What is inquiry?
Observe and wonder:
Inquiry begins when people focus on the world around them and uses their senses to experience what's there. They may compare what they see to what they already know or to other things they observe.
Observations naturally trigger curiosity. When scientists pose questions, they may challenge assumptions, synthesize observations, or infer that what they see involves more than meets the eye.
Scientists use logical reasoning to theorize about what answers they might find, and whether and why they think that some of these answers might be more likely than others. Often, scientists will identify factors they think will influence the possible answers.
Plan and test:
Scientists organize a systematic method to collect data that will confirm or contradict their hypotheses. They must remain as objective and consistent as possible through the data collection process to ensure their evidence is sound, and not biased in some way.
Analyze and interpret:
Once the data are gathered, scientists summarize their data and report statistics or evidence about what they've found. Then scientists will apply their best logical reasoning to give the information meaning.
Conclude and report:
When considering all the data, scientists determine which hypothesis is best supported by the evidence. They often use graphs or tables to explain their findings to others.
Reflect and rethink:
Scientists must continually re-evaluate their assumptions, consider alternatives, identify problems with their process, seek input, troubleshoot, and ask more questions. At any point, they may rethink their investigation plan and go in a different direction with new questions.