Handbook : Organizing Information
Being able to explain ideas to other people is an important part of our everyday
lives. Whether reading a book, writing a letter, or watching a television program,
people everywhere are giving their opinions and sharing information with each
One way to record information, and express how you think about a topic in science
is by writing in your Science Journal. It also lets you show how much you know
about a subject. There are many different kinds of Science Journal assignments.
You may be asked to pretend you are a scientist, a TV reporter, or a committee
member of a local environmental group and write from that point of view. Maybe
you will be communicating your opinions to a member of Congress, a doctor, or
to the editor of your local newspaper. Sometimes, you will summarize information,
make an outline or a diagram, or write a letter or a paragraph in your Science
You may not realize it, but you make things orderly in the world around you. If
you hang all your shirts together in the closet or if your favorite CDs are stacked
together by performer, you have used the skill of classifying. Classifying is
the process of sorting objects or events into groups based on things they have
in common. When classifying, first look closely at the objects or events to be
classified. Then, select one characteristic or feature that is shared by some
members in the group but not by all.
those members that share that feature into their own group. You can classify members
into smaller and smaller groups based on similar characteristics.
do you do with the dishes after they are washed? You classify them as you put
them away, as shown in Figure 2. You separate the silverware from the plates
and glasses. Forks, spoons, and knives each have their own place in the drawer.
You would keep separating the dishes until all are classified and put away. Remember
that all the smaller groups still share the common feature of being an eating
A sequence is an arrangement of things or events in a certain order. When you
are asked to sequence objects or events, decide what comes first, then think about
what should come next. Continue to choose objects or events until all are in order.
Then, go back over the sequence to make sure each thing or event in your sequence
logically leads to the next.
sequence you are familiar with is alphabetical order. Another example of sequence
would be the steps in a recipe, as shown in Figure 3. Think about following
a recipe. Steps in a recipe for chocolate-chip cookies have to be followed in
order for the cookies to turn out right.
If you were taking a trip in a car, you would probably take along a road map.
The road map shows you where you are, where you are going, and other places along
concept map is similar to a road map. But a concept map shows relationships among
ideas (or concepts) rather than places. A concept map is a diagram that shows
how concepts are related visually. Because the concept map shows relationships
among ideas, it can make the meanings of ideas and terms clear and help you understand
better what you are studying.
types of concept maps are described here: a network tree, an events chain, and
a spider map.
at the concept map about U.S. currency in Figure 4. This is called a network
tree. Notice how some words are in rectangles while others are written across
connecting lines. The words inside the rectangles are main ideas. The lines in
the map show connections between ideas. The words written on the lines describe
relationships between concepts.
you construct a network tree, write down the topic and list the major concepts
related to that topic. Look at your list and begin to put the ideas or concepts
in order from general to specific. Branch the related concepts from the major
concept and describe the relationships on the lines.
An events chain map is used to describe concepts in order. In science, an events
chain can be used to describe a sequence of events, the steps in a procedure,
or the stages of a process.
making an events chain, first find the one event that starts the chain. This event
is called the initiating event. Then, find the next event in the chain and continue
until you reach an outcome. Suppose you are asked to describe what happens when
your alarm clock rings. An events chain map describing the steps might look like
cycle concept map is a special type of events chain map.
a cycle concept map, the series of events does not produce a final outcome. The
last event in the chain relates back to the initiating event. Because there is
no outcome and the last event relates back to the initiating event, the cycle
repeats itself. Look at the cycle map describing the relationship between day
and night in Figure 6.
A fourth type of concept map is the spider map. This is a map that you can use
for brainstorming. Once you brainstorm ideas from a central idea, you may find
you have a jumble of ideas. Many of these ideas are related to the central idea
but are not necessarily clearly related to each other. As illustrated by the spider
map in Figure 7, you may begin to separate and group unrelated terms so
that they become more useful by writing them outside the main concept.
and Using Tables
Browse through your textbook and you will notice tables in the text and in the
activities. In a table, data or information is arranged in a way that makes it
easier for you to understand. Activity tables help organize and interpret the
data you collect during an activity. Most tables have a title. The title tells
you what the table is about. A table is divided into columns and rows. The first
column lists items to be compared. In Figure 8, a collection of recyclable
materials is being compared in a table. The row across the top lists the specific
characteristics being compared. Collected data are recorded within the grid of
the table. To make a table, list the items to be compared down in columns and
the characteristics to be compared across in rows.
title of the table in Figure 8 is "Recycled Materials." What is being compared?
This table shows the different materials being recycled and on which days they
are recycled. To find out how much plastic, in kilograms, is being recycled on
Wednesday, locate the column labeled "Plastic (kg)" and the row "Wed." The datum
in the box where the column and row intersect gives the answer. Did you answer
"0.5"? How much aluminum, in kilograms, is being recycled on Friday? If you answered
"1.0," you understand how to use the parts of the table.
Making and Using Graphs
scientists organize data in tables, they often show the data in a graph. A graph
is a diagram that shows the relationship of one item or variable to another. A
graph makes interpretation and analysis of data easier. There are three basic
types of graphs used in science: the line graph, the bar graph, and the circle
line graph is used to show the relationship between two variables. The variables
being compared go on two axes of the graph. The independent variable always goes
on the horizontal axis, called the x-axis. The independent variable is the condition
that is being changed. The dependent variable always goes on the vertical axis,
called the y-axis. The dependent variable is any change that results from the
changes in the independent variable.
your class started to record the amount of materials they collected in one week
for their school to recycle. The collected information is shown in Figure 9.
could make a graph of the materials collected over the three days of the school
week. The three weekdays are the independent variables and are placed on the x-axis
of your graph. The amount of materials collected is the dependent variable and
would go on the y-axis. After drawing your axes, label each with a scale. The
x-axis lists the three weekdays. To make a scale of the amount of materials collected
on the y-axis, look at the data values. Because the lowest amount collected was
1.0 and the highest was 5.0, you will have to start numbering at least at 1.0
and go through 5.0.
plot the data points for collected paper. The first pair of data you want to plot
is Monday and 5.0 kg of paper. Locate "Monday" on the x-axis and locate "5.0"
on the y-axis. Where an imaginary vertical line from the x-axis and an imaginary
horizontal line from the y-axis would meet, place the first data point. Place
the other data points the same way. After all the points are plotted, connect
them with the best smooth curve. Repeat this procedure for the data points for
aluminum. Use continuous and dashed lines to distinguish the two line graphs.
The resulting graph should look like Figure 10.
graphs are similar to line graphs. They compare data that do not continuously
change. In a bar graph, vertical bars show the relationships among data.
make a bar graph, set up the x-axis and y-axis as you did for the line graph.
The data are plotted by drawing vertical bars from the x-axis up to a point where
the y-axis would meet the bar if it were extended. Look at the bar graph in
Figure 11 comparing the mass of aluminum collected over three weekdays. The
x-axis is the days on which the aluminum was collected. The y-axis is the mass
of aluminum collected, in kilograms.
circle graph or pie graph uses a circle divided into sections to show data. Each
section represents part of the whole. All the sections together equal 100 percent.
you wanted to make a circle graph to show the number of seeds that sprouted or
grew from a package of seeds. You count the total number of seeds. You find that
there are 143 seeds in the package. This represents 100 percent, the whole circle.
You plant the seeds, and 129 seeds sprout. The seeds that sprouted will make up
one section of the circle graph, and the seeds that did not sprout will make up
the remaining section.
find out how much of the circle each section should take, divide the number of
seeds in each section by the total number of seeds. Then multiply your answer
by 360, the number of degrees in a circle. Round to the nearest whole number.
The section of the circle graph in degrees that represents the seeds sprouted
is shown in Figure 12 below.
plot these data on a circle graph, you need a compass and a protractor. Use the
compass to draw a circle. It will be easier to measure the part of the circle
representing the seeds that did not sprout, so subtract 325° from 360°
to get 35°. Draw a straight line from the center of the circle to the edge
of the circle. Place your protractor on this line and use it to mark a point at
this point to draw a straight line from the center of the circle to the edge.
This is the section for the group of seeds that did not grow. The other section
represents the group of 129 seeds that did grow. Label the sections and title