The "Scientific Method"

There are many possible ways to conduct a scientific investigation. We will use a method described below:

A "Traditional Scientific Method"

  1. Statement of the problem:
    1. After making observations... what specific question do you want answered?
  2. Background:
    1. Use the background to help you propose an answer to the question.
    2. Use your prior knowledge and gather information.
  3. Form a hypothesis (prediction):
    1. The hypothesis is a possible answer to the question.
    2. Make a strong statement (prediction) about what will happen in your experiment.
    3. The hypothesis (and prediction) is always specific and testable.
  4. Test the hypothesis:
    1. Design the experiment.
    2. Identify variables (manipulated, responding and controlled variables, and controls).
    3. Write procedures, create data tables.
    4. Perform the experiment (observe, measure, record and organize).
  5. Draw Conclusions:
    1. Analyze the data collected.
    2. Does data support the hypothesis?
    3. How would errors affect your experiment?
    4. Are new questions raised?
  6. Communicate

Good Experimental Design

  1. Often the most critical and difficult part of a scientific investigation is the design of an experiment.
  2. The strongest experiments are ones that measure results caused by changing only one variable.
  3. Other competing explanations should be eliminated by the experiment.
  4. The results should be repeatable.

Documentation

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.