The "Scientific Method"
There are many possible ways to conduct a scientific investigation. We will use a method described below:
A "Traditional Scientific Method"
Statement of the problem:
- After making observations... what specific question do you want answered?
- Use the background to help you propose an answer to the question.
- Use your prior knowledge and gather information.
Form a hypothesis (prediction):
- The hypothesis is a possible answer to the question.
- Make a strong statement (prediction) about what will happen in your experiment.
- The hypothesis (and prediction) is always specific and testable.
Test the hypothesis:
- Design the experiment.
- Identify variables (manipulated, responding and controlled variables, and controls).
- Write procedures, create data tables.
- Perform the experiment (observe, measure, record and organize).
- Analyze the data collected.
- Does data support the hypothesis?
- How would errors affect your experiment?
- Are new questions raised?
Good Experimental Design
- Often the most critical and difficult part of a scientific investigation is the design of an experiment.
- The strongest experiments are ones that measure results caused by changing only one variable.
- Other competing explanations should be eliminated by the experiment.
- The results should be repeatable.
We will document experiments using a standard lab report format. It is easy to confuse the method we use to develop an experiment (above) with the format for documenting the experiment.