Review the data
Students must look at the results of the experiment with a critical eye and ask themselves these questions:
- Is it complete, or did I forget something?
- Do I need to collect more data?
- Did I make any mistakes?
- Do the data answer my primary research question or problem?
- What additional questions do the data reveal?
If this initial review begs more investigations to be performed, students should revisit that practice.
Once collected, students should spend time with their data, looking for any patterns or relationships. They can begin exploring their raw data, and then organizing it in different ways to extract further meaning (see Perform Calculations). Students should consider what type of graph would best show the relationships that they’re interested in seeing. Whether engaging with data for the purpose of science or engineering, analyzing and interpreting data is an important science and engineering practice.
When reviewing data in engineering projects, engineers analyze a design by creating a prototype and collecting extensive data on how it performs, including under extreme conditions. Analysis of this kind of data informs design decisions and enables the prediction or assessment of performance. It also helps define or clarify problems, determine the feasibility of a design, investigate weaknesses, and evaluate alternatives.