Explore an interactive representation of the process of science. Home Glossary Search Understanding Science 101 For teachers Resource library
  How science works: The flowchart
This flowchart represents the process of scientific inquiry, through which we build reliable knowledge of the natural world. You can use it to trace the development of different scientific ideas and/or the research efforts of individual scientists. Most ideas take a circuitous path through the process, shaped by unique people and events.

Move your mouse pointer over the flowchart to reveal an additional level of detail. Click on items in the flowchart to get further information in Understanding Science 101.

If you can't see or operate the above interactive item, you can try to get the Flash player or view a static version of the interactive content.

science in action
See how actual scientific investigations have followed paths through the flowchart:

  • A surprising observation starts Walter Alvarez down the path to unravelling one of the great mysteries in Earth's history: read Asteroids and dinosaurs.

key points
Get graphics and pdfs of the Science Flowchart to use in your classroom. Translations are available in Spanish, French, Japanese, and Swahili.

watch this
  • This California Academy of Sciences video follows arachnologist Charles Griswold and colleagues through the Understanding Science Flowchart as they describe the process involved in an exciting new spider discovery.

  • This Consortium for Ocean Leadership video (on YouTube) uses the Understanding Science flowchart to describe how a team of scientists investigates climate change throughout Earth's history with ocean sediment cores.



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