Around the 16th-17th Century, Sir Francis Bacon, an English philosopher, came up with the scientific method. This method is now used in every scientific experiment or publication, across all fields of science.
Why Start Here?
The scientific method is the foundation of science and is therefore a crucial part of understanding science today. The way that scientists draw conclusions is directly based on the scientific method. Because of this, I feel it is a good place to start.
What Is the Scientific Method?
The scientific method is a model for how scientists reach conclusions. It involves 7 steps.
- Ask a question
- Do background research
- Construct a Hypothesis
- Make Observations/Record Data
- Analyze and Draw Conclusions
- Report findings.
Using the Scientific Method
The scientific method is the first thing a new scientist learns in their education. As a result, it can be easily forgotten. It is important to come back to those fundamentals from time to time, in order to keep us grounded in the original values of science.
The scientific method does have a practical use. Let’s take a look at the steps of the scientific method in depth to understand its practical use.
Ask a Question
In order to first start researching something, you have to first have a question in mind that you wish to answer. The scientific method is how we then get to that answer. For this to be most effective, the question has to be specific.
Additionally, the question has to be testable. This becomes easier over time and with experience. However, to be testable means that there are reasonable methods for setting up and executing an experiment that could answer your question.
Lastly, an important consideration that is sometimes left out is the fact a budget should be considered. Will it be possible to pursue an answer to this question while staying within a reasonable budget?
Do Background Research
The second step in the scientific method is performing background research. By performing background research you are checking a few things. First, has your question already been answered? Sometimes this is the case and if so, it may lead you to a new question. The process then starts over.
Second, you are checking if there is any additional information. This additional information will allow you to create a strong foundation for the rest of your work to stand on.
Lastly, by doing your background research, you are confirming that you have learned all about the thing you’re about to research. If you have this knowledge, then great you can move onto the next step. If you don’t, you may need to consider learning more before moving on.
Construct a Hypothesis
A hypothesis doesn’t always come to you right away. It may take some editing and reviewing to ensure that you capture the entire experiment in this one sentence. A hypothesis is a true or false question. The terminology associated with that is accepting or rejecting your hypothesis.
At the end of the experiment, you will come back to the hypothesis and decide if you can accept it or if you have to reject it. To accept it means that it is true. Whatever your hypothesis statement says is supported by the evidence you gathered.
To reject your hypothesis would be the opposite. This would mean the hypothesis is false, or that the statement is not supported by the evidence you gathered. It is okay to reject your hypothesis. At the end of the day, we still learned something from it.
The fourth step of the scientific method is conducting your experiment. This experiment should be designed to test your hypothesis. It first starts by designing a study and then carrying out the experiment.
The length at which this step takes is completely dependent on the complexity and methodology of the experiment you design.
Make Observations and Record Data
This part of the scientific method is supposed to be completely objective. It is important that you simply collect the data as it is and organize it. If we begin to interpret this data too early, we may develop a bias without appropriately seeing the true evidence presented in the data.
Analyze and Draw Conclusions
The sixth step of the scientific method is to analyze and draw conclusions from the data. This is personally my favorite part because I really enjoy seeing all of the evidence come together. Here, statistics are performed to evaluate the data. What is it that the data is telling you? Next you begin to think about whether or not this data supports your hypothesis.
Lastly, the most important part is reporting your findings for others to see. This is where everything comes together into one package of information for others to read and learn from. This part is so important because without the reporting of this information, others would be unable to expand upon or reference your work. What’s the point of all of this work for no one to learn from it?