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Thinking Process

Have you ever watched something happen and maybe even wondered about how it was made? All people have a natural curiosity and ask questions about the world around them. How do we find the answers to these questions? Two processes that help us find answers are Inquiry and Design. Scientists typically utilize inquiry, while engineers employ design.

These processes aren't done just once; they're dynamic. Each process can serve as a general guideline to follow; it's not meant to be rigid steps that cannot be adjusted. Think of inquiry and design like putting together a giant million piece puzzle. Each piece you put together reveals a little bit more of the whole picture. At first, you may have forced some pieces together that didn't belong together, so you need to go back and adjust it. That is the value of getting feedback between steps. That feedback can guide the way you design the next steps or redesign the previous steps of your experiment. You will gain insight from others on your work, and make improvements on your experiment or design along the way.


Who can provide you with feedback? You can get great ideas and help from other students, your teachers, other adults, experts in the field, and those in the broader scientific and engineering community. There is nothing wrong with many people working on the same puzzle together. In fact the puzzle is completed much faster that way. How long would it take you all by yourself to put together a million piece puzzle? That's an overwhelming thought, isn't it? You can visit Understanding How Science Really Works to gain a better understanding of how these feedback loops fit within the steps listed in the paragraph to the right.

If you follow each section step by step and seek feedback from others along the way, then you will end up with two products that allow you to share with others the experiment you did or the design you built: a Research Paper and a Display Board. By going through each step of the inquiry or design process, you will learn how to think like a real scientist or engineer. By writing your Research Paper and creating a Display Board, others will understand what you did and give you more ideas of what to do next. Some confuse the Literature Review with the Research Paper. The Literature Review is the background knowledge you need to either run your experiment or design your device. You don't need a special diploma to be a scientist or engineer. You just need to learn how to think like one and how to go through the same process a scientist or engineer does when answering questions or building a prototype.

The biggest difference between the way a scientist and engineer thinks and the way everyone else thinks is that scientists and engineers make decisions based on data and logic. They also check their thinking with other scientists or engineers along the way. Some of their scientist friends do the same experiment or their engineering friends try to build the same prototype. Sometimes they give each other great ideas of how to make the experiment or device even better and more useful to solving real problems. Through the inquiry and/or design process you will learn how to gather sound data to make decisions based on evidence rather than just your gut feelings and to seek the help of others that will take your thinking to whole new levels. On your mark, get set, and get ready to learn how to think and solve problems like a real scientist or engineer. Promise yourself now that you'll learn and have fun each step of the way!
Subpages (2): Design Inquiry