The Scientific Method
The scientific method is a set of procedures used to answer scientific questions. It is used in order to lend uniformity to the research process and to ensure that the conclusion is valid and able to be reproduced on demand.
In order to have a topic for research, one must have a question that needs to be answered, typically in the “who/what/where/why/how” fashion. The answer should be able to be measured quantitatively. Next, it is necessary to conduct background research on the subject matter. This is important for three reasons: 1) in order to ensure that the question has not already been answered; 2) to find the most effective way of answering the question; 3) in order to avoid repeating mistakes that other scientists may have made in their own pursuit of the question.
The next step is to construct a hypothesis, which is a prediction of what will happen. The hypothesis can be stated as “If I do ______ then ______ will happen”. In order to be effective, the hypothesis must be stated with the question in mind, and must offer a result that can be measured.
The hypothesis can be tested by performing an experiment. It is important to remember to perform the experiment several times and preferably by different people. Unless the results can be repeated under different circumstances, the results will not be valid. Once the experiment is completed, it is time to analyze the data and draw a conclusion based on that data.
Finally, one must communicate the results of the process. This will let others know if the question has been answered or if there are mistakes another scientist can avoid in trying to answer the same question.