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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.

  • Science focuses on natural phenomena and processes.

  • Scientists strive to test their ideas with evidence from the natural world; a hallmark of science is exposing ideas to testing.

  • Scientific knowledge is open to question and revision as new ideas surface and new evidence is discovered.

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

  • 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 (hypotheses and theories) by figuring out what expectations are generated by an idea and making observations to find out whether those expectations are borne out.

  • Scientists look for patterns in their observations and data.

  • Researchers share their findings with the scientific community through scientific publications.

  • Hypotheses are proposed explanations for a narrow set of phenomena.

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

  • Science depends on communication within the scientific community.

  • Scientists usually work collaboratively.

  • Scientists scrutinize each other's work through peer review and other processes.

  • Science relies on the accumulated knowledge of the scientific community to move forward.

  • Anyone can participate in science, but the pursuit of science as a career often requires extensive formal training.

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

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