The scientific method is a series of steps that are recognized as a standardized way to test scientific principles. They have been used and defined over a number of centuries and allow scientists and students to carry out investigations and experiments with the best chance of success. The scientific method was first implemented by well known scientist and philosopher Aristotle. The number of steps in the method varies depending on the scientific understanding that is being tested. The steps also differ slightly depending on whether the idea can be tested or observed.
The steps of the scientific method
The scientific method generally involves six steps. Some include a seventh step in which the process is repeated to answer any questions that arise from the investigation or to thoroughly check the results. The six commonly recognized steps required in the scientific method are:
Step One: Observe and ask a question
Most scientific investigations are born out of an observation. For example, a person may notice oil floats on top of water and does not mix. This causes a person to wonder why this happens. Formulating a question that you want an answer for is the first step in the scientific method.
Step Two: Background research and data collection-
In this step you may research what other people have already discovered about your question. This could include research on the internet and in books as well as further observation of the phenomena you observed.
Step Three: Construct a hypothesis
Using the research and observation in the previous steps it is now time to come up with an answer to the question asked in step one. A hypothesis is defined as an educated guess based on what evidence is available. A hypothesis is usually stated in a particular way such as “If oil is lighter than water then the oil will always float on top of the water and they will stay separated” The hypothesis should be testable and proved right or wrong.
Step Four: Test the hypothesis
A scientific experiment is designed and conducted to try and prove or disprove the hypothesis. It is important in this step to make sure that the experiment conducted is a “fair” test with only one independent variable (one thing that can be changed and manipulated to test the hypothesis). It is also important to conduct the experiment a number of times to check whether the information learnt from the experiment is accurate.
Step Five: Analyze the data and draw a conclusion
In this step the information that has been gained from the experiment and observations is analyzed. The person conducting the experiment looks for correlations in the data that either proves or disprove the stated hypothesis, which allows them to form a conclusion. The next step is only completed if the hypothesis is correct, if not a new hypothesis would be formulated and steps 3 to 5 would be completed again.
Step Six: Communicate the results
The final step allows the person conducting the investigation to share what they have learned with others. This is the point in the process where scientists publish research papers, although students also record their findings by detailing their experiment in writing. By communicating the results it allows others to perform the same experiment and further test the hypothesis.