1.2. The scientific method

The scientific process normally begins with an observation (usually a problem that needs a solution) which leads to a question. Researchers, from this question, are going to follow the next steps:

      Proposing a hypothesis
Let’s remember that a hypothesis is a suggested explanation that can be tested. As several hypothesis can be capable of answering a single question (as we saw previously), several hypothesis can be proposed to solve a single problem. Once a hypothesis has been chosen, a prediction can be formulated with the following structure:  “If . . . then . . .”

    ▣      Hypothesis verification
Due to the fact that natural phenomena are not always as usual and flexible as we would like, observation is not often enough and researchers must carry out one or more experiments to get rid of one or more of the initial hypothesis.
Each experiment consists of:
      At least one variable which is any part of the experiment that can change during the same.
      At least one control group that contains the same features as the experimental group but they are not applied the hypothesis in study. By modifying variables, we can discover how they affect the experimental process and if the results of the experimental group are different from the control group such a difference is due to the hypothesis we are testing instead of external factors.

We can affirm, without a doubt, that the Italian physicist Galileo Galilei was the first one introducing experimentation in a systematic way in the world of natural sciences. Without experimentation, modern science would never have accomplished the advances we have today, that is why laboratories have become so essential for researchers.

Science, unlike general thinking, does not intend to prove anything because scientific knowledge, as time goes by, changes with new acquired knowledge. The objective is, hence, to test if the proposed hypothesis are refuted or disproved, which is general known as “falsifiable”.

The several steps in the scientific method can be represented as follows:
To clear up ideas I will give you a simple example:
Let's imagine you want to watch your favourite TV show but the television does not turn on (observation), so you wonder why (question).
The first idea you think of is there might have been a power cut (hypothesis), to check you do the following “experiment”: you switch on the lamps in your dining room and they light on (analyse the results), so the hypothesis is incorrect.
Then, you decide to look if your TV monitor is unplugged (second hypothesis), you do it (experiment) but the TV is plugged into the mains (analyse the results), this second hypothesis is also incorrect.
Thirdly, you check if the batteries in your remote control are used up (third hypothesis) and the “experiment” you do is to replace them with new ones, finally you manage to turn on the telly (analyse the results), so this last hypothesis was the correct one.

No doubt, this is a rather simplistic example of our daily life but allows us to know how science works with much more complex, significant and tough problems.

Source: OpenStax College, Biology. OpenStax College. 30 May 2013.

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