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Scientific Method

Essay by   •  January 10, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,963 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,304 Views

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"The Scientific Method is the process by which scientists, collectively and over time, endeavor to construct an accurate representation of the world. The scientific method attempts to minimize the influence of bias or prejudice in the experimenter when testing a hypothesis or a theory".

Funny thing about the scientific method, the more research I did from web site to web site it became apparent to me that there are many views to actually how many steps there are in the process. For the purpose of this assignment I am going to use the site that stated there are only four and focus my thoughts on these major parts. This article was derived from three different sources and I found it a little deceiving in that the definition stated that the scientific method is a process used by "scientists". I feel, and later read, that the scientific method can be linked to many everyday uses that are not always conducted in a lab. I can see the basic thought, testing and trial process in people when they are faced with something that they are un-clear what the outcome is going to be. Let me explain by breaking down the 4 major steps.

1."Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena". In this case you as a "scientist" need to pick a topic that interest you and develop a question that could be answered by your research and testing.

2. "Formulation of a hypothesis to explain the phenomena". In this step, you would take your question and formulate a prediction of what the outcome of your question is going to be.

3. "Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations". Often times you need to consider how simple or extreme changes in the testing environment will affect your outcome.

4. "Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments". This is where you would actually conduct your experiment using what you know (constants) and variables to test your hypothesis and develop your conclusions.

During steps two and three listed above it is common for someone to use a processes called Inductive Reasoning when hypothesizing an outcome. This thought process occurs when the experimenter makes observations and gathers information about their original question. It is important to understand that the scientist will use his/her life experiences to influences the hypothesis. In layman's terms, when you see something happening and then observe what is affected by it a number of times, you can then reason that another test would reveal the same results because the conditions were the same.

Deductive Reasoning is a little different. You start with information or idea that is called a premise. Like inductive reasoning the goal is to come up with a conclusion but the process is not the same. In deductive reasoning, a scientist uses a "if, then" logic to determine a conclusion. A good example is Sherlock Holmes; he used deductive reasoning to solve mysteries. Think of it this way:

- If this happens...

- And this happens...

- Then you can come to this conclusion. If the premises (your original information or idea) are true, then your conclusion should also be true.

Probably the most involved step of the scientific method is step four, "Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments". Again, this is where you would actually conduct your experiment using what you know (constants) and changes to your experiment (variables) to test your hypothesis and develop your conclusions.

In science when testing, when doing the experiment, it must be a controlled experiment. The scientist must contrast an "experimental group" with a "control group" using an independent variable. (In general, the independent variable is the thing that someone actively controls/changes; while the dependent variable is the thing that changes as a result.) The two groups are treated EXACTLY alike except for the ONE variable being tested. The control group will be used as a known baseline for your experiment, and is necessary in order to test and document the effective changes of he experimental group once your variable has been added. By changing the experimental group for each test, the scientist is able to make a correlation to what the effects of each variable are. Correlation by definition is described as the relationship between two variables during a period of time, especially one that shows a close match between the variables' movements. Sometimes several experimental groups may be used. For example, in an experiment to test the effects of day length on plant flowering, one could compare normal, natural day length (the control group) to several variations (the experimental groups).

Once an experiment has been conducted and your results have been logged, your results have a reasonable chance of becoming a Scientific Theory or Scientific Law. Before I began the research for this paper, I would have told you that the term scientific theory meant that someone had used the first few steps of the scientific method to brainstorm the probably outcome of an experiment. I would have been wrong. In fact, a scientific theory in science is not called a theory until it has been confirmed after conducting many independent experiments. A theory is a generalization based on many observations and experiments. It is a basis for predicting future events or discoveries and may be modified as new information is gained. It can be explained as the most logical explanation of why things work the way they do. A theory is a former hypothesis that has been tested with repeated experiments and observations and found to always work.

A scientific law is a statement of fact meant to explain, in concise terms, an action or set of actions. It is generally accepted to be true and universal, and can sometimes be expressed in terms of a single mathematical equation. Scientific laws are similar to mathematical postulates. They don't really need any complex external proofs; they are accepted at face value based upon the fact that they have always been observed to be true.

In general, both a scientific theory and a scientific law are accepted to be true by the scientific community as a whole. Both are used to make predictions of events. Both are used to advance technology. The biggest difference between a law and a theory is that a theory is much more complex and dynamic. A law governs a single action, whereas a theory explains a whole series of related phenomena. An analogy can be



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