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How science works


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This Science in Action video uses the Understanding Science Flowchart to follow arachnologist Charles Griswold and colleagues as they describe the process involved in an exciting new spider discovery.

California Academy of Sciences


Life Science, Nature and Process of Science

10 minutes

Correspondence to the Next Generation Science Standards is indicated in parentheses after each relevant concept. See our conceptual framework for details.

  • Science is both a body of knowledge and the process for building that knowledge. (NOS5)

  • Science aims to build explanations of the natural world. (P3, P6)

  • Scientists strive to test their ideas with evidence from the natural world; a hallmark of science is exposing ideas to testing. (P3, P4, P6, P7, NOS2)

  • Scientific knowledge is open to question and revision as new ideas surface and new evidence is discovered. (P6, NOS3)

  • Science is ongoing; answering one scientific question frequently leads to additional questions to be investigated. (P1)

  • The real process of science is complex, iterative, and can take many different paths.

  • The process of science involves observation, exploration, testing, communication, and application.

  • Scientists test their ideas by predicting what they would expect to observe if their idea were true and then seeing if that prediction is correct. (P4, P6)

  • Scientists look for patterns in their observations and data. (P4, P5)

  • Hypotheses are potential explanations for what we observe in the natural world. (P6)

  • Hypotheses are usually inspired and informed by previous research and/or observations. They are not guesses. (P6)

  • Science depends on communication within the scientific community. (P7, P8)

  • Scientists usually work collaboratively.

  • Scientists check each other's work, often through peer review. (P7)

  • Anyone can participate in science.

  • Scientific knowledge helps us make decisions that affect our lives every day.

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