Helping you explore how science works with post-16 students

Lesson F: Purposes of scientific research

Key facts

  • Relevance: any AS/A subject
  • Time: 45 minutes

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Scientific investigations are undertaken for a variety of reasons. In this activity students are presented with a number of descriptions of recent scientific investigations with the aim of showing that:

  • Scientific investigations are done to address a variety of purposes. 
  • Some investigations are about testing ideas, rather than describing what happens. 
  • A considerable amount of research is about developing new experimental procedures or applications of scientific research. Such work draws upon existing theoretical ideas in science. 

Students should also be able to illustrate their answers with examples from contemporary scientific research presented through the teaching activity.


The lesson aims to broaden students’ understanding of the various purposes for scientific investigations, and the variety of methods professional scientists use to carry our their investigations.


There are two activities.

Activity F1

Students work in pairs to produce a poster/diagram/chart giving as many reasons as they can why scientists do experiments. 

Activity F2

Students work in pairs to describe the purpose of pieces of research described on a series of cards.