Welcome to this Dichotomous Key Tutorial!


What is a Dichotomous Key?

If you're here, then you have to learn how to use a dichotomous key for your science class. The first question to address is what is a dichotomous key? The purpose of a dichotomous is to classify things based on their physical characteristics. Many dichotomous keys are designed to help people figure out what a specific type of plant or animal is. You do this by looking at the physical characteristics the plant or animal has, and then you answer questions about it. Look at the picture below to get an idea about how this works.
pine_needles.jpg
By looking at the physical characteristics of the pictured plant, we can move through the key and discover the scientific name of the plant.

Goals and Objectives

The goal of this site is to teach you the parts of a dichotomous key, how a key is organized, how to use a key, and how to create a dichotomous key of your own. This will help you to meet standard 6.1-3 (pdf download) of the South Carolina state science standards.

Site overview

This site is divided into three sections:
  1. Tutorial: here you will learn about the parts of a dichotomous key, all of the critical vocabulary, and a worked out example
  2. Practice: your turn to work through some keys and see what you've learned
  3. Project: create a dichotomous key of your own


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