Forming A Hypothesis

figure 1-9

A scientific study includes observations, questions, hypotheses, predictions, experiments, data analysis, and conclusions. A biologist can use the scientific method to set up an experiment to learn how an owl captures prey at night.

After stating a question, a biologist lists possible answers to a scientific question—hypotheses. Good hypotheses answer a question and are testable in the natural world. For example, as shown in step © Figure 1-9, there are several possible hypotheses for the question of how owls hunt at night: (a) owls hunt by keen vision in the dark; (b) owls hunt by superb hearing; or (c) owls hunt by detecting the prey's body heat.


To test a hypothesis, scientists make a prediction that logically follows from the hypothesis. A prediction is what is expected to happen if each hypothesis were true. For example, if hypothesis (a) is true, (owls hunt by keen night vision) then one can predict that the owl will pounce only on the mouse in either a light or a dark room. If hypothesis (b) is true (owls hunt by hearing), then one can predict that in a lighted room, the owl will pounce closer to the mouse's head. But, in a dark room, the owl should pounce closer to a rustling leaf attached to the mouse. Finally, if hypothesis (c) is true (owls hunt by sensing body heat), then an owl would strike only the prey no matter the room conditions, because owls hunt by detecting the prey's body heat.

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