21 What shampoos do people use, and why? 11-14 Working in groupsSelf assessmentPeer assessmentSharing objectives and criteriaQuestioningUsing feedbackUsing tests

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

Display a selection of shampoos (or photographs) and some shampoo advertisements as a stimulus for the survey.

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.

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.

Display an activity flow chart, to which students can refer.

Give a copy of the Shampoo survey: results table to each student.

Arrange the students in groups of four. Ask the groups to:

  • decide how to divide up the work
  • draw up a plan of action that includes an opportunity to talk with one another about their progress.

Indicate to the students that they should:

  • individually, write two further questions the group might ask, bearing in mind the purpose of the survey
  • in pairs, share their questions and choose just two between them
  • 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:

  • work individually
  • survey at least 10 people using the Shampoo survey: results table
  • collect a copy of About the shampoo survey sheet
  • make brief notes in response to the questions on the sheet About the shampoo survey.

Ask students to:

  • gather in their groups
  • pool their results
  • each make a copy of the group’s combined survey results
  • 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.

Give each student a copy of the About surveys sheet. Ask them to:

  • work individually
  • write a conclusion to the group’s survey results and hand it in
  • 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.

Assessment for learning commentary

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.



  • Selection of shampoos (or photographs)
  • Shampoo advertisements.


For each student

Download Word Download PDF Shampoo survey: results table
Download Word Download PDF About the shampoo survey
Download Word Download PDF About surveys

Safety note

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


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


V. Kind, Contemporary chemistry for schools and colleges. London: Royal Society of Chemistry, 2004.