How to think like a scientist

How to think like a scientist

It takes more than a lab coat and a microscope to inhabitthe role.

Thinking like a scientist is an excellent habit to get into, and it will help a lot of the things you learn about this year fit into a broader picture of the world. But you don’t have to be covering a whiteboard in a messy mix of letters, numbers and weird symbols to get there. Here are some practical ways to get your mind working like a mad professor. Or a sane one.

Step one is observation

In short, you should pay attention to everything that’shappening around you. Can you make out the different songs birds sing? What arethe names of the trees you pass when you’re walking somewhere? What’s the differencebetween your phone’s front and back cameras?

Step two is asking questions

Now you’re noticing things, the next step is to ask about what’s happening. Why do birds have different songs – and what do they mean? Why does this tree smell like mashed potatoes? How come you can see yourself blink in your front camera but not a mirror? Curiosity about the world is what you’re aiming for here. Constantly asking whyyyyyy like an annoying toddler.

Step three is investigating your questions

You can ask people, textbooks and/or Google, and you willprobably get some different responses based on the source. Getting a range ofviewpoints will build your knowledge base, and help you reach your own conclusions,based on what seems most likely. It will probably also open up new questions,but that’s okay as well. Remember: you’re training yourself to think a certainway.

Step four is testing your conclusions

You can’t rest easy once you’ve got an answer, though, becausethe most likely answer isn’t always the right one. Pretend you believe theopposite of what you do, and try to prove yourself wrong. Try to catch thatblink in the mirror. Testing your ideas is the best way to determine what’strue and what’s not. Be sceptical about what you’ve heard and read, even if itseems reasonable.

Step five is keeping an open mind

You’ve tested your ideas and they still seem pretty solid. That’s great… but you should always be ready to learn something new and changes everything. The history of science is littered with people who couldn’t let go of their favourite theories. Or their favourite photo filters. Seriously, get a new look.



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