A Parent's Guide to the Scientific Method

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Your child’s science fair project is off to a great start. She has chosen a topic that she is excited about, but she needs your help figuring out how to use the steps of the scientific method to organize her project. If you’re like many parents, it’s been awhile since you’ve had to use the scientific method. Here’s a quick rundown of the six steps.

Note: Science teachers and books vary as to how many steps are involved. You may see as few as four or as many as seven; the difference lies in whether or not the steps are broken down into sub-steps.


Observation could also be stated as coming up with an idea or, more simply, curiosity. By observing the world around her, your child can begin to notice things happen or certain phenomena. Once she finds something that really piques her curiosity, she’ll move on to Step 2.

Question (also known as State the Problem)

This step takes Observation a bit further. Now it’s time to verbalize what has piqued your child’s curiosity. What exactly did she wonder about? Does she want to know if there’s a connection between two things? Is she wondering if plants grow better in one set of circumstances then another?

A hypothesis is an “educated guess” at the answer to the question posed. It doesn’t matter if the hypothesis is correct or incorrect, that’s what the science fair project is supposed to discover. It is important that the hypothesis is related to the question asked. For example, hypothesizing that raccoons sleep during the day because they are avoiding predators doesn’t have anything to do with why the weather patterns seem to be changing in the southern part of the United States.


Experimentation is coming up with a test to prove or disprove the hypothesis. It involves creating a test that looks at all the different variables and has a few sub-steps to it.  

  • Prediction: After the experiment is designed, your child will need to make note of what she thinks is going to happen.
  • Gather data: Your child will gather information about what happened to each variable during and after the experiment.


This is one of the trickier steps of the scientific methods. Using charts, graphs or other ways of displaying the data gathered, your child will take a hard look at it to see if there are any visible patterns. Then she will need to decide whether or not she has enough information to support or disprove her hypothesis.


Using the data, your child will come to a conclusion that either supports her hypothesis or suggests another question. If the data brings forth a new question, then the scientific method begins all over again.

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