Five steps make up most scientific experiments, beginning with the research question. The next step is the formulation of a hypothesis, which is a statement of what you expect your project will show. The procedure is your step-by-step plan for the experiment. The final two steps are the results, or what happens, and, finally, the conclusion, or what the results showed.
When you record the results of a scientific experiment, you record what happens as you follow your procedure. Results should be raw data that is measurable rather than general observations, and it should relate directly to your research question and hypothesis. For example, if your experiment involves growing plants, the results will be data about one aspect of the plants’ growth, such as how much each plant grows over a particular period of time or which seed sprouts first. The results should also include notations of any variations in the conditions of the experiment, which in this case might be an unexpected overnight freeze or which seed received the most water.
At the end of your experiment’s procedure, you have data that tells what happened, but at this point it is just a collection of facts or numbers. The data needs to be organized before you can understand it, but how you organize the data depends on the factor tested in your experiment. If you entered the data into a chart as you collected it, you may already see a pattern. Another way to organize the data is with a line graph to show change over time, especially temperature changes. In the example of plant growth, a bar graph can illustrate how much each plant grew between measurements.
After all the data is organized in a form that relates it to your hypothesis, you can interpret it and reach a conclusion about the experiment. The conclusion is simply a report about what you learned based on whether the results agree or disagree with your hypothesis. It usually contains a summary of the actual procedure and makes note of anything unexpected that happened during the experiment. Your conclusion should consider all possible explanations of the data, including any errors you might have made, such as forgetting to water the plants one day. It can also give you a point from which to create further hypotheses relating to the experiment.
No Right or Wrong
The conclusion, which is also sometimes called a discussion or interpretation, is a statement about the experiment’s results. As a report of your data, it can’t be considered wrong even if the results don’t support your hypothesis. You have learned that your hypothesis does not answer your original research question.