Scientific Method – Basic Things You Need to Know

When you talk about “scientific learning”, it’s not just about learning science in class. Learning about biology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy is vital, but even more important are the methods you use to learn… well, just about everything.

We use science to solve many different problems. It’s a reasonable and thoughtful approach to answering tough questions. Science pushes us to make speculations, test those speculations via experiments, assess the findings, form conclusions, and ask our peers to test the data.

That’s the scientific method.

It gives an objective, standardized approach to conducting experiments which lead to better results. By utilizing a standardized approach, students or scientists are confident that they will only stick to the facts and not let personal, preconceived notions to get in the way.

For today’s article, we’re going to talk about the Scientific Method, the steps, and the application.


Steps of the Scientific Method

There are many variations of the steps of the scientific method. Some list three steps, some are four and some five. For this post, we’re going to list the five crucial steps for this method:


1. Make an Observation

Almost, if not all, scientific inquiries start with an observation that results in curiosity or raises a question. For example, that time when Charles Darwin went to the Galapagos Islands where he observed several species of finches. The birds are uniquely adapted to a very specific habitat.

His observation particularly concerns the finches’ beaks and how their beaks play an important role in how they obtain food. His observation led him to wonder which made him ask a question.


2. Ask Questions

The question aims to narrow the focal point of the inquiry and to identify the problem. Here are some examples of a scientific question:

  • What are the causes of coral bleaching?
  • Which type of material absorbs the most sound?
  • How does water affect plant growth?
  • Which car body shape is the most effective in reducing air resistance?
  • Does green tea lessen the effects of oxidation?

Forming scientific questions isn’t that hard and you don’t have to be a scientist.


3. Develop a Hypothesis

Every question begs for an answer. Thus, the next step in the scientific method is to develop a possible answer which is also called the hypothesis. The hypothesis is defined as an educated guess since it’s always rooted from something you already know.

For example, if you take up the question about the car body shape and air resistance, you already have an idea that a sports-like type vehicle will be more effective in reducing air resistance than a box-type car. This sort of intuition will help you develop your hypothesis.


4. Conduct the Experiment

There’s a popular notion that an experiment takes place in a laboratory. While this definitely happens, an experiment doesn’t have to be done while using workbenches, test tubes, and Bunsen burners.

However, the experiment has to be set up to test your hypothesis and must be controlled. By control, we mean that all variables should be controlled so in the end, only a single variable is studied. The variable that can be controlled and manipulated is called an independent variable, while the opposite is called dependent variable.


5. Analyze the Data and Form a Conclusion

During an experiment, you are expected to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. With the collected information, you may or may not have enough evidence to support or reject the hypothesis. One thing that can vary tremendously is the amount of analysis required before arriving at a satisfactory conclusion.

There are times that you will need sophisticated tools in order to analyze the gathered data. At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to prove or disprove your hypothesis, which also answers your original question.


Application of the Scientific Method

Keep in mind that the method is idealized. Actual scientists don’t actually sit around and stringently follow a 5-step checklist. In reality, the entire process is quite fluid and the steps are open to modification and interpretation.

One person might spend most of his time in the observation step. Another scientist may never spend much time in the experimental phase. In our earlier example, Darwin actually spent almost 20 years analyzing the data he had collected before finally acting on it. And yet, no one would say that his theory of natural selection is less valuable or less scientific just because he did closely follow the scientific method steps.


The Bottom Line

So what is the scientific method? Hopefully, we have helped you learn more about the scientific method.

Have you used the scientific method before? Were you able to prove or disprove your hypothesis? The comment section is down below.

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