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NSW Syllabuses


The terms defined in this glossary have specific relevance for teaching or the interpretation of the Science K–10 (incorporating Science and Technology K–6) Syllabus.

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accuracy (plausible)

Accuracy estimated taking into consideration the evident sources of error and the limitations of the instruments used in making the measurements.


The use of living things to make or change products. Gene technology sits within the broader area of biotechnology and includes the discovery of genes, understanding of how genes function and interact, and genetic modification or engineering. 

An opinion or judgement based on evidence.
Contexts are devised by teachers and are the framework within which the learning experiences take place. The skills, knowledge and understanding content is developed in contexts relevant to the needs, interests, experiences and cultural backgrounds of students. The syllabus does not specify contexts, as these will be selected by the teacher.
control (the control in an experiment)
The sample in an experiment to which all the other samples are compared.
Facts or figures that can be used to draw conclusions.
dependent variable
The factor in an experiment that changes as a result of changes to the independent variable; conventionally plotted on the vertical (y) axis of a graph.
Earth's spheres

The four interacting spheres, ie atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere and hydrosphere.

In science, evidence is valid/reliable data that can be used to support a particular theory, hypothesis, idea or conclusion.
fair test
An investigation where one variable (the independent variable) is changed and all other conditions (controlled variables) are kept the same; what is measured or observed is referred to as the dependent variable.
An investigation that is undertaken in the normal environment of the subject of the study.
first-hand investigation
Inquiry based on the direct use of observation or measurement.
formal measurement
Measurement that is based on an agreed standard unit, eg metre, second and gram.
A predictive statement that can be tested using a range of methods, most often associated with experimental procedure; can be supported or refuted by experiment.
independent variable
The variable that is deliberately changed, often through a series of preset values. Conventionally plotted on the horizontal (x) axis of a graph.
Relationships between components within and between systems that lead to a greater understanding of how our world works.
Plan, inquire into and draw conclusions.
A type of first-hand activity that can be used to answer a question, explore an idea or solve a problem. A scientific investigation is a systematic inquiry usually involving using and applying the processes of planning a course of action, safely manipulating tools and equipment in collecting and interpreting data, drawing evidence-based conclusions and communicating findings.
A simple and precise statement that has been shown, based on available evidence, to be universally reliable. It describes phenomena that occur with unvarying regularity under the same conditions. No scientific law is ever conclusively verified.
A mathematical, conceptual or physical representation that describes, simplifies, clarifies or provides an explanation of the structure, workings or relationships within an object, system or idea. Models can provide a means of testing and predicting behaviour within limited conditions.
multi-modal text
Text that combines two or more modes of communication. This can include print text as well as image and spoken word as in film or computer presentations.
natural world
Relates to and includes phenomena in the biological and physical (including chemical and geological components) world on and beyond the Earth.
That which can be sensed either directly by an individual or indirectly by measuring devices.
To use descriptive explanations involving features, characteristics or properties to identify important components. Data and information that is not numerical in nature.
Data or components that can be expressed or measured numerically, including chemical formulae or numbers.
To identify connections or associations between ideas and/or relationships between components of systems and structures.
reliability of first-hand data

The degree to which repeated observation and/or measurements taken under identical circumstances will yield the same results.

To locate, gather, record and analyse information through literature and/or first-hand investigation to develop understanding.
scientific inquiry

The processes of scientific inquiry enable scientists to develop answers to questions and to improve explanations for phenomena in the natural world. A scientific idea must be framed in a way that is testable and can be either refuted or confirmed by observation or experiment (empirical evidence). Scientific knowledge is refined and extended as new evidence arises or existing evidence is re-conceptualised. As students engage in applying the skills and processes of Working Scientifically, they extend their understanding of scientific ideas and concepts and how these are developed through scientific inquiry.

secondary sources
A range of forms of information and data that have resulted from the investigations of other people, including graphs, diagrams and images.
Perceptions that a living organism uses to take in information about its surroundings. The five main senses are hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell.
Entities in which the parts are linked together to form a whole.
A type of investigation to obtain data and information that involves asking respondents a range of questions.
The patterns of activities that meet the needs of the present generation without prejudicing the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
A set of components within the natural and made environments that interact. An understanding of natural complex systems requires the integration and application of concepts from more than one Science discipline.
technological design
The process of design, produce and evaluate.
The knowledge and creative processes that assist people to use tools, resources and systems to solve problems and meet human needs and wants.
text types

Different forms of writing for particular purposes, including discussion, explanation, exposition, procedure, recount and report.

An explanation of a body of experimental evidence that has been accepted through the processes of review by the scientific community. A theory provides predictions that can be tested against observations and can be supported or refuted.
validity of first-hand data
The extent to which the processes and resultant data measure what was intended.
A factor that can be changed, kept the same or measured in an investigation.
variable held constant
Factors that may vary, but for the purposes of an experiment are deliberately held constant so that a valid conclusion is possible.