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.
Learners with vision loss can use our text description of the flowchart with a screen reader.
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.
- Find out how scientists uncovered – and then helped fix – a serious threat to life on Earth, the hole in the ozone layer, in Ozone depletion: Uncovering the hidden hazard of hairspray.
- 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.