What Is the Scientific Method? Video
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Video:What Is the Scientific Method?

with Josh Lenzini

The scientific method is the basic approach answering questions. Watch this education video from About.com to learn how the scientific method is used and how you can apply it in your everyday life, even when science isn't involved.See Transcript

Transcript:What Is the Scientific Method?

Hello, I’m Josh Lenzini for About.com here to give you an overview of the scientific method. 

The Steps in the Scientific Method

The scientific method is a way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments.  The typical steps of the scientific method are:

  •  Ask a question 
  • Do background research
  •  Construct a hypothesis 
  • Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment
  •  Next, you analyze your data and draw a conclusion
  • Finally, you communicate your results Now lets expand on the typical steps with an example. 

How to Apply the Scientific Method

First, ask a question. The scientific method starts when you ask a question about something that you observe: How, What, When, Who, Which, Why, or Where?   In order for the scientific method to answer the question it must be about something that you can measure, preferably with a number. For example, let's say I have a problem:  My car won't start.  How would you use the scientific method to solve this problem?   I would start by asking the question: Why won’t my car start?  

Next, do background research: Rather than starting from scratch in putting together a plan for answering your question, you want to be a savvy scientist using library and Internet research to help you find the best way to do things and insure that you don't repeat mistakes from the past. For our car example, I would use my current knowledge and/or research reasons why cars won’t start such as check the battery, check the oil, check the gas and things like that.  

Now we will construct a hypothesis. A hypothesis