<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

The scientific method

Biologists study the living world by posing questions about it and seeking science-based responses. This approach is common to other sciences as well and is often referred to as the scientific method. The scientific method was used even in ancient times, but it was first documented by England’s Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626) ( [link] ), who set up inductive methods for scientific inquiry. The scientific method is not exclusively used by biologists but can be applied to almost all fields of study as a logical, rational problem-solving method.

Painting depicts Sir Francis Bacon in a long robe.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626) is credited with being the first to define the scientific method. (credit: Paul van Somer)

The scientific process typically starts with an observation (often a problem to be solved) that leads to a question. Let’s think about a simple problem that starts with an observation and apply the scientific method to solve the problem. One Monday morning, a student arrives at class and quickly discovers that the classroom is too warm. That is an observation that also describes a problem: the classroom is too warm. The student then asks a question: “Why is the classroom so warm?”

Proposing a hypothesis

Recall that a hypothesis is a suggested explanation that can be tested. To solve a problem, several hypotheses may be proposed. For example, one hypothesis might be, “The classroom is warm because no one turned on the air conditioning.” But there could be other responses to the question, and therefore other hypotheses may be proposed. A second hypothesis might be, “The classroom is warm because there is a power failure, and so the air conditioning doesn’t work.”

Once a hypothesis has been selected, the student can make a prediction. A prediction is similar to a hypothesis but it typically has the format “If . . . then . . . .” For example, the prediction for the first hypothesis might be, “ If the student turns on the air conditioning, then the classroom will no longer be too warm.”

Testing a hypothesis

A valid hypothesis must be testable. It should also be falsifiable    , meaning that it can be disproven by experimental results. Importantly, science does not claim to “prove” anything because scientific understandings are always subject to modification with further information. This step—openness to disproving ideas—is what distinguishes sciences from non-sciences. The presence of the supernatural, for instance, is neither testable nor falsifiable. To test a hypothesis, a researcher will conduct one or more experiments designed to eliminate one or more of the hypotheses. Each experiment will have one or more variables and one or more controls. A variable    is any part of the experiment that can vary or change during the experiment. The control group contains every feature of the experimental group except it is not given the manipulation that is hypothesized about. Therefore, if the results of the experimental group differ from the control group, the difference must be due to the hypothesized manipulation, rather than some outside factor. Look for the variables and controls in the examples that follow. To test the first hypothesis, the student would find out if the air conditioning is on. If the air conditioning is turned on but does not work, there should be another reason, and this hypothesis should be rejected. To test the second hypothesis, the student could check if the lights in the classroom are functional. If so, there is no power failure and this hypothesis should be rejected. Each hypothesis should be tested by carrying out appropriate experiments. Be aware that rejecting one hypothesis does not determine whether or not the other hypotheses can be accepted; it simply eliminates one hypothesis that is not valid ( [link] ). Using the scientific method, the hypotheses that are inconsistent with experimental data are rejected.

Questions & Answers

simple definition for respiratory system
Gift Reply
Respiratory system is a network of organs and tissues that helps you to breathe or help in getting the rids of oxygen and discharge of carbon dioxide in the body.
how is a aerenchyma tissue adapted to its function
fatuma Reply
what does DNA mean
innocent Reply
dioxiribo nucleic acid
what is a zygote
Victor Reply
zygote is developed or fertilized egg cell
what is the difference between cell wall and cell membrane
Ruhiyatu Reply
cell wall is found in plant while cell membrane is found in animal cell
please this is the main answer to that question okay Cell wall gives shape and support to the cell whiles Cell membrane support the movement of substances into and out of the cell. This question is very tricky that's why I asked.
how cell I form
Elijah Reply
what difference between animal cell and plant cell
Lazarus Reply
what is animal call
Animal cell does not have a cell wall but plant cell have a cell wall
plant have cell Wall well animal have not cell wall
what is fertilization?
Muhamed Reply
Fertilization is the fusion of male sex cell and female sex cell to form a zygote.
What kind of nutrients is composed of plants
Annie Reply
what is hormones
Igwe Reply
hormon is the chemical messanger
Genes can make someone dull?
21ecological instrument and their diagrams
Ayomide Reply
cell biology
I am sorry
for wat
no reason
nothing but speculate
Sorry without reason is nothing but speculate
what are the kidney disease
Immaculate Reply
kidney stones
it is a disease that affects the kidney
what are some lung diseases
kidney cancer
what is micro-organism
Jackson Reply
what is the hypothesis
hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon
hypothesis is raw materials
what is biology
biology is the study of living things and their interaction with their environment
what is zyogot?
what is fertilization?
zygote is an unfertilized eggs
fertilization refers to the fusion of a sperm and ovum
organs that can't be seen physically
what does mean stigma
Amira Reply
the stigma receives pollen grains during pollination
what is the full of the MOST dangerous disease in the world where one stops sleeping and just dies :Hint ; FFI
God Reply
fatal familial insomnia which affects the thalamus
there are other dangerous diseases like CAD i.e coronary artery disease

Get the best Biology course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Biology' conversation and receive update notifications?