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The Scientific Method
The Scientific MethodHow to Use the Scientific Method Effectively Guidelines for Good Scientific Research Develop an investigation that is:MeaningfulShould either further YOUR scientific understanding OR advance societys understanding of a scientific law, theory, principle, or idea.EthicalDoes not cause harm, violate rights, or breaks laws.FeasibleThe technologies exist to conduct research and it is not too expensive.ControlledEvery attempt is made to control each variable in the investigation.UnbiasedDesigned so that the data will be collected and analyzed so that it does NOT reflect your preconceived thoughts of what the data will look like. It also accounts for an adequate sample sizeRepeatableYour work must be repeatable in every aspect by someone else without your involvement.Peer ReviewedYour investigation and the findings you report will be reviewed by others with appropriate qualifications to evaluate your work for accuracy and validity.
The Key Components of the Scientific MethodAPPLICATONQUESTIONKNOWLEDGE PROBEEVALUATIONEXPLANATIONPREDICTIONDATA ANALYSISOBSERVATIONSINVESTIGATION PLANQuestionThe investigation question has to be specific and doable.Has to tell what exactly the investigation will be about.
Has to be physically able to be investigated, has to be ethically allowable, has to be financially feasible, and should be looking to forward either your knowledge or that of the scientific community.
Examples:Is there a trend in freshwater clams? Poor
Is there a relationship between the shell length and the organisms mass for freshwater clams? GoodKnowledge ProbeThis is research that is begun prior to developing a prediction.It should be PERTINENT information about what you specifically plan to investigate.
Examples of the types of information that you should research:Key scientific terms, theories, laws, or principles that directly relate to your investigation.Research and findings of other scientists who investigated the same or similar aspects that your investigation will be investigating.New or unique information/procedures for conducting your research.The statistical analysis method(s) that will give meaning to your data.PredictionThis is a statement that describes the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. Make sure you know which is which for your investigation so you can state them correctly in your prediction.Often expressed as an If., then, because. statement.
Examples:I predict there will be a positive trend in freshwater clams. POOR
If the shell length and the organisms mass are compared, then it will be possible to determine if there is a direct correlation between these two attributes because graphical representation coupled with statistical analysis will show if a direct relationship exists, and to what extent. GOODInvestigation PlanThis is the step-by-step procedures you will use to conduct your investigation.It can be modified or altered if it is found to be flawed or does not allow for the collection of enough data.It must include all equipment and units of measure.Must be laid out to show that it is controlled and unbiased.Controlled means you are changing only ONE variable at a time.Unbiased means that your investigation will allow for the data to be collected so that it does NOT reflect your preconceived thoughts of what the data will look like. It also accounts for an adequate sample size.ObservationsThis sections includes ALL of the qualitative and quantitative data you collect during your investigation.Use data tables to keep your data organized and to be certain that you have collected every piece of data you intend to collect.Example:
clam #length (mm)mass (g)notes130.5050.12shell had 2mm x 2mm chip missing from edge.240.5065.34323.0048.15460.5092.45organism seemed heavy for size.Data AnalysisThis is where you will:organize your data to show trends, develop graphs of your data, show ALL mathematical calculations with units, apply any statistical analysis, and summarize your results.ExplanationThis section can best be done by:1st - Stating your claim2nd - Giving the evidence that supports your claim3rd Discussing the reasoning of why or how your claim and evidence fits with current scientific research, principles, theories, or laws. This is where you dive into the meaning of your results and how they support or refute what is already known about what you investigated. To do this, you will tie in much of your knowledge probe research.
EvaluationThe evaluation component of the scientific method is really a two part approach to make sure your work is correct and follows all of the conventions of good scientific research.PART 1 - This is something that is done CONSTANTLY throughout your ENTIRE investigation!Prior to moving on to the next phase of your investigation, you need to evaluate if you are truly ready to move on. One good way to do this is talking things out with your peers or instructor. Ask yourself questions such as What if or What else might be a factor? or Am I following all of the aspects of good scientific research? (controlled, unbiased, ethical, feasible, repeatable)Evaluation PART 2 - You also need to make an FINAL evaluation once you have completed your explanation. This should give some measure of how confident you are in your results and why. It might also discuss recommendations of how others might improve on your research to ensure more meaningful or accurate results.Example:Based on the contradictions of the data collected in this study with the findings of previous research (citations needed), caution should be exercised when relying on these results. It is advised that further research be conducted using the same methods but with a much larger sample size to ensure that the results are truly representative of the population as a whole and are not the result of skewed data based on a small sample.
ApplicationThis section should tie why or how your investigation relates the real world.This can be done by:Relating your work to what others in science are doing and WHY.Postulating a new idea, theory, or aspect of a scientific principle.