Expedition 2: How Do Scientists Know What to Research?

Throughout our journey, we will be getting more familiar with the things that scientists and engineers do. Not only are these practices central to the life of a scientist but also to your own experiences in the science classroom and beyond. We’ll start by asking questions.

Despite the various work settings of science, one thing is certain: no matter where science is happening, questions are trying to be answered. As Kit describes, she didn’t know what her question was before she started. She did not wake up one day and ask herself, “Kit, what’s the story of that extinct fox in the Falkland Islands?” Kit had never heard of the fox and wasn’t even sure where the Falkland Islands were! Instead, she got the idea after hearing about another scientist’s work in the Falkland Islands. The researcher who would one day become Kit’s advisor mentioned that there was a fox that lived in the islands that nobody knew much about. This information caught Kit’s attention, and she knew that she needed to learn more in order to develop a scientific (testable) question for her research. Scientists often get ideas from one another, which speaks to the importance of sharing their information with other researchers so that someone else might pick up where the first left off.

In order to begin research, you need to figure out what you know through making observations and learning from the knowledge of others. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information is another practice that scientist engage in during their work. These were the steps that Kit took by talking to others and reading science articles and research papers to develop the questions that still needed to be answered

Researchers often find interesting things along the way and share them so that other researchers can seek answers to them. The researcher Kit listened to shared that there was once a fox that was hunted to extinction, but not much else was known about it. This small bit of information brought Kit to where she is now!


What do you think?

Here are some questions to discuss with your class, or to investigate on your own!

Specific questions:   

  • What are possible ways that the warrah got to the islands?
  • Of the possibilities you came up with, are there any that are more likely than others? Why?

Broader questions: 

  • How does a scientist choose what they want to study?
  • What is something that you would like to study?
  • What other interesting questions do you think might develop about Kit’s adventure?

Have more questions?