Connecting the Steps of the Scientific Method

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  • 0:01 The Scientific Method
  • 0:57 A Connected Process
  • 2:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

While the scientific method is divided into different steps, each of those steps is connected to the others. From making observations to drawing conclusions, the logical order and flow is what makes this process work so well in science.

The Scientific Method

As you may recall, the scientific method is an iterative, step-by-step process that starts with making observations and ends with communicating experimental results. For the most part, the steps work best when you go through them in order: making an observation, asking a scientific question, formulating a valid hypothesis, testing that hypothesis, analyzing the data, drawing conclusions, and then communicating the results to the scientific community.

Sometimes, though, you can jump around a bit. For example, if you get to the point where you analyze your data and you realize that something isn't quite right, you can go back to the part where you test your hypothesis and try again. Or, maybe you go through the entire process, but during your experimentation, you have some new observations that lead you to ask more questions. These questions lead you to new hypotheses that lead you to new experiments and off you go again!

A Connected Process

The main idea behind the scientific method is that the steps are connected to each other. They all work together to create good science, and each depends on the other to have any real purpose.

For example, think about that near final step: drawing conclusions. The conclusions that you come to are formed not only from your experimental data but also from your prior knowledge on the topic at hand. This knowledge may have come from the research you did when you formulated your hypothesis, or it may have come from something you studied before. But you can't have logical conclusions about data without actually collecting data and knowing what the data means!

Likewise, scientific observations are great, but if you don't do anything with those observations, they're dead on arrival. However, you have to carefully think about your observations and come up with questions before you can do anything else. An experiment doesn't materialize out of thin air, right? It has to be carefully designed so that it tests exactly what you want it to and gives you meaningful results. A good experimental design is born from your research about the observations you made and scientific questions that came from them.

Your hypothesis is another very important component of the overall scientific process. How you phrase your hypothesis determines not only what you study in your experiment but also how you study it. For example, wanting to know why fertilizer makes plants grow faster is a very different study than wanting to know how much fertilizer will lead to optimal plant growth.

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