Scientific Method 
All Materials © Cmassengale

How can we determine if something is a fact or an opinion? How can we determine an answer to a problem? The answer is use the scientific method.  

What is the Scientific Method? It is a series of steps used to help solve a problem.

  • Step 1. Make an Observation. After making an observation of the natural world, define the problem and make sure only one problem is being studied. ALL scientific experimentation starts with observation.
  • Step 2. Research the problem (question). Use all available resources to collect data on the subject being covered. Libraries, Internet, books, magazines, personal interviews, etc.
  • Step 3. Develop a hypothesis (educated guess). Make it a short definitive statement. It may be an "if" then" statement. The “if” part will become the hypothesis and the then part should be the results received at the end of the controlled experiment. Remember your hypothesis can be changed if the results do not support it.
  • Step 4. Develop a controlled experiment. A controlled experiment is an experiment that contains only one experimental variable. An experimental or independent variable is the thing being tested (what the scientist changes). Everything else in the experiment or all other variables must be the same. These variables are also called the controlled variables. Keeping these variables the same allows the experimenter to show that it was the experimental variable that caused the results. The dependent variable is what changes when the independent variable changes - the dependent variable depends on the outcome of the independent variable.  Data should be organized into charts, tables, or graphs.
  • Step 5. Analyze the data and come up with a conclusion. Data may be quantitative (numbers) or qualitative (appearance, properties, etc.).  The conclusion may or may not support the hypothesis. Additional experimentation must then take place to build documentation concerning the problem. If the hypothesis is proven wrong, change the hypothesis, not the data. Scientists must be unbiased.
  • WHAT FOLLOWS: Scientific research must be published, but first it must be reviewed by peers (other scientists) and verified for accuracy.  Research may result in a scientific theory or law.

Example:

Observation: Toaster stops working.
Question/Research: What is wrong with the toaster? (Read toaster Manual.)
Hypotheses: (1) It is unplugged. (2) The unit is burned out.
Experiments:  (1) Check the plug. (2) Take the toaster apart and look at the heating wires.
Results & Conclusion: If it was unplugged the first hypothesis is supported, if the wires inside are broken, then the second hypothesis is supported.  

 

BACK