How to Draw Appropriate Diagrams of Scientific Processes and Concepts

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  • 0:00 Why Even Diagram?
  • 0:58 Attention to Clarity
  • 1:41 Attention to Detail
  • 2:39 Too Much of a Good…
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Very often a scientific concept or process may be difficult to completely follow until we see a diagram. Sometimes however, making sense of them only becomes harder after seeing one! In this lesson, we'll learn to make diagrams that are more useful.

Why Even Diagram?

Have you ever heard the phrase 'a picture is worth a thousand words'? If you've ever played a party game that requires you to draw clues while your friends guess, you immediately see the value of having someone capable of drawing something that is clear and easy to understand, as a way to communicate an otherwise difficult idea. In science, we very often have to use diagrams in order to make our points clear. Otherwise, we may lose the focus of the person reading our research. After all, wouldn't you rather just say, 'look at Figure 1', than have to describe whatever Figure 1 is? In this lesson, we're going to look at the value of being able to produce diagrams to help aid scientific understanding. However, it's not as easy as drawing a stick figure. As we will see, it requires a proper balance of attention to detail and clarity, while not going overboard with it either.

Attention to Clarity

Imagine that you are looking at a model of how a rocket engine works. Hoses lead from the fuel and oxygen tanks to a combustion section. If you were to look that up in a textbook or online, you'd see the picture is pretty similar to the one that we provided in this video. It's pretty straightforward. This is because attention to clarity is one of the most important parts of being able to use images and diagrams effectively. You should not be left scratching your head trying to figure out a diagram. This is also why images of cycles, like a life cycle or a food change in a given ecosystem, often have arrows showing the way that you should move along in your understanding. After all, a squirrel does not eat a bear.

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