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Unlock the Secrets of the Microscopic World: Learn How to Use a Microscope to View a Specimen

» Microscopes » Types of Microscopes » Optical Microscopes » Unlock the Secrets of the Microscopic World: Learn How to Use a Microscope to View a Specimen

Microscopes are powerful tools used to magnify small objects and enable us to see them in detail. They are commonly used in scientific research, medical diagnosis, and education. If you are a beginner and want to learn how to use a microscope to view a specimen, this step-by-step guide is for you. In this article, we will cover everything from setting up the microscope to preparing and viewing a sample. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how to use a microscope to view a specimen and explore the world of microscopic organisms.


Types of Microscopes

Types Of Microscopes

Compound Light Microscope

A compound light microscope is a basic microscope that is commonly used in laboratories for viewing small specimens such as cells, bacteria and fungi. It works by using a series of lenses to magnify the object being viewed. The two important lenses that are used in these microscopes are the objective lens and the eyepiece lens.

How to use a compound light microscope correctly: Firstly, make sure that the microscope is on a sturdy and flat surface. Then, place the specimen on the microscope stage and use the coarse adjustment knob to move the stage up or down until the specimen is in focus. After that, use the fine adjustment knob to fine-tune the focus of the specimen. Finally, adjust the light intensity and make sure that you are using the correct magnification for the specimen being viewed.

Overall, with the proper use, a compound light microscope is a valuable tool for beginners and professionals in the field of science.

Preparing the Microscope

Preparing The Microscope

Assembling the Microscope

To assemble your microscope, first, ensure that all the parts are present and in good condition. The main components of a microscope include the eyepiece, objective lenses, stage, focus knobs, and illuminator.
Step One: Attach the eyepiece to the body tube, making sure it is secure.
Step Two: Insert the objective lens into the nosepiece, and rotate it until it clicks into place.
Step Three: Adjust the stage to its lowest position, and then attach it to the microscope body.
Step Four: Attach the illuminator to the base of the microscope, and then connect it to a power source.

Preparing the Specimen

To properly prepare your specimen, follow these steps:
Step One: Obtain a sample of the specimen you wish to view. For example, if you want to view a plant cell, you can obtain a small piece of the plant tissue.
Step Two: Place the specimen on the glass slide, and then add a drop of water or other liquid to it.
Step Three: Cover the specimen with a cover slip, being careful not to trap any air bubbles. Gently press down on the cover slip to ensure that it is secure.
Step Four: Place the slide on the microscope stage, and center the specimen over the opening. Use the focus knobs to adjust the focus until the specimen is in clear view.

Using the Microscope

Using The Microscope

Focusing the Objective Lens

To focus the microscope, first, place the specimen on the stage and turn on the illuminator. Adjust the objective lens to low power (lowest magnification), look through the eyepiece, and slowly turn the focus knob until the specimen comes into view. If the image isn’t clear, adjust the objective lens to the next highest power and refocus until the image is sharp and clear.

Adjusting the Condenser

The condenser is located under the stage and helps to focus the light on the specimen. Adjust the condenser by using the iris diaphragm lever. Open the diaphragm to allow more light in for low magnification views or close it for higher magnifications to increase contrast.

Adjusting the Diaphragm

The diaphragm controls the amount of light that illuminates the specimen. Adjust the diaphragm according to the objective lens magnification. The higher the magnification, the smaller the diaphragm opening should be.

Illuminating the Specimen

Use the illuminator to shine light on the specimen. Make sure that the light is properly adjusted, so that it does not shine too brightly or too dimly, making it difficult to see the specimen.

Viewing the Specimen

Once the specimen is in focus and the lighting is adjusted, use the eyepiece to view the specimen. Move or adjust the slide if necessary to get a better view of the specimen.

Changing Magnification

To change the magnification, rotate the nosepiece to switch between the objective lenses. Refocus the microscope each time a new objective lens is used. Use higher magnification for finer details, but be aware that higher magnification has a smaller field of view, making it more difficult to find and focus on the specimen.

Cleaning the Microscope

When using a microscope, it is important to keep it clean to prevent damage to the lenses and maintain the quality of the image. Here are the steps to clean your microscope:

Step Materials
Step 1: Clean, soft, lint-free cloth or tissue.
Step 2: Clean distilled water or 70% isopropyl alcohol.

Step 1: Start by cleaning the eyepiece lens and objective lens with a clean, soft, lint-free cloth or tissue. Be gentle so as not to scratch the lenses. Do not use a paper towel or any harsh chemicals to clean the lenses.

Step 2: Use a clean, soft, lint-free cloth or tissue dampened with clean distilled water or 70% isopropyl alcohol to clean the exterior of the microscope. Be careful not to get any liquids on the lenses, and do not use any harsh chemicals.

Step 3: Once you have finished using the microscope, always place the dust cover over it to prevent dust and dirt from settling on the lenses.

