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Chemistry LibreTexts

1.5: The Process of Science

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  • In most textbooks, the scientific method is defined as the several steps generally starting with observations, followed by making a hypothesis, running an experiment and drawing a conclusion. This is the general form of a scientific method; however, there are so many pieces to the puzzle of running an experiment or understanding how something works. What if you don’t observe closely enough? What if we don’t examine all the variables? What if there are multiple steps that require you to make observations each time before you can come to a conclusion? What if you are collaborating among many different groups and collecting data? This linear scientific method doesn't really show what is going on. It might cause us to draw the wrong conclusion or an incomplete conclusion. Instead it is better to think of science as a process. The steps are iterative and cyclical. We are constantly questioning, gathering data, collaborating and receiving feedback. Experiments don’t often work “right” the first time. Many times in lab you will run an experiment you’ve never run before. The equipment, chemicals and/or the data analysis might be new to you. Running this experiment only once may cause you to draw an erroneous conclusion. However, if you can run the experiment multiple times, change variables, pool data, collaborate with other groups, you will likely draw a more complete conclusion and a more evidence based answer.  Running an experiment requires that you have previous knowledge, that you understand all the steps, and that when you get a result, does that result make sense. Can you draw a conclusion from your results? How can you confirm that your result is correct?  Scientists run experiments to answer a question, and then they run that same experiment again and again to check their result. They also run other experiments to confirm that other variables are not affecting the conclusion. In addition to confirming your result, consider what evidence do you have that your experiment did not work? Consider the errors that could have occurred during the experimental process. 

    Science is very methodical, but it does not always follow the same linear method. 

    You can visit this awesome site to learn more about how science works