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A is an explanation for a set of observations. Here are .
CORRECTION: Because science classes sometimes revolve around dense textbooks, it's easy to think that's all there is to science: facts in a textbook. But that's only part of the picture. Science a body of knowledge that one can learn about in textbooks, but it is also a process. Science is an exciting and dynamic process for discovering how the world works and building that knowledge into powerful and coherent frameworks. To learn more about the process of science, visit our section on .
: In everyday language, a is a rule that must be abided or something that can be relied upon to occur in a particular situation. Scientific laws, on the other hand, are less rigid. They may have exceptions, and, like other scientific knowledge, may be modified or rejected based on new evidence and perspectives. In science, the term usually refers to a generalization about and is a compact way of describing what we'd expect to happen in a particular situation. Some laws are non-mechanistic statements about the relationship among observable phenomena. For example, the ideal gas law describes how the pressure, volume, and temperature of a particular amount of gas are related to one another. It does not describe how gases behave; we know that gases do not precisely conform to the ideal gas law. Other laws deal with phenomena that are not directly observable. For example, the second law of thermodynamics deals with entropy, which is not directly observable in the same way that volume and pressure are. Still other laws offer more mechanistic explanations of phenomena. For example, Mendel's first law offers a of how genes are distributed to gametes and offspring that helps us make about the outcomes of genetic crosses. The term may be used to describe many different forms of scientific knowledge, and whether or not a particular idea is called a law has much to do with its discipline and the time period in which it was first developed.
Next, you need to design an experiment to test this hypothesis.
: In everyday language, the word generally means something that we've seen with our own eyes. In science, the term is used more broadly. Scientific observations can be made directly with our own senses or may be made indirectly through the use of tools like thermometers, pH test kits, Geiger counters, etc. We can't actually beta particles, but we can observe them using a Geiger counter. To learn more about the role of observation in science, visit in our section on how science works.
: In everyday language, the word usually refers to an educated guess or an idea that we are quite uncertain about. Scientific hypotheses, however, are much more informed than any guess and are usually based on prior experience, scientific background knowledge, preliminary observations, and logic. In addition, hypotheses are often supported by many different lines of evidence in which case, scientists are more confident in them than they would be in any mere "guess." To further complicate matters, science textbooks frequently misuse the term in a slightly different way. They may ask students to make a about the outcome of an experiment (e.g., table salt will dissolve in water more quickly than rock salt will). This is simply a prediction or a guess (even if a well-informed one) about the outcome of an experiment. Scientific hypotheses, on the other hand, have explanatory power they are explanations for phenomena. The idea that table salt dissolves faster than rock salt is not very hypothesis-like because it is not very explanatory. A more scientific (i.e., more explanatory) hypothesis might be "The amount of surface area a substance has affects how quickly it can dissolve. More surface area means a faster rate of dissolution." This hypothesis has some explanatory power it gives us an idea of a particular phenomenon occurs and it is testable because it generates expectations about what we should observe in different situations. If the hypothesis is accurate, then we'd expect that, for example, sugar processed to a powder should dissolve more quickly than granular sugar. Students could examine rates of dissolution of many different substances in powdered, granular, and pellet form to further test the idea. The statement "Table salt will dissolve in water more quickly than rock salt" is not a hypothesis, but an expectation generated by a hypothesis. Textbooks and science labs can lead to confusions about the difference between a hypothesis and an expectation regarding the outcome of a scientific test. To learn more about scientific hypotheses, visit in our section on how science works.
Getting pimples is unaffected by eating greasy food.
Fact: are statements that we know to be true through direct . In everyday usage, facts are a highly valued form of knowledge because we can be so confident in them. Scientific thinking, however, recognizes that, though facts are important, we can only be completely confident about relatively simple statements. For example, it may be a fact that there are three trees in your backyard. However, our knowledge of how all trees are related to one another is not a fact; it is a complex body of knowledge based on many different and reasoning that may change as new is discovered and as old evidence is interpreted in new ways. Though our knowledge of tree relationships is not a fact, it is broadly applicable, useful in many situations, and synthesizes many individual facts into a broader framework. values facts but recognizes that many forms of knowledge are more powerful than simple facts.
: In everyday language, the word is often used to mean a hunch with little evidential support. Scientific theories, on the other hand, are broad explanations for a wide range of phenomena. They are concise (i.e., generally don't have a long list of exceptions and special rules), coherent, systematic, and can be used to make predictions about many different sorts of situations. A theory is most to the scientific community when it is strongly supported by many different lines of evidence but even theories may be modified or overturned if warranted by new evidence and perspectives. To learn more about scientific theories, visit in our section on how science works.
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Now we need a way to the Hypothesis.
CORRECTION: Because science textbooks change very little from year to year, it's easy to imagine that scientific ideas don't change at all. It's true that some scientific ideas are so well established and supported by so many lines of evidence, they are unlikely to be completely overturned. However, even these established ideas are subject to modification based on new evidence and perspectives. Furthermore, at the cutting edge of scientific research areas of knowledge that are difficult to represent in introductory textbooks scientific ideas may change rapidly as scientists test out many different possible explanations trying to figure out which are the most accurate. To learn more about this, visit our page describing .
In order to form a hypothesis, you should:
CORRECTION: Especially when it comes to scientific findings about health and medicine, it can sometimes seem as though scientists are always changing their minds. One month the newspaper warns you away from chocolate's saturated fat and sugar; the next month, chocolate companies are bragging about chocolate's antioxidants and lack of trans-fats. There are several reasons for such apparent reversals. First, press coverage tends to draw particular attention to disagreements or ideas that conflict with past views. Second, ideas at the cutting edge of research (e.g., regarding new medical studies) may change rapidly as scientists test out many different possible explanations trying to figure out which are the most accurate. This is a normal and healthy part of the process of science. While it's true that all scientific ideas are subject to change if warranted by the evidence, many scientific ideas (e.g., evolutionary theory, foundational ideas in chemistry) are supported by many lines of evidence, are extremely reliable, and are unlikely to change. To learn more about provisionality in science and its portrayal by the media, visit a section from our .
Maria Polinsky is a Professor of Linguistics at Harvard University.
Descriptive research such as , and surveys are often used when it would be impossible or difficult to . These methods are best used to describe different aspects of a behavior or psychological phenomenon. Once a researcher has collected data using descriptive methods, a can then be used to look at how the variables are related. This type of research method might be used to investigate a hypothesis that is difficult to text experimentally.
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