The Scientific Method

One way to find the truth is to follow the steps of the Scientific Method.

The Scientific Method begins with observations and a question. What do you want to know? What do you wonder about? What do you see in the world around you that has you curious? Who? What? Where? When? How? or Why?

Step 1: Identify a problem and/or ask a question. 

After you have your question or problem, do some research to see what you can find out about your topic. What have others already found out about it? You can find this out by reading related books and articles or by doing an internet search and see what comes up. Most likely, others have already asked the same or a similar question and have already sought to find an answer. Use the information they have already found out as a head start for your own search. Inventing a wheel that has already been invented is a waste of time. Use the work of others to get you started and then move things further along.

Step 2: Do background research.

After all of that research, you will be ready to form your own hypothesis which is, simply, an educated guess. Based on what you’ve already learned, what do you think will be the answer to your question? Predict the outcome of your experiment before you even begin it. A hypothesis is not another question but a definitive statement, a possible answer to your original question. Give it your best shot but it’s okay if you’re wrong at this point. Lots of really smart scientists are. That is why we go to the next step and experiment.

Step 3: Construct a hypothesis.

Is something bothering you? Now you know what to do. (Image by keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk)
Is something bothering you? Now you know what to do. (Image by keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk)

Once you have your hypothesis, you are ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work on testing it. Think of a good way to test whether or not your hypothesis is correct. Design and perform your own experiment. It could be similar to what others have done in the past or a totally new creative method.

What materials will you need? How exactly will your experiment be performed? How many times will it be performed? How broad or narrow will be your scope? (If your experiment is a survey, will you survey people of both genders, all ages, and all walks of life or just 8-year old girls with braids and eyeglasses who live in Atlanta and are named Susan?) Will you have variables (conditions that vary) in your experiment, or not? How will you keep track of all the data you collect? A chart? A graph? What makes the most sense to you?

Step 4: Experiment and Record Data

Now that you’ve completed your experiment, it’s time to analyze your results and draw a conclusion from them. What did you find? What can you conclude? Was your hypothesis correct or not? Maybe you feel you should change or tweak your original hypothesis and then perform the experiment again either as-is or with some adjustments. Do you feel confident that the data you collected is accurate? Do you think more research needs to be done on your subject before a conclusion can be drawn? (This is often the case.)

Step 5: Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion

There are variations of the Scientific Method. Some can have as many as eight steps. In the early grades when students are first introduced to this process, the steps are fewer and kept very simple. Basic versions of the Scientific Method combines steps while more detailed versions split them up and maybe add more, such as Communicate Your Results. In any case, it ought to be user friendly, easy to understand, and fun to follow.

The Scientific Method isn’t just for classroom lab experiments on bugs or chemical solutions. It can be followed for just about any problem or situation in life. Observe, identify, observe some more, think, act, analyze, and conclude. Using the Scientific Method can help increase our understanding of the world around us. Indeed, the process can become a natural response to our everyday lives, kind of like breathing.

How do you think you might use the scientific method to answer questions or solve problems that arise in your life or in the world. I’d love to hear your ideas. Please share them in the comment section below.