pug with question marks around its head

There are some questions you can answer with a simple Google search:

  • Where is the nearest gas station?

  • How can I make an easy mac and cheese?

  • What time is the next movie showing?

But what about when you've got questions like these?

  • What's at the bottom of a black hole?

  • How does screen time affect my mental health?

  • Should math be a mandatory course until grade 12?

To answer more complex questions you can conduct secondary research! Instead of running an experiment (primary research), you can work with the information that's already out there to make a conclusion.

The Scientific Research Process

The scientific research process is a tool that can guide your quest for answers! Along the way you'll:

  • Ask strong questions

  • Find the right resources

  • Sort and filter information

  • Analyze the content

  • Share your findings

While shown simply in the graphic above, the scientific research process doesn't always move in one direction through the steps. You might skip back and forth between steps or only complete part of the process depending on your goal.

Blair's Biology Assignment 🌱

Grade 10 student Blair just got an assignment for biology class:

If you could snap your fingers and all the mosquitos on Earth would suddenly go extinct, would you do it? Prepare a 2-page paper and list of cited sources.

She'll need to use the scientific research process to answer the question!

Ask Strong Questions

Fluffy dog with question marks animated above its head

Scientific research questions are there to guide your search. They should be narrow enough to keep research focused, but broad enough to make your own conclusions.

Blair's Biology Assignment 🌱

Blair jotted down possible research questions:

A. How are mosquitos connected to other animals and plants in the ecosystem?

B. If mosquitos went extinct, what would happen?

C. What makes a mosquito's buzzing so annoying to humans?

D. Would the results of a mosquito extinction be helpful, harmful, or both?

Quiz

Which questions should Blair explore? Select all that apply.

Find the Right Resources

Woman holding binoculars to her face with large, animated cartoon eyes When narrowing down appropriate resources:

  • Use keywords from your research questions to find information

  • Update your research questions if needed

  • Prioritize more recent work from peer-reviewed and respected sources

  • Keep an open mind by considering multiple perspectives before coming to a conclusion

Blair's Biology Assignment 🌱

Blair tries out some keywords in Google and links from a few sources pop up:

A. Nature (the scientific journal)

B. A question and answer forum

C. National Geographic

D. The subreddit r/MosquitoHating

Quiz

Which sources could Blair cite in her final paper?

Sort and Filter Information

coin sorting machine

Connect each point to a relevant research question, and add any subtopics as needed.

Keep track of where you found each point. It might be more work upfront, but your future self writing the works cited list will thank you!

Blair's Biology Assignment 🌱

Blair is sorting through her notes and choosing which points she might include:

A. The average mosquito weighs about 2.5 milligrams.

B. The malaria parasite, spread by mosquitoes, infected 216 million people and killed 445,000 of them in 2016.

C. Scientists have different views on what might happen if mosquitoes went extinct.

D. Without mosquitoes, thousands of plant species would lose a group of pollinators.

Quiz

Which point(s) could Blair include in her final report?

Analyze the Content

actor Zach Galifianakis doing mental math

Organize the information into a narrative that flows and answers your research questions, cutting out anything unnecessary. Build on the information you gathered with a conclusion of your own.

Blair's Biology Assignment 🌱

Blair needs to settle on a conclusion for her paper:

A. A mosquito extinction would harm many plants and animals but I'd snap my fingers anyway because they annoy me.

B. There are points to argue both sides so I don't know what I would do.

C. Due to the devastating effects on all life on Earth, I would not snap my fingers to cause a mass mosquito extinction.

D. I would snap my fingers to cause a mosquito extinction and protect millions of people from getting malaria every year.

Quiz

Which conclusion(s) could Blair choose?

Share Your Findings

cats sitting around a board room table

Deliver your ideas clearly and directly for the biggest impact! Consider your audience's perspective by asking yourself:

  • What does your audience already know?

  • What is your audience interested in learning?

  • Which words need to be defined?

  • How can you present your content to reach your audience effectively?

Quiz

Blair's project was a written paper that her teacher would read, but which format(s) could she use to communicate her findings with a large group of people at once? Select all that apply.

Take Action

Homer Simpson looking through a magnifying glass and saying aha

Is there something you're wondering about? Dive into the scientific research process to find quality information and get an answer!

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This Byte has been authored by

KV

Kamelia Valkova

Community Manager at Rumie