The Scientific Method In A Nutshell

Surfing the web, we often see many “facts” in the name of science. If you believe these claims, then you might think the cure for cancer has been found, vaccines are dangerous and everything you eat will cause cancer. However, why are scientist not agreeing to these radical claims? The answer is a structure in thought process called The Scientific Method. Lets look at a brief description of what the method is.

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.” – Richard P. Feynman

In a nutshell, The Scientific Method is a four step process: hypothesis, experiment, conclusion (with step-by-step list on how you reached your conclusion), and verifiable by others. The internet forgets about the final step of verification by others, which is why you see a web of confusion online.

1) Hypothesis

Feynman once said, “First, we guess… “, which means your hypothesis is only a hunch. You ask a question about anything that makes you curious. Do some research to see if your question has been answered already. If your question has been answered, then follow the step-by-step list to see if you come to the same conclusion. If there is no answer to your question, then you need to test your hypothesis to see if it’s correct.

2) Experiment

This step is the testing of your hypothesis. Set up a lab and perform your test. If your experiment is to see if flowers grow faster outdoors or indoors in a controlled environment, then place flowers in different locations outside and setup a few indoor gardens with ventilation and lighting. Everyday write down the results. Also, do not forget to make a VERY detailed list of EVERY step you make while setting up your lab and what you did while the experiment was active.

WARNING!┬áThis step is tricky. If you perform a bad experiment, then you will have a flawed conclusion. Some common mistakes are too few case studies (using 3 mice instead of 100), using the wrong subjects to study (do not test on turtles if you’re looking to cure a human disease), the wrong measurements or replacing experiment with “common sense”. There are many other mistakes but make sure you plan out the study so you get the correct results.

3) Conclusion with step-by-step list on how you reached your conclusion

Once you are done with your experiment, the results will be your conclusion. This will determine if your hypothesis is correct or not. In the flower experiment, you might find the flowers that received enough air circulation performed better in both indoors and outdoors. Once you determine that your experiment is complete, you document your results, followed with your step-by-step list. The step-by-step list is important. Other scientist will only use your list to determine if your conclusion is correct. Make sure you leave nothing out. Pay attention to EVERY detail.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard P. Feynman

4) Verifiable by others

This step is the most important to determine what is true and what is not true. Sometimes you will marry your hypothesis and try to force your findings. Other times you will make mistakes you did not see while you performed your experiment. It’s vital that other researchers verify your findings. Once you have your conclusion written down, submit it to scientific journals to try and get published. After others have followed your step-by-step list and have reached the same conclusion, then the world has discovered a new truth.