By following these simple steps, you can keep your microscope clean and in good working condition, ensuring accurate and clear images every time you use it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of microscope should I use for viewing a specimen?

When it comes to viewing a specimen, there are different types of microscopes that you can choose from. Here are some of the most common types and their uses:

  • Compound Microscope: Compound microscopes are the most commonly used type of microscope in laboratories. They are specifically designed for viewing small, thin specimens such as cells, bacteria, or tissue samples. Compound microscopes use multiple lenses to magnify the image, allowing you to see fine details of the specimen.
  • Stereo Microscope: Stereo microscopes, also known as dissecting microscopes, are designed for viewing larger specimens. They have lower magnification than compound microscopes but provide a three-dimensional view of the specimen, making them ideal for studying the surface of objects such as rocks, insects, or mechanical parts.
  • Electron Microscope: Electron microscopes use a beam of electrons to create an image of the specimen at a much higher magnification than light microscopes. They are ideal for studying the ultrastructure of cells or other tiny structures, such as viruses. However, electron microscopes are very expensive and require special training to use.

When choosing a microscope, consider what type of specimen you will be viewing and what level of detail you need to see. If you are unsure, a compound microscope is a good place to start.

No matter what type of microscope you choose, it is important to follow proper microscope techniques to get the best results. This includes using the appropriate magnification, adjusting the focus, and properly caring for the microscope. With practice and patience, you will be able to view your specimens with clarity and detail.

What magnification do I need to view a specimen?

The magnification needed to view a specimen under a microscope depends on the size of the specimen and the level of detail required. As a general rule, specimens should be initially viewed at low power (around 40x to 100x) to locate the area of interest, and then switched to higher magnification (up to 400x or more) for a closer look. For larger specimens, lower magnification is sufficient, while for smaller specimens or details, higher magnification is necessary. It’s recommended to start with the lowest magnification and gradually increase it until the desired level of detail is achieved without blurring or distortion.

How do I prepare the specimen for viewing?

Before you begin viewing a specimen under a microscope, it is important to prepare the specimen properly. Firstly, you will need to obtain a small sample of the specimen you would like to view. This can be achieved by using a scalpel or other cutting tool. Next, you will need to place the sample onto a microscope slide. To help keep the sample in place, you can add a drop of stain or immersion oil onto the slide. Finally, carefully place a cover slip onto the top of the slide to avoid any air bubbles. Your specimen is now ready for viewing under a microscope.

What safety precautions should I take when using a microscope?

  • Always wash your hands before and after using the microscope to prevent contamination.
  • Avoid eating, drinking, and smoking while using the microscope. This will prevent any hazardous substances from entering your mouth or lungs.
  • Ensure that the microscope is placed on a stable surface, to prevent it from toppling over and causing injury.
  • When adjusting the focus knobs, be careful not to touch the lenses with your fingers or any other objects as it may damage them.
  • Use appropriate eyewear such as safety goggles to protect your eyes from any potential damage from shattered or flying glass.
  • Be mindful of the cords and wires connected to the microscope to avoid tripping over or making contact with any electrical components while using the device.

What can I do to get the best results when viewing a specimen?

To ensure the best possible results when viewing a specimen under a microscope, follow these simple steps:

  • Prepare the specimen properly: When preparing the specimen for viewing, it is important to ensure that it is clean, dry, and properly secured on the slide. The slide should be free of dust and fingerprints, and the cover slip should be pressed down firmly to prevent any air bubbles from forming.
  • Adjust the lighting: Proper lighting is crucial for obtaining a clear image when using a microscope. Adjust the light intensity and angle to eliminate any glare, shadows, or reflections that may obstruct the view.
  • Focus the microscope: It is important to focus the microscope carefully to obtain clear and accurate results. Start with the lowest magnification, and use the fine focus knob to adjust the image until it is clear. Once the image is clear, you can then switch to higher magnification as needed.
  • Center the specimen: Ensure that the specimen is centered on the stage to prevent any distortion or blurriness in the image. Most microscopes have a mechanical stage that can be adjusted to move the slide smoothly in different directions.
  • Be patient: Viewing a specimen under a microscope can take time and patience to get the best possible results. Take your time to adjust the lighting, focus, and other settings until you achieve the clarity and detail that you are looking for.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure that you get the best possible results when viewing a specimen under a microscope. With practice and experience, you can refine your technique even further to achieve even greater detail and accuracy in your observations.


Using a microscope to view specimens can be a fun and educational experience. By following the step-by-step guide for beginners, you can learn how to operate a microscope and view specimens easily and safely. With a few simple steps, you can become an expert at using a microscope.


  • R. McArthur, “How to Use a Microscope to View a Specimen: Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners”, MicroscopeMaster.com (accessed May 29, 2020)
  • A. Woll, “How to Use a Microscope”, WikiHow.com (accessed May 29, 2020)
About Michael Oliver Barlow

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