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STEM Fair Tutorial Post #12: Think like a Scientist

The ability to hypothesize is an important educational (and lifestyle) tool for anyone and, to be frank, you probably already know how to hypothesize; you just did not know it - until now. However, before you develop a hypothesis, let us review exactly what a hypothesis is and then you will have an opportunity to develop a hypothesis on your own.

A Hypothesis is a statement that offers a possible answer for something that has not been explained. A Hypothesis always begins with a problem or a question. The role of the STEM professional is to think about a possible solution to the problem and develop a statement (the hypothesis) that addresses how to solve the problem. Developing a hypothesis requires you to imagine the problem and how the it can be solved and what the results will be.

As a student and future STEM professional, you will be asked to create a hypothesis. You don’t have to worry about being wrong or right when developing your hypothesis – you are only expected to try and develop a prediction of how you may solve the problem and what the results may be.

Typically, a Hypothesis is about 20 words or less – so the simpler the better!

There are many reasons offered as to why we use a hypothesis; it offers direction and scope and it keeps those who are researching focused on the problem. However, we like to offer another reason – it challenges our thinking prior to learning. Developing a hypothesis offers us a unique opportunity to make a statement with the knowledge that we have and then compare it to our results after our research. The STEM fields are rooted in facts - not assumptions and learning why you were right or wrong about an assumption is a valuable lesson in education and life.

As previously stated, a hypothesis will appear after we present a problem statement or question. For the student, the hypothesis offers comparative guidance and direction. However, for the reader who is reviewing your experiment, a hypothesis offers them an opportunity to witness the direction you plan to head towards and how you want to get there. The Hypothesis outlines a temporary destination – the lab and research reveal the outcome.

To write a Hypothesis, the best way to learn is to utilize If, Then Statements. Perhaps you have seen these types of statements before and are very aware of how to form them. If not, lets take a quick review of how to write an If / Then Statement.

If / Then Statements Hypothesis statements will branch off from your Problem statement and question. If you're following our STEM Fair Tutorials - you probably just completed the articles regarding how to develop a problem statement and information regarding independent / dependent variables. If you haven't reviewed these two postings - please go back and take some time to look at them before proceeding.

If / Then statements are fairly direct and simple to use. Here is a fill in the blank sample for you:

"If I do this , then this will happen ."

Let's recycle some of the problem statements from our previous posting and see if we can create a Hypothesis statement.

Problem Statement:

Does changing the angle of the ramp affect the speed of the car going down the ramp?

Possible Hypothesis Statement:

If I change the angle of the ramp, then the speed of the car will change depending on the angle of the ramp.

Problem Statement:

Does changing the amount of light affect the growth rate of plants?

Possible Hypothesis Statement:

If I decrease the amount of light to plants, then their growth rate will be slower.

Now we would like for you to try the next two. Send us your Hypothesis Statement in the comments section! Good Luck and don't forget to use the If Then format!

Problem Statement:

What effect does soil type have on plant height?

Problem Statement:

“How does the type of paper affect the distance a paper airplane flies?"

Homework and Materials:


Composition Lab Notebook and Pen


Entry #11: In your composition lab notebook and utilizing the information in this post; develop a hypothesis based on the problem question you posed last week.

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