The Scientific Method In Detail
In the first post in this two-part series about the scientific method, naturals laws were discussed in depth. Now, we will discuss the scientific method itself. This may be very familiar to many of you, so follow along with me.
The scientific method, although not a strict set of procedures for carrying out one research plan in particular, such as a recipe might be for making a particular type of chocolate cake, provides scientists with a general idea of the steps involved in gaining new scientific insight. The scientific method would of course not be very effective if it did not allow for the creativity and individuality of a researcher to form the basis of the experiment being undertaken (Ebbing and Gammon 2009).
In its most general state, the scientific method can be described as a combination of varying degrees of the following elements: observation, experimentation, and the formulation of laws, hypotheses, and theories. You may have a general idea what some of these terms mean, but we will review standard definitions of most of these terms. As a lifelong scientist (if you are to become a physician), you must know what a hypothesis is and know it well. A hypothesis describes a natural law tentatively. To review what a natural law is, review part I of this series of posts. A hypothesis is the foundation of scientific experimentation. From a hypothesis comes a theory, if and only if that hypothesis is able to survive under repeated experimentation. A theory, then, can be defined as a means of explaining natural phenomena, that holds up to testing, and which may also be useful to making future predictions related to natural phenomena. A note about theories is that they are also not absolute; theories may be shown to be limited, outdated, or in rare cases even wrong over time after more experimentation is done upon a particular theory. A famous example of a theory that has undergone modification, if it helps you remember this concept is Isaac Newton's physics of the motion of objects, which was shown to not hold up for objects moving near the speed or light and also very small objects, a full 200+ years after it was originally established as a theory (Ebbing and Gammon 2009).
The scientific method is often best summed up in a diagrammatic display, which is shown below and to which full credit is attributed to Pertucci, Herring, Madura, and Bissonnette for their detailed illustration of the scientific method that has inspired the one that was created for this post.
A prospective medical student, looking to help others succeed.