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A career in science involves the use of various processes and methods to reach conclusions. If you plan to pursue a scientific career path, it is helpful to understand some key methods that you might use and encounter in your daily tasks.
One of the most commonly used processes is the scientific method, which involves following a series of steps to test a hypothesis and reaching a conclusion. In this article, we will discuss what the scientific method is, the seven steps to take and how to use it in scientific applications.
What is the scientific method?
The scientific method is a process used when conducting experiments and exploring observations. Some areas of science rely more heavily on this method to answer questions, as they are more easily tested than other areas. The goal of this method is to discover the relationships between cause and effect in various situations and applications.
When following the scientific method, scientists must ask questions, gather and look at the evidence and determine whether the answers to their questions can be found through that evidence. Scientists also use the method to determine whether all information presented and found can combine to create a logical answer. The scientific method provides a way to apply logical and rational problem-solving methods to scientific questions.
The scientific method
- Make an observation.
- Ask a question.
- Form a hypothesis, or testable explanation.
- Make a prediction based on the hypothesis.
- Test the prediction.
- Iterate: use the results to make new hypotheses or predictions.
1. Ask a question
The first step in the scientific method is asking a question that you want to answer. This question will include one of the key starters, which are how, what when, why, where, who or which. The question you ask should also be measurable and answerable through experimentation. It is often something that can be measured with a numerical result, although behavioral results are part of the scientific method as well.
Example: Perhaps, you want to test an experiment about the causal relationship between music and certain domesticated animals.
A good question to begin with might be: ”Does music impact the behavior of certain species of domesticated animals, such as canines and felines?”
2. Perform research
With your question formulated, conduct preliminary background research to prepare yourself for the experiment. You can find information through online searches or in your local library, depending on the question you are asking and the nature of the background data. You may also find previous studies and experiments that can help with your process and conclusions.
In this case, you might start by reviewing previous scientific studies for animal experiments related to their reactions to music. Key to finding pertinent information might be looking at studies that study animal behavior in relation to art or domestic animals directly affected by music.
3. Establish your hypothesis
A hypothesis is an educated guess that seeks to answer a question that can be systematically tested. Your hypothesis should also include your predictions that you can measure through experimentation and research.
Example: Based on your research, you start to fine-tune your thoughts about what will probably happen: “If I play classical music, my dog and cat will remain in the room with me. If I play rock-and-roll music, my dog and cat will leave the room.”
4. Test your hypothesis by conducting an experiment
Next, test your hypothesis by conducting an experiment. Your experiment is a way to quantifiably test your predictions and should be able to be repeated by another scientist.
Example: You decide to test it out: You bring the cat and dog into the same room where a sound system is available. You play classical music at a low volume. Both animals remain in the room. Then, you change scientist the music to rock-and-roll at the same volume. Both animals remain in the room.
5. Make an observation
Assess your scientific process and make sure that the conditions remain the same throughout all testing measures. If you change any factors in your experiment, keep all others the same to maintain fairness. After you complete the experiment, repeat it a few more times to make sure the results are accurate.
Example: In reviewing the cause and effect of your experiment, you observe that despite what you had thought would happen, did not. More specifically, the type of music being played did not impact the reaction of the animals.
Therefore, you adjust your hypothesis to state that the animals will react based on the volume of the music. You conduct another experiment, playing classical music at a low volume and then at a high volume. The animals remain in the room when the music is quiet and leave the room when the music is loud.
6. Analyze the results and draw a conclusion
You can now take your experiment findings and analyze them to determine if they support your hypothesis.
Drawing a conclusion means determining whether what you believed would happen actually happened. If it did not happen, you can create a new hypothesis and return to step four, and conduct a new experiment to prove your new theory. If what you hypothesized happened during the experimentation phase, the final step is putting together your findings and presenting them to others.
Example: You determine the behavior of animals is more affected by the volume of music being played rather than the type of music played.
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7. Present the findings
The method for presenting your findings depends on your scientific position and level. If you are entering a project into the science fair, you will likely communicate your findings in a written report, on a display board or during a presentation at the event. If you are a scientist by profession, you may present your findings in a scientific publication or to your supervisors.
|Question||What does the scientist want to learn more about?|
|Identify and control variables||To keep all variables the same, constant, while changing only one to see what happens.|
|Hypothesis||The scientist makes an “educated” guess to answer the question.|
|Test your Hypothesis||The scientist writes and carefully follows a step-by-step experiment designed to test the hypothesis.|
|Collect Data||The scientist keeps good records of what he does and finds out. He uses tables and pictures.|
|Interpret data||The scientist organizes his notes and records of what he does and finds out. He uses tables and pictures.|
|Conclusion||The scientist makes a decision based on the the data he collected. He must explain what he has found out and tell whether his hypothesis was correct.|
|How many steps in the Scientific Method?||Seven|
|What is the Scientific Method?||1. A way to solve problems. 2. A step-bystep process. 3. A logical way to find answers.|