The Scientific Method is a logical and rational order of steps by which you may come to a conclusion that answers a question, or confirms or disproves a hunch about the world around you. It guides your research in a systematic manner that confidently supports your conclusion. The Scientific Method is often presented as a fixed sequence of steps. However, it is rather a set of processes that may vary within and between different sciences. In general, scientists use observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, and conclusion in their research. Not all steps take place in every scientific inquiry (or to the same degree), nor are they always in the same order.
Consider using the Scientific Method to answer a complex question. Design an experiment which will be able to answer that question.
1. Observation and research is done first so that you know how you want to go about your research. Clearly observe, identify the problem, and define the question.
2. Develop a hypothesis—the answer you think you'll find. For example, “Result X occurs when conditions Y and Z are met, thus Y and Z are the causes of X.”
3. State a prediction—your specific belief about the scientific idea. For example, “If my hypothesis is true, then I predict we will discover_____.”
4. Design an experiment—the tool you will use to test your hypothesis. It is absolutely necessary that your hypothesis be tested accurately. State in advance the method for measuring the problem, using instruments of measurement that have validity and reliability. Also define in advance the criteria to be used to accept and reject the hypothesis. Observe and measure all cases, or a representative sample of those cases.
5. The conclusion is the answer that your experiment provides. There is no right or wrong answer—either your conclusion supports your hypothesis or it does not. Limit your conclusion to those elements that are supported by the findings.
If you design the experiment well, you will get the correct answer, though not necessarily your desired answer. Present your findings to peers for review and validation, and to the general public for scrutiny. Describe your findings and methods in sufficient detail to permit others to replicate your research.