Glossary

adaptation

A physical or behavioural characteristic that is inherited and which results in an individual being more likely to survive and reproduce in its environment.

analyse

To consider in detail for the purpose of finding meaning or relationships, and identifying patterns, similarities and differences.

characteristic

A distinguishing aspect (including features and behaviours) of an object material, living thing or event.

chart

A visual display of information.

classify

To arrange items into named categories in order to sort, group or identify them.

collaborate

To work with others to perform a specific task.

conclusion

A judgement based on evidence.

contemporary science

New and emerging science research and issues of current relevance and interest.

continuous data

Quantitative data with a potentially infinite number of possible values along a continuum.

controlled variable

A variable that is kept constant (or changed in constant ways) during an investigation.

convention

An agreed method of representing concepts, information and behaviours.

data

The plural of datum; the measurement of an attribute, the volume of gas or the type of rubber. This does not necessarily mean a single measurement: it may be the result of averaging several repeated measurements and these could be quantitative or qualitative.

dependent variable

A variable that changes in response to changes to the independent variable in an investigation.

design

To plan and evaluate the construction of a product or process, including an investigation.

digital technologies

Systems that handle digital data, including hardware and software, for specific purposes.

discrete data

Quantitative data consisting of a number of separate values where intermediate values are not permissible.

environment

All the surroundings, both living and non-living.

evaluate

To examine and judge the merit or significance of something, including processes, events, descriptions, relationships or data.

evidence

In science, evidence is data that is considered reliable and valid, and that can be used to support a particular idea, conclusion or decision. Evidence gives weight or value to data by considering its credibility, acceptance, bias, status, appropriateness and reasonableness.

experiment / experimental investigation

An investigation that involves carrying out a practical activity.

fair test

An investigation where one variable (the independent variable) is changed and all other conditions (controlled variables) are kept the same; what is measured or observed is referred to as the dependent variable.

familiar

well-known; something that a student has encountered previously on a number of occasions.

field study / work

An observational or practical research undertaken in a normal environment of the subject of a study, that is, an investigation can be conducted outside the laboratory.

force

A push or pull between objects, which may cause one or both objects to change speed and/or direction of their motion (that is, accelerate) or change their shape. Scientists identify four fundamental forces: gravitational, electromagnetic (involving both electrostatic and magnetic forces), weak nuclear forces and strong nuclear forces. All interactions between matter can be explained as an action of one or a combination of the four fundamental forces.

formal measurement

Measurement based on an agreed standard unit (metre, second, gram).

formal unit

A unit of measurement based on an agreed fixed standard (metre, second, gram).

graph

A visual representation of the relationship between quantities plotted with reference to a set of axes.

guided investigation

An investigation partly directed by a teacher.

hypothesis

A tentative idea or explanation for an observation, which can be tested and either supported or refuted by investigation.

independent variable

A variable that is changed in an investigation to see what effect it has on the dependent variable.

informal measurement

Measurement that is not based on any agreed standard unit (for example, hand spans, paces, cups).

informal units

Measurements based on variable quantities (for example, hand spans, paces, cups).

information research

A study involving collection of information from primary and secondary sources.

investigation

A scientific process of answering a question, exploring an idea or solving a problem that requires activities such as planning a course of action, collecting data, interpreting data, reaching a conclusion and communicating these activities.

law

A statement of a relationship based on available evidence.

local environment

Surroundings that can be considered as proximal or familiar to the subject of investigation (for example, an organism, mountain, student).

material

A substance with particular qualities or that is used for specific purposes.

matter

A physical substance; anything that has mass and occupies space.

model

A representation that describes, simplifies, clarifies or provides an explanation of the workings, structure or relationships within an object, system or idea.

multimodal text

A text that combines two or more communication modes, for example, print text, image and spoken word as in film or computer presentations.

natural materials

Products or physical matter that come from plants, animals, or earth and have undergone very little modification by humans, minerals and metals that can be extracted from them (without further modification) are considered natural materials.

observable

Something that can be seen, heard, felt, tasted or smelled either directly by an individual or indirectly by a measuring device, for example, a ruler, camera or thermometer.

pattern

A repeated occurrence or sequence.

primary sources

Information created by a person or persons directly involved in a study or observing an event.

processed materials

Products of physical matter that have been modified from natural materials by human intervention or that do not occur at all in the natural environment, but have been designed and manufactured to fulfil a particular purpose.

property

An attribute of an object or material, normally used to describe attributes common to a group.

qualitative data

Information that is not numerical in nature.

quantitative data

Numerical information.

reflect on

To think carefully about something, such as past experiences, activities or events.

relate

To identify connections or associations between ideas or relationships or between components of systems and structures.

relationship

A connection or association between ideas or between components of systems and structures.

reliability

An extent to which repeated observations and/or measurements taken under identical circumstances will yield similar results.

reliable data

Data that have been judged to have a high level of reliability; reliability is the degree to which an assessment instrument or protocol consistently and repeatedly measures an attribute achieving similar results for the same population.

repeat trial

A test within an experimental investigation that is carried out more than once under the same set of conditions.

replicate

An independent experiment that uses the same method in order to validate findings.

report

A written account of an investigation.

research

To locate, gather, record and analyse information in order to develop understanding.

scientific language

Terminology that has specific meaning in a scientific context.

scientific literacy

An ability to use scientific knowledge, understanding, and inquiry skills to identify questions, acquire new knowledge, explain science phenomena, solve problems and draw evidence-based conclusions in making sense of the world, and to recognise how understandings of the nature, development, use and influence of science help us make responsible decisions and shape our interpretations of information.

scientist

A person who works within a recognised field of science.

secondary source

Information that has been compiled from primary sources by a person or persons not directly involved in the original study or event.

senses

Hearing, sight, smell, touch and taste.

simulation

A representation of a process, event or system, which imitates the real situation.

survey

An investigation method involving asking questions of a range of respondents.

sustainable

Supports the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to support their needs.

system

A group of interacting objects, materials or processes that form an integrated whole.

table

An arrangement of data or observations in rows and columns.

technology

A development of products, services, systems and environments, using various types of knowledge, to meet human needs and wants.

theory

An explanation of a set of observations that is based on one or more proven hypotheses, which has been accepted through consensus by a group of scientists.

tools

Equipment used to make a task easier.

trend

General direction in which something is changing.

validity

An extent to which tests measure what was intended; an extent to which data, inferences and actions produced from tests and other processes are accurate.

variable

A factor that can be changed, kept the same or measured in an investigation, for example, time, distance, light, temperature.