Scientific Method

Scientist using microscope in laboratory
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The scientific method is a series of steps followed by scientific investigators to answer specific questions about the natural world. It involves making observations, formulating a hypothesis, and conducting scientific experiments. Scientific inquiry starts with an observation followed by the formulation of a question about what has been observed. The steps of the scientific method are as follows:

  • Observation
  • Question
  • Hypothesis
  • Experiment
  • Results
  • Conclusion

Observation

The first step of the scientific method involves making an observation about something that interests you. This is very important if you are doing a science project because you want your project to be focused on something that will hold your attention. Your observation can be on anything from plant movement to animal behavior, as long as it is something you really want to know more about.​ This is where you come up with the idea for your science project.

Question

Once you've made your observation, you must formulate a question about what you have observed. Your question should tell what it is that you are trying to discover or accomplish in your experiment. When stating your question you should be as specific as possible.​ For example, if you are doing a project on plants, you may want to know how plants interact with microbes.

Your question may be: Do plant spices inhibit bacterial growth?

Hypothesis

The hypothesis is a key component of the scientific process. A hypothesis is an idea that is suggested as an explanation for a natural event, particular experience, or specific condition that can be tested through definable experimentation.

It states the purpose of your experiment, the variables used, and the predicted outcome of your experiment. It is important to note that a hypothesis must be testable. That means that you should be able to test your hypothesis through experimentation.​ Your hypothesis must either be supported or falsified by your experiment. An example of a good hypothesis is: If there is a relation between listening to music and heart rate, then listening to music will cause a person's resting heart rate to either increase or decrease.

Experiment

Once you've developed a hypothesis, you must design and conduct an experiment that will test it. You should develop a procedure that states very clearly how you plan to conduct your experiment. It is important that you include and identify a controlled variable or dependent variable in your procedure. Controls allow us to test a single variable in an experiment because they are unchanged. We can then make observations and comparisons between our controls and our independent variables (things that change in the experiment) to develop an accurate conclusion.​

Results

The results are where you report what happened in the experiment. That includes detailing all observations and data made during your experiment.

Most people find it easier to visualize the data by charting or graphing the information.​

Conclusion

The final step of the scientific method is developing a conclusion. This is where all of the results from the experiment are analyzed and a determination is reached about the hypothesis. Did the experiment support or reject your hypothesis? If your hypothesis was supported, great. If not, repeat the experiment or think of ways to improve your procedure.