Section 3: Scientific Research and Tools

Science is a way of gathering information and analyzing data about the world around us.  It is based on observations, which is the process of gathering information about processes or events in an orderly way.  Scientists use evidence to provide possible explanations for something.  That evidence is called data, which is the information gathered from those observations.

Scientists draw upon inferences, which are logical interpretations based on prior knowledge, experience, and collected data.  This can lead to a hypothesis or a guess for observations that can be tested.

There are two main types of scientific research: quantitative research and qualitative research. Quantitative research is research in which the data collected is numerical.  Thermometers, balances, and stopwatches are all tools that can be used to collect this type of data.  Qualitative research is descriptive, and research is based on observations.  Binoculars, cameras, and a tape recorder can also be used to present this type of data.

The standard system of measurement used by scientists around the world is known as the International System of Units (SI).  SI units are easy to use because this metric system is a decimal system of units based on a scale of multiples of ten.  Each unit is ten times larger than the next smallest unit and one-tenth the size of the next largest unit.

Common tools used by earth scientists include binoculars, a compass, a wind vane, an anemometer, and a streak plate.  Binoculars allow us to view faraway objects more clearly.  An earth scientist may use them to look at incoming weather or to observe landforms.  A compass shows magnetic north and is used by earth scientists to navigate and determine direction.  A wind vane is a device that rotates to show the direction of the wind.  An anemometer is a tool used to measure the speed and force of wind.  A streak plate is a piece of hard, unglazed porcelain that helps earth scientists identify minerals.

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