Observation instigates all scientific experimentation. Investigative scientific processes can only be applied to phenomena that can be observed and measured. Detailed observations motivate scientists to ask questions about the causes and the effects of phenomena they observe. In this way, science continues to progress and enhance the lives of individuals and society by encouraging a continued search for reason and understanding.

Students explore the importance of observation and the collection of quantitative and qualitative data in scientific investigations. They conduct their own practical investigation, either individually or collaboratively, which is used to demonstrate the importance of making detailed and accurate observations, determining the types of variables and formulating testable scientific hypotheses.

Investigating Science Syllabus Stage 6 p.35


Role of Observations

How does observation instigate scientific investigation?

carry out a practical investigation to record both quantitative and qualitative data from observations, for example:

 burning a candle floating in a closed container
 the behaviour of slaters in a dry/wet or light/dark environment
 the Bernoulli effect
 strata in rock cuttings

Mary Anning's  drawing of a Plesiosaur , 1824.

Mary Anning's drawing of a Plesiosaur, 1824.

Strata in Rock cuttings - Fossils

Mary anning - Palaeontologist

"She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore"
Terry Sullivan, 1908

This tongue twister has become part of metafolklore as it describes the work of Mary Anning, who in 1812 as a teenager collected fossils from the cliffs at Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast in England. She was the first to find a plesiosaurus and was a untrained yet productive palaeontologist who was able to provide accurate drawings and descriptions of the fossils that she collected from the Dorset coast.

Click on the picture to visit the Catalyst page on the Canberra Parliament Circle rock cutting.

Click on the picture to visit the Catalyst page on the Canberra Parliament Circle rock cutting.

Canberra Geology

"By driving around the State Circle as it cuts through the rock around Parliament House, it’s easy to see the underlying geology of Canberra’s Capitol Hill. Paul Willis reveals the history of the rocky foundations supporting our Centre of Government."

Catalyst 23/6/2011


atlas - visgeol.com

High resolution images of rock strata

Visit: http://www.ausgeol.org/atlas/ to access the interactive geological map and select a pin with multiple sites to then zoom in to select a single site. 

Once you have selected a site you can then download the 3D file as either a .PDF to view with Adobe or download the file as a .KMZ file to then view with GeoVis 3D.


discuss and evaluate the characteristics of observations made compared to inferences drawn in respect of the practical investigation


research how observation has instigated experimentation to investigate cause and effect in historical examples, including but not limited to:
 Archimedes observing the displacement of water
 Alexander Fleming’s observations of the effect of mould on bacteria
 Galileo’s observations of the movement of Jupiter’s moons

Click on the image above to visit the PDF document from the American Chemistry Society

Click on the image above to visit the PDF document from the American Chemistry Society


"The introduction of penicillin in the 1940s, which began the era of antibiotics, has been recognised as one of the greatest advances in therapeutic medicine. The discovery of penicillin and the initial recognition of its therapeutic potential occurred in the United Kingdom, but, due to World War II, the United States played the major role in developing large-scale production of the drug, thus making a life-saving substance in limited supply into a widely available medicine"

Source: American Chemistry Society: Alexander Fleming Discovery and Development of Penicillin.


assess ways in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples use observation to develop an understanding of Country and Place in order to create innovative ways of managing the natural environment, including but not limited to:  firestick farming
 knowledge about plants for medicinal purposes

landline 26/5/2013 - Firestick Farming

BILL GAMMAGE: "The scrub was very open when Europeans arrived. There's stories of driving coaches through country which is now very thick scrub. And what happened was simply that Aboriginal burning was stopped and that allowed the scrub first and then the Eucalypts to regenerate and gradually the bush became denser and denser and denser. And you can see that particularly on hills, but you can see it in all kinds of vegetation. Open, dry, Western Plains-type of Eucalypts, the wet sclerophyll forest, rainforest. Rainforest expands, wet sclerophyll forest gets thicker. So, Aboriginal fire was actually making Australia, not a natural landscape, but a made landscape. Aborigines made it. And Europeans, when they came, assumed it was natural and so they left it alone. And what that meant was that trees and scrub were promoted to the disadvantage of grass."

Source: Landline; Fire Power


wHAT are the benefits and drawbacks of quantitative and qualitative observations

carry out a practical activity to qualitatively and quantitatively describe, for example:
 microscopic images of a variety of cells
 geological strata in rock faces and road cuttings
 an object falling due to gravity
 characteristics of acids and bases

analyse the quantitative data from the following information sources, including but not limited to:
 digital images and hand-drawn diagrams of cells
 geological succession obtained from rock strata
 graphs of results obtained from observations of an object falling due to gravity
 data showing the pH of acids and bases

Robert Hooke's drawing of Cork from page 144 - (N.B. p.158 of the PDF)

Robert Hooke's drawing of Cork from page 144 - (N.B. p.158 of the PDF)

Microscopic images of cells


"For, as to the first, since our Microscope informs us that the substance of Cork is altogether fill'd with Air, and that that Air is perfectly enclosed in little Boxes or Cells distinct from one another." p.113 Micrographia, Robert Hooke 1665.

Robert Hooke is the first to describe a cell in his magnum opus Micrographia.

Used with permission from Tagide deCarvalho

Used with permission from Tagide deCarvalho


Objects falling due to gravity

"Well, in my left hand, I have a feather; in my right hand, a hammer. And I guess one of the reasons we got here today was because of a gentleman named Galileo, a long time ago, who made a rather significant discovery about falling objects in gravity fields. And we thought where would be a better place to confirm his findings than on the Moon."
Astronaut David Scott, Apollo 15 Commander.

On the last moon walk on the Apollo 15 mission, Commander David Scott dropped a hammer and a feather at the same time and they hit the ground at virtually the same time. This action was performed live for the television cameras. Scott replicated the experiments of Galileo Galilee who dropped metal spheres of different masses form The Leaning Tower of Pisa and concluded that the speed of falling objects is independent of their mass (when air resistance is ignored or negligible).

evaluate the differences between qualitative and quantitative observations and data and where these are used

Observations as Evidence

how does primary data provide evidence for further investigation

● use data gathered to plan a practical investigation to:

 pose further questions that will be investigated  discuss the role of variables
 determine the independent and dependent variables
 formulate a hypothesis that links the independent and dependent variables
 describe at least three variables that should be controlled in order to increase the validity of the investigation

● develop a method to collect primary data for a practical investigation by:

 describing how to change the independent variable
 determining the characteristics of the measurements that will form the dependent variable
 describing how the data will be collected
 describing how the controlled variables will be made consistent
 describing how risks can be minimised

evaluate how observation is limited by the observational tools available, including but not limited to:

 observing the Universe
 digital versus analogue technologies