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13 September 2008

Scientific method - From Conservapedia

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Scientific method

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Flow chart illustrating the steps to the Scientific Method
Flow chart illustrating the steps to the Scientific Method

The Scientific Method is the process used by scientists to conduct research.

Science is an active process where knowledge continues to grow as scientists ask better questions and use improved technology to try to answer those questions. Although new technology can lead to better science, technology alone is not good science. Good science is the result of asking good questions.

Scientists all over the world make discoveries by asking questions and searching for the answers. They conduct experiments using the common process called the Scientific Method, which is a standardized method involving a specific, rigid way of getting those answers.

The goal of the Scientific Method is to test the validity of a hypothesis. It is not a set of directions for making original discoveries and it does not set out the means that scientists must use in order for their research to succeed. The whole point is to compare the hypothesis with the facts.



Steps of the Scientific Method

Although by no means conclusive, the following steps are used by a majority of scientists in their work:

1. Observation

The scientist observes something interesting, and he wants to know how it happened. He lays down the basic questions as to what is responsible for the phenomena he observed, and from there begins to form his hypothesis.

In asking these questions scientists also look for research that has already been done on their topic to determine if they are duplicating a past experiment, doing something new, or building on a previous experiment. Such research, although tedious and time-consuming, simply builds on the knowledge yet to be gained by the scientist’s questions.

2. Hypothesis

A hypothesis is a statement of what the researcher thinks will happen in the experiment. This is usually an educated guess using current theory and has to be testable and observable.

3. Experiment

When designing the experiment, the researcher carefully controls as many variables as possible. In most experiments there is a control group and a treatment group. The two groups are as similar as possible, but the treatment group is the one that experiences the variable as to what the researcher is studying.

4. Conclusion

Photographic study of a horse galloping (top) and its animated sequence, by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887.
Photographic study of a horse galloping (top) and its animated sequence, by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887.

After the data are analyzed and written down, the scientist checks the results against the hypothesis; if the results have proven the hypothesis to be wrong, then it must be discarded. Even if the hypothesis is not correct, conclusions can still be made and significant knowledge gained. If the hypothesis is indicated to be correct, then the results are published and sent to other scientists within the field in question.

Scientists must be able to take such published data and repeat the experiment. This not only confirms the validity of the original hypothesis, but advances it to the level of a “theory”, which in science means an interpretation or explanation of a hypothesis that is well-supported by evidence which is tested and testable. A theory can also be falsified by evidence as well. The level of a “fact” or “law” is simply that which is empirical, and cannot be proven wrong.

A classic example of the Scientific Method being used stemmed from a simple bet. In 1872 a railroad baron named Leland Stanford made a wager that a horse’s hooves do not touch the ground at some point in a gallop. To test the hypothesis, photographer Eadweard Muybridge [1] was hired; he installed a series of trip wires which were rigged from a long wall about two inches from the ground, each one tied to a camera’s shutter facing the wall; the experiment called for the horse to run past the wall, tripping the wires and getting a photo at each point. The results were factual and conclusive: a horse at a running gallop does have all four hooves off the ground.

The agreement of an observation or experiment with a hypothesis does not on its own prove the hypothesis correct. It merely makes its correctness more likely. The hypothesis must agree with other aspects of the scientific framework of knowledge, and survive the test of repeated experiments by other people working independently. Over time, the accumulation of data will tend to confirm or refute a hypothesis.

Scientists may be influenced by their world-views to look for certain results that fit a preconception. The test of objectivity and rigor imposed on their work by the need for other scientists to replicate it makes the truth-seeking facility of the scientific method prevail in the long run. [1]



  • Campbell, Reece, Taylor, Simon, et al. Biology: Concepts and Connections 5th edition; Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ (2005)
  1. http://teacher.pas.rochester.edu/phy_labs/AppendixE/AppendixE.html

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