The Scientific Method
The scientific method is a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data and the hypothesis is tested and either verified or disproved. It has been in practice in some form or another since the days of Aristotle. The process has been changed and further defined as the centuries have moved forward, but the basic tenets of the original method remain the same.
The first step in the scientific method is to ask a question. In order to be defined as scientific, the answer to the question must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to principles of reasoning. This is the step that defines the parameters of your experiment. This should be followed by background research in order to prevent making the same mistakes as others have in the past when testing the question that you are attempting to answer.
The next step is to construct a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a tentative explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation. This is an “if-then statement” that will provide the basis for quantifiable testing. The hypothesis must be stated in a way that one is able to easily measure the results and will help to answer the original question posed.
Formulation of a hypothesis is followed by structured experimentation. This will prove whether or not the hypothesis is true or false. This is the step where a researcher will actually test their hypothesis with a repeatable and measurable experiment. A non-biased test must be created with only one variable. After the experiment is complete, it is time to analyze the data and make a logical conclusion based on the data presented. If the data supports the hypothesis and the methods of experimentation can be repeated by other researchers, then the hypothesis can be proven true. If either one of these factors is not met, then the researcher must go back and create another hypothesis and begin the process again in order to answer the original question.
Finally, it is important to share the results of the experiment. This step is imperative because other researchers must repeat the experiment and obtain the same results in order for the answer to the original question to be accepted within the scientific community.