The role of a hypothesis in the Scientific Method

Experimental Hypothesis
Review the role of a hypothesis in the Scientific Method in Chapter 1. Your hypothesis should be an answer to your research question.

Example: I observe that birds at my bird feeder prefer to eat certain seeds over others. I wonder if birds are picking the seeds that contain more energy (calories) to feed on first. My research question is then: do birds pick foods based on calorie content? My hypothesis could be “Birds will preferentially consume high calorie seeds over low calorie seeds.”

Briefly summarize the methods you used in your experiment. It should be detailed enough for someone to repeat your experiment. DO NOT COPY AND PASTE FROM YOUR LAB MANUAL!!

Example: This experiment was carried out in a local park where wild songbirds have been observed. Shelled sunflower seeds (584 calories/ 100 g) and dried corn kernels (386 calories/100 g) were chosen as food sources due to their popularity in wild birdseed and their difference in caloric value. Two cups of sunflower seeds were placed on a ceramic plate under a tree. Two cups of dried corn kernels were placed on a separate ceramic plate located next to the plate containing sunflower seeds. The plates were left out for birds to feed on for six hours in the morning (5:00 – 11:00). An observer monitored the plates from a picnic table located approximately 200 meters away to ensure only songbirds fed from the plates. After six hours, the remaining mass of seed was weighed. This procedure was repeated for five days.

Typically, the results section does not include raw data. However, for this report, include the data your group collected in your report. From that data, calculate the averages of your group data, and include your work in the final report. Report your data collected (averages, etc.) in sentence form.

Create a graph using your data. Your graph MUST include 1) Descriptive title, 2) axis labels, including units, and 3) legend or key, if applicable.


Volume seeds consumed
Day Sunflower Corn
1 1.3 0.7
2 1.2 0.6
3 1.6 1.1
4 1.5 0.5

Average = sum of all data points/ number of data points
Sunflower average = (1.3 + 1.2 + 1.6 + 1.5)/ 4 = 5.6/4 = 1.4 Corn average = (0.7 + 0.6 + 1.1 + 0.5)/ 4 = 2.9/4 = 0.725

Of the five days of observation, data from only four days was analyzed. Data from the remaining day had to be discarded as squirrels consumed most of the seeds before any birds were sighted. Birds consumed more sunflower seeds (average =1.4 cups) than dried corn kernels (average = 0.7 cups) over the course of six hours (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Consumption of seeds by songbirds
Consumption of seeds by songbirds

This is the “so what?” section. Explain whether or not the data supports your hypothesis. Discuss how your results fit into what is currently known on the subject. Finally, discuss any alternative explanations to your data and suggest future areas of research.

For this part of the paper, you will need to research some of the background on the experiment’s topic. You MUST use 2-3 sources in your discussion. These sources can include your textbook, credible websites, journal articles, books, etc. Wikipedia is NOT an acceptable source. These sources must be cited in the body of the paragraph and in a separate references section!

Example: When given a choice, birds preferentially fed from the calorie-rich sunflower seeds over corn kernels.
This supports our hypothesis that birds will choose and consume higher calorie foods over lower calorie foods. This is in line with optimal foraging theory, which posits that organisms should seek to optimize nutrient consumption against effort (Sinervo, 1997). A good example of this pattern was seen by Snellen et al. (2007), which observed that western gulls (Larus occidentalis) preferentially fed on high calorie sea urchins over other organisms in the rocky intertidal zone.

However, this study does not take into account handling time (Werner & Hall 1974). As sunflower seeds are much smaller than corn kernels, it may be that songbirds are basing some of their choice on ease of consumption. A follow-up study should examine the time for consuming a similar amount of sunflower seeds and corn kernels to account for this potential source of error.

In conclusion, while other aspects of feeding strategy may play a role in an organisms foraging pattern, calorie count is likely an important contributing factor.

Works Cited:
Sinervo, Barry. “Optimal foraging theory: constraints and cognitive processes.” Behavioral ecology (1997): 105-130.

Snellen, C. L., P. J. Hodum, and E. Fernández-Juricic. “Assessing western gull predation on purple sea urchins in the rocky intertidal using optimal foraging theory.” Canadian Journal of Zoology 85.2 (2007): 221-231.

Werner, Earl E., and Donald J. Hall. “Optimal foraging and the size selection of prey by the bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus).” Ecology 55.5 (1974): 1042-1052.

Sample Solution