Great thoughts reduced to practice
1778 - 1830, English grammarian/essayist
Following the Scientific Method
Observe * Research * Hypothesize * Test * Conclude
The scientific method is a process
for forming and testing solutions to problems,
theorizing about how or why things work.
It tries to reduce the influence of "faith" or bias or prejudice
of the experimenter so that the process is valid anywhere in our
The Scientific Method
State the problem and observe conditions
Observe or wonder about something in your world, or in your
and wonder how, why, when, something occurs
- Create a short, meaningful title
- Make a careful, step-by-step notation
- Ask a question about what you observe.
- Write out a statement of purpose
describes what you want to do about it. Be objective!
and do not guess why something
is happening. That takes place later
- Gather information of similar research
a literature review
- Identify significant conditions
or factors of
- Summarize the problem
in a clear, simple
Form your hypothesis
- What are possible causes for what you observed?
- Could they reliably and consistently predict or
determine the same outcome?
- What causes are the least likely to affect the outcome?
- What are the best choices?
Choose the best option
or answer to your problem as
This will be an "educated guess"
based upon both your observation and past experiences
a possible explanation
for a cause and effect of a given situation or set of
factors that can be tested, and can be repetitively proved
right (or wrong!) (Remember: A hypothesis is not an
observation or description of an event, that is in the
first, observation stage!)
State your hypothesis
in a simple, clear statement
Types of data you need
- The physical sciences of chemistry and physics rely
heavily on numbers as data, and on replicable
experimentation to measure and calculate results
- Sciences such as sociology rely on interviews and
observation due to limitations of experimentation with human
subjects, and use descriptions and inferences to arrive at
Design an experiment to test your hypothesis
- Make a step-by-step procedure with each step's purpose
- List and obtain materials and equipment you will need
- Identify two groups in the test: the control group is
your reference point; no variables are changed; the
experimental group is the focus of changes to affect the
- Rely on your past experience to identify variables, but
consult with a knowledgeable person for a second opinion
Run a series of experiments
- Change only one variable in each experiment in order to
isolate effects reliably
- Make and record accurate measurements
- Repeat the test as often as necessary with the
experimental group to verify your results. Always change
only one thing, or variable, in each test
- Repeat successful tests with other groups to verify your
- You assume the hypothesis is the "answer"
not supported with testing
- You ignore data
that doesn't support your outcome
- Your beliefs/bias blind you to fatal flaws
in the testing
- You don't notice systematic errors
that are repeated
within each experiment. These bias the outcome's standard
- Equipment or conditions are not adequate
- Summarize your results and conclusions;
use graphs and
tables to illustrate these
- Refer back to your observations, data, and hypothesis
- Note difficulties and problems,
items for further
research, or what you would do differently if you could
If you did not prove your hypothesis,
you have succeeded in another sense!
- Unsuccessful experiments provide information that can
lead to answers by eliminating options
- save someone the trouble of repeating your experiments
- suggest other ways of solving similar problems
The scientific method is a cyclical process.
conclusions to ask new questions and to develop new hypotheses.
Remember: research builds on your work, and the work of others.