Scientific Method

By Gillian Fournier

A systematic set of guidelines and procedures for pursuing knowledge through naming a problem, collecting data by observation and experimentation, and formulating hypotheses to test. For instance…the whole thing starts with a simple observation of some sort of behavior or interesting statistic, from there you would need to formulate a question (who, what, when, where, why, how?) and since this is a scientific procedure typically that question needs to be about something that can be measured in some way (volume, weight, number etc).

After you come up with a question you would do some research to see if others have done similar experiments in the past (to avoid making similar mistakes and minimize error within the experiment). When you finish researching, you would come up with an “if, then” statement, also known as a hypothesis (an educated guess). Generally, when creating such a guess, you would use deductive reasoning (moving from generalized to specific). The “if” is less specific and the “then” is more specific…for example: If the chemical is highly flammable, then adding a low ph material such as soap to the mixture would neutralize it.

After you have established a hypothesis, you have to do an experiment in which you measure all of the variables. There are both independent and dependent variables. The independent variable is the one that the scientist is playing with and the dependent variables are the ones that are not being changed. The dependent variables are measured because the independent variable is being changed. Experiments have both control groups and experimental groups. Control groups are the ones who are operating under presumably “normal” circumstances while the experimental group is the one being manipulated (the one where the independent variable changes).

Finally, after the experiment is finished, you collect the data and analyze it. At this point you can begin to come up with a conclusion which is used to either prove or disprove your hypothesis. Some useful headings for this process include: observation, question, research, hypothesis, experiment, analysis/conclusion.


    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Jul 2010