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The Scientific Method an Introduction



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Science is the practice of obtaining new knowledge. However, it is rare that knowledge of something is obtained to its fullest extent, which is why science dwells in the realm of the theoretical. For example, atomic theory has been a subject of interest for thousands of years starting with the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Democritus. Atomic theory has been revised and rectified numerous times, and yet will probably never be truly considered fact. In science there is almost always more to learn. To accomplish the goal of obtaining knowledge, scientists use the scientific method.

The scientific method is the steps taken to obtain new knowledge. The method is a universal approach that has been utilized successfully by many scientists. The first step in the scientific method is to observe the particular phenomenon or subject of interest. For example, a coin is flipped one hundred times and the number of times each face of the coin that lands face up is recorded. After observing, a hypothesis is created. One might suggest that the face “heads” occurs more than “tails” based on his observations. After creating a hypothesis, a prediction must be made. Heads may occur more often than tails, but by what margin? One must predict the outcomes of the hypothesis in a logical context.

The most crucial part of the scientific method is to test the newly created hypothesis through experimentation and further observation. Science is a collection of theories, and these theories must be tested rigorously in order to be considered true or false. If the coin is flipped one hundred times again, with the same result, coincidence could be the reason for the duplication. But, if a thousand trials of the hundred flip process were carried out, the resulting conclusion would be much more convincing. It is important to control these experiments in order to prevent error which could compromise the results of the experiment. To continue with the use of flipping a coin, one would want to ensure that they always use the same coin in a calm environment. To use different coins could mean disproportionate weights and different results. To conduct the experiment outdoors rather than in a calm environment could compromise results by introducing influencing factors such as wind.

The final step in the scientific method is to analyze. Is the hypothesis correct? If a hypothesis is incorrect, a new hypothesis must be formulated. For example, instead of heads occurring more often than tails, perhaps both faces occur in a near equal ratio. If a hypothesis is correct, one must determine whether the evidence through experimentation is truly strong enough to support the hypothesis. Did heads occur more often than tails in only 60% of the trials? This result may deem the hypothesis as correct, but it is not necessarily strong. A hypothesis must face rigorous testing and succeed in this testing at an extremely high rate. If heads had occurred more than tails in 95% of the trials, the hypothesis would be much stronger.

The scientific method relies of the use of large amount of evidence to answer questions. The method helps to ensure that a theory is strong and capable of withstanding critique and helping the search for new knowledge in the future.

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