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published by the University of California Museum of Paleontology
supported by the National Science Foundation
This web page explores misinterpretations of the scientific process and explains why these commonly-held beliefs are incorrect. A few examples of such misconceptions are: "Without an experiment, a study is not rigorous or scientific"; "There is a single scientific method that all scientists follow"; "Scientific ideas are absolute"; "The job of a scientist is to find support for his/her hypothesis"; "Investigations that don't reach a firm conclusion are useless."

The authors also clarify vocabulary mix-ups that occur when lay language and scientific language use the same words differently (such as "uncertainty", "law", and "error").

This web page is part of the Understanding Science project developed by the University of California Museum of Paleontology, in collaboration with a diverse group of scientists and teachers.
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© 2010 University of California Museum of Paleontology, 2010, .
Keywords:
error, evidence, experiment, experimental design, experimental hypothesis, experimental validity, hypothesis, misconceptions, research validity, scientific evidence, scientific hypothesis, scientific method, scientific process, uncertainty
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created September 29, 2010 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
January 24, 2011 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
January 3, 2010

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

1. The Nature of Science

1A. The Scientific Worldview
  • 6-8: 1A/M2. Scientific knowledge is subject to modification as new information challenges prevailing theories and as a new theory leads to looking at old observations in a new way.
1B. Scientific Inquiry
  • 9-12: 1B/H2. Hypotheses are widely used in science for choosing what data to pay attention to and what additional data to seek, and for guiding the interpretation of the data (both new and previously available).
1C. The Scientific Enterprise
  • 6-8: 1C/M7. Accurate record-keeping, openness, and replication are essential for maintaining an investigator's credibility with other scientists and society.
  • 9-12: 1C/H1. The early Egyptian, Greek, Chinese, Hindu, and Arabic cultures are responsible for many scientific and mathematical ideas and technological inventions. Modern science is based on traditions of thought that came together in Europe about 500 years ago. People from all cultures now contribute to that tradition.

12. Habits of Mind

12D. Communication Skills
  • 9-12: 12D/H7. Use tables, charts, and graphs in making arguments and claims in oral, written, and visual presentations.
12E. Critical-Response Skills
  • 6-8: 12E/M2. Compare consumer products and consider reasonable personal trade-offs among them on the basis of features, performance, durability, and cost.

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (1993 Version)

1. THE NATURE OF SCIENCE

B. Scientific Inquiry
  • 1B (6-8) #2.  If more than one variable changes at the same time in an experiment, the outcome of the experiment may not be clearly attributable to any one of the variables. It may not always be possible to prevent outside variables from influencing the outcome of an investigation (or even to identify all of the variables), but collaboration among investigators can often lead to research designs that are able to deal with such situations.
  • 1B (6-8) #4.  New ideas in science sometimes spring from unexpected findings, and they usually lead to new investigations.
  • 1B (9-12) #4.  There are different traditions in science about what is investigated and how, but they all have in common certain basic beliefs about the value of evidence, logic, and good arguments. And there is agreement that progress in all fields of science depends on intelligence, hard work, imagination, and even chance.

12. HABITS OF MIND

E. Critical-Response Skills
  • 12E (6-8) #3.  Be skeptical of arguments based on very small samples of data, biased samples, or samples for which there was no control sample.
  • 12E (6-8) #4.  Be aware that there may be more than one good way to interpret a given set of findings.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.


Topic: History and Philosophy of Physics
Unit Title: The Scientific Process

Researchers have documented commonly-held misconceptions about science and the scientific process. For example: "Without an experiment, a study is not rigorous or scientific"; "There is a single scientific method that all scientists follow"; and "The job of a scientist is to find support for his/her hypothesis". This web page lays it on the line to debunk incorrect ideas and clarify vocabulary mix-ups as well.

Link to Unit:
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AIP Format
(University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, 2010), WWW Document, (http://undsci.berkeley.edu/teaching/misconceptions.php).
AJP/PRST-PER
Understanding Science: Misconceptions About Science, (University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, 2010), <http://undsci.berkeley.edu/teaching/misconceptions.php>.
APA Format
Understanding Science: Misconceptions About Science. (2010, January 3). Retrieved November 23, 2014, from University of California Museum of Paleontology: http://undsci.berkeley.edu/teaching/misconceptions.php
Chicago Format
National Science Foundation. Understanding Science: Misconceptions About Science. Berkeley: University of California Museum of Paleontology, January 3, 2010. http://undsci.berkeley.edu/teaching/misconceptions.php (accessed 23 November 2014).
MLA Format
Understanding Science: Misconceptions About Science. Berkeley: University of California Museum of Paleontology, 2010. 3 Jan. 2010. National Science Foundation. 23 Nov. 2014 <http://undsci.berkeley.edu/teaching/misconceptions.php>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {Understanding Science: Misconceptions About Science}, Publisher = {University of California Museum of Paleontology}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {23 November 2014}, Month = {January 3, 2010}, Year = {2010} }
Refer Export Format

%T Understanding Science: Misconceptions About Science
%D January 3, 2010
%I University of California Museum of Paleontology
%C Berkeley
%U http://undsci.berkeley.edu/teaching/misconceptions.php
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D January 3, 2010
%T Understanding Science: Misconceptions About Science
%I University of California Museum of Paleontology
%V 2014
%N 23 November 2014
%8 January 3, 2010
%9 text/html
%U http://undsci.berkeley.edu/teaching/misconceptions.php


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