a mathematical model.

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