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TPS Quarterly

The Library of Congress > Teachers > TPS Program > TPS Quarterly > Learning Activity (Sec.)

Scientific Inquiry: What Do Scientists and Inventors Think About?


Students will read and analyze selected notes and correspondence from an inventor. Working together, they will identify specific places in each document that reflect the scientific processes of systematic observation, collecting evidence, reasoning, and developing hypotheses. Finally, students will speculate on what might have happened before the events reflected in the document, how a scientist would design the next phase, and how a scientist could test the results.


After completing this learning activity, students will be able to:

  • analyze a primary source;
  • identify stages of scientific processes; and,
  • understand how scientists seek evidence to support hypotheses.

Time Required

Two 45-minute class periods.

Recommended Grade Range







Standards & Benchmarks

Historical Understanding

Standard 2. Understands the historical perspective


Standard 12. Understands the nature of scientific inquiry.
1. Knows that there is no fixed procedure called “the scientific method,” but that investigations involve systematic observations, carefully collected, relevant evidence, logical reasoning, and some imagination in developing hypotheses and explanations
2. Understands that questioning, response to criticism, and open communication are integral to the process of science (e.g., scientists often differ with one another about the interpretation of evidence or theory in areas where there is not a great deal of understanding; scientists acknowledge conflicting interpretations and work towards finding evidence that will resolve the disagreement)


Adapted from a lesson plan created by Rebecca E. Prince, Rhodes School, River Grove, Illinois.

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