The process of science can be organized in a number of ways. For participants in Expedition Earth and Beyond, here's how we are organizing the process:

Graphic Illustrating the Process of Science

The nine steps involved in this iterative process of science are as follows:


Preliminary Question

All science begins with observations that lead to a question. This preliminary question evolves from your observations and ideas or curiosity you may have about a particular topic. Your prior knowledge, these observations, and your curiosity drive what you want to learn.

Initial Observation

You must make initial observations and formally log data to figure out what aspect of a feature(s) you may be interested in investigating or how a system may be working. These observations will help you refine your question and formulate an initial hypothesis.

Background Research

Background research from books, scientific journals or magazines, the internet, or scientists is essential to help you understand what is already known about what you may be researching. It is important to keep track of sources you use as part of your research so you can cite them appropriately.

Experimental Design

With your developing knowledge and observations, you will adjust and refine your preliminary question. It is essential to decide on a strategy, a list of steps or methods, appropriate to answer that question. This is called an experimental design. As part of your experimental design you must also consider how to design a plan to create data displays so you can make observations and interpretations of your data to help you draw conclusions.

If your team wants to work with a scientist mentor and/or request an astronaut take a new image of Earth for your class as part of your research, you will need to write a proposal to NASA to justify the request

Gathering data is extremely important. Compiling your data is even more important! All your data must be logged using a consistent format, and compiled so it can be displayed and analyzed. The more data you have, the better your conclusions

Displaying your data helps you organize it. You can display data in a data table, in graphs, on a map, or even as annotated image illustrations. General observations of data displays help you think about general trends the data are showing

Analyzing and interpreting your data is one of the most important aspects of your research. Using the knowledge you have gained along with observations from your data displays will allow you to make inferences and draw conclusions about your question

Publishing or presenting your science research (even to your classmates) is an extremely important part of science. Sharing your discoveries will allow others to learn from and build on your previous research.
Your contributions to science and the implications of your research can help drive future work that needs to be done. Your research will spark new questions you or someone else may want to investigate. New knowledge helps drive new science. Science is an ongoing and continual process.