Science - Glossary of Terms

Each of the following terms refers to a theme that connects and unifies the many disciplines of science. The themes are found particularly in Standard A and are mentioned consistently throughout the science standards. They are identified with an asterisk (*) each time they appear.

Change. A variance in the rate, scale, and pattern, including trends and cycles.

Constancy. The stability of a property, such as the speed of light.

Equilibrium. The physical state in which forces and changes occur in opposite and off-setting directions.

Evidence. Data and documentation that support inferences or conclusions.

Evolution. A series of changes, some gradual and some sporadic, that accounts for the present form and function* of objects.

Explanation. The skill of communication in which an interpretation of information is given and stated to others.

Form and Function. Complimentary aspects of objects, organisms, and systems in the natural world.

Measurement. The quantification of changes in systems, including mathematics.

Models. Tentative schemes or structures that correspond to real objects, events, or classes of events, and that have explanatory power.

Order. The behavior of units of matter, objects, organisms, or events in the universe.

Organization. Descriptions of systems based on complexity and/or order.

Systems. An organized group of related objects or components that form a whole.


The following terms are used uniquely in science. They are used consistently throughout the standards and are identified by an asterisk (*) each time they appear. They represent the range of rigorous science skills and knowledge found in the standards.

Analyze. The skill of recognizing the underlying details of important facts or patterns that are not always readily visible.

Apply. The skill of selecting and using information in other situations or problems.

Construct. The skill of developing or creating.

Describe. The skill of developing a detailed picture or image.

Discover. The skill of learning through study or investigation.

Energy. The work that a physical system is capable of completing or doing.

Evaluate. The skill of collecting and examining data to make judgments and appraisals.

Group. The skill of identifying objects according to characteristics.

Identify. The skill of recognizing patterns, facts, or details.

Inference. The skill of using the results of an investigation based on a premise.

Illustrate. The skill of giving examples to describe something.

Interaction. The influence of objects, materials, or events on one another

Investigate. Scientific methodology that systematically employs many inquiry skills.

Observation. The skill of describing scientific events.

Predict. The skill of explaining new events based on observations or information.

Relate. The skill of association.

Show. The skill of illustration.

Understand. The skill of having and applying well-organized bodies of knowledge.


(1996). National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

For questions about this information, contact Shelley Lee (608) 266-3319