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ZingPath: Scientific Investigation

Experimental Error

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Scientific Investigation

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Lesson Focus

Experimental Error


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You will find out how science approaches the world it investigates, and how scientific hypotheses and theories are formed, tested, and proven, at times. Practice your lab safety skills; then learn about the different types of errors that occur in experiments, and how to minimize them.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Explain when experimental error occurs.
  • Explain how to obtain reliable results from experiments.

Everything You'll Have Covered

Explain how human errors are different from systematic and random errors.

~ Human errors are different from systematic and random errors because they occur outside the experiment. These errors occur when people who are conducting experiments make mistakes. Unlike human errors, systematic and random errors occur as part of the science experiment. Systematic errors occur because of the equipment used to conduct experiments. Random errors happen when changes in the environment occur.

What is one example of a random error? How can scientists help make sure random errors do not affect their data?

~ One example of random error is when the outside temperature changes, and that change affects the experiment. Since random errors usually cannot be controlled, scientists should repeat their experiments several times. By repeating their experiments, scientists can then average the results of many experiments. Averaging the data will help scientists be sure that their data is based on science and is not skewed in any direction by random errors.

What type of error occurs when a scale indicates an incorrect weight? How might this error be avoided?

~ When a scale indicates an incorrect weight, a systematic error occurs; systematic errors happen when equipment causes errors. Scientists can try to avoid, or minimize systematic errors by checking the way the equipment is set up and by calibrating and testing the equipment they use to conduct experiments.

How can you calculate an error percentage?

~ An error percentage is calculated by finding the difference between the true value and the measured value and dividing that difference by the expected value. To find the percentage, multiply the result by 100.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 2 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts Students should be able to define calibrating, calibration, and error.
Course Physics
Type of Tutorial Animation
Key Vocabulary calibrating, calibration, error