Collect and analyse data from surveys, exploring differences between subjective and objective data, using this lesson plan with activities for 11–14 year olds

In this activity, students work in groups to carry out a survey of shampoos. By exploring this example of the applications and implications of science, they gather data and evidence and develop their skills of enquiry and communication.

Similar surveys can be carried out on other products, eg antacids, bleach, washing powder, fizzy drinks. Such surveys can provide opportunities to show the importance and usefulness of chemical substances in everyday life.

General principles of data collection, analysis and evaluation may be drawn out. The questions to be addressed include:

  • Why are surveys carried out?
  • Why is it important to be clear about the purpose of a survey?
  • What and how much information should be collected?
  • What is the difference between objective and subjective data?
  • How should the data be manipulated to make sense of it?
  • What conclusions may be drawn from the survey?

Learning objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Use surveys to collect data.
  • Analyse survey data.
  • Differentiate between objective and subjective data.
  • Recognise that the significance of data must be assessed.

Sequence of activities


  1. Display a selection of shampoos (or photographs) and some shampoo advertisements as a stimulus for the survey.
  2. Use opening questions about why scientists might collect and analyse data and what the term data means. Introduce the learning objectives and use further questions to:
    • Ensure that the objectives are understood.
    • Establish the criteria for success.
  3. Explain they are going to:
    • Use a survey (this being one way to obtain information) to look for patterns in why people choose particular shampoos.
    • Find out how to undertake effective surveys more generally.
  4. Display an activity flow chart, to which students can refer.

Survey: planning

Give a copy of the ‘Shampoo survey’ results table to each student. Arrange the students in groups of four, and ask them to:

  1. Decide how to divide up the work.
  2. Draw up a plan of action that includes an opportunity to talk with one another about their progress.

Survey: choosing questions

Indicate to the students that they should:

  1. Individually, write two further questions the group might ask, bearing in mind the purpose of the survey.
  2. In pairs, share their questions and choose just two between them.
  3. In their group, look at the questions agreed by the pairs, and decide which two to add to the survey.


Organise the students to undertake the survey. Explain that they should:

  1. Work individually.
  2. Survey at least 10 people using the ‘Shampoo survey’ results table.
  3. Collect a copy of ’Shampoo survey’ worksheet.
  4. Make brief notes in response to the questions on the ‘Shampoo survey’ worksheet.

Survey: results

Ask students to:

  1. Gather in their groups.
  2. Pool their results.
  3. Each make a copy of the group’s combined survey results.
  4. Discuss the significance of their results.

Move between groups to monitor discussions and prompt with questions:

  • Is the price of shampoos a fair way of comparing different products? If not, what would be a better way?
  • What should be put in the column ‘Type of hair’? (People may have given a range of responses and the issue of subjective data arises eg dark hair and light hair, curly, wavy and straight hair.)
  • Questions relevant to the extra two questions students chose to ask.

Survey: conclusion

Give each student a copy of the ‘About surveys’ sheet. Ask them to work individually to:

  1. Write a conclusion to the group’s survey results and hand it in.
  2. Write brief answers to each of the questions on the About surveys sheet.

Select and invite students to give their answers, inviting the other students to comment or ask questions.


Give written feedback on the sheets that the students hand in.


Following the opening questions, sharing the objectives and criteria is critical to the success of the student surveys.

Questions and support throughout these activities reinforce a correct approach to surveys and data. Much of the activity is by students on their own and they judge their own approach and conclusions. Teacher support for this can decrease the written feedback needed at the end.

Practical notes


  • Selection of shampoos (or photographs)
  • Shampoo advertisements

Health, safety and technical notes

If students are to carry out the survey at home or elsewhere, the teacher should carry out an appropriate risk assessment.

Download the resources

Shampoo survey worksheet

PDF | Editable Word document

Shampoo survey results table

PDF | Editable Word document

About surveys

PDF | Editable Word document


About surveys

  • Give one reason why scientists carry out surveys.
    • To collect (gather) data.
  • Give one reason why it is important to collect enough data.
    • To check reliability and identify anomalous data.
  • Give one example of objective data.
    • Anything that can be counted or measured and assigned a value.
  • Give one example of subjective data.
    • Anything that is a judgement rather than being measurable, eg whether something is loud, brightly coloured, comfortable, has a nice feel etc.
  • Give one example of what you can do with data to make it useful.
    • Look at trends and make a useful prediction.

Primary teaching notes

If you teach primary science, see the guidance below to find out how to use this resource.

Skill development

Children will develop their working scientifically skills by:

  • Selecting and planning the most appropriate ways to answer science questions:
    • Noticing patterns.
  • Recording data and results using scientific diagrams and labels, classification keys, tables, scatter graphs, bar and line graphs.
  • Using evidence from a range of sources to support or refute ideas.
  • Drawing conclusions and raising further questions that could be investigated, based on their data and observations.

Learning outcomes

Children will:

  • Carry out a survey and collect data.
  • Present data in an appropriate way.
  • Use trends in their data to support or refute ideas.

Concepts supported

Children will learn:

  • That spotting trends in data can support or refute ideas.
  • How to carry out surveys and best present results.

Suggested activity use

This activity can be carried out involving the whole class, with children working in small groups to collect data and analyse it. Further cross curricular links with Maths can be made with children choosing how to present their findings; e.g. as bar charts, pie charts, etc.

Practical considerations

Different samples or pictures of shampoos will be required for the lesson.

Children may need support with terminology, such as subjective and objective data.