Introductory Chemistry: A Foundation - Zumdahl S.S., DeCoste D.J. 2019

Chemistry: An Introduction
Solving Problems Using a Scientific Approach


· To understand scientific thinking.

One of the most important things we do in everyday life is solve problems. In fact, most of the decisions you make each day can be described as solving problems.

It’s 8:30 a.m. on Friday. Which is the best way to drive to school to avoid traffic congestion?

You have two tests on Monday. Should you divide your study time equally or allot more time to one than to the other?

Your car stalls at a busy intersection, and your little brother is with you. What should you do next?

These are everyday problems of the type we all face. What process do we use to solve them? You may not have thought about it before, but there are several steps that almost everyone uses to solve problems:

1. Recognize the problem and state it clearly. Some information becomes known, or something happens that requires action. In science we call this step making an observation.

2. Propose possible solutions to the problem or possible explanations for the observation. In scientific language, suggesting such a possibility is called formulating a hypothesis.

3. Decide which of the solutions is the best or decide whether the explanation proposed is reasonable. To do this we search our memories for any pertinent information, or we seek new information. In science we call searching for new information performing an experiment.

As we will discover in the next section, scientists use these same procedures to study what happens in the world around us. The important point here is that scientific thinking can help you in all parts of your life. It’s worthwhile to learn how to think scientifically—whether you want to be a scientist, an auto mechanic, a doctor, a politician, or a poet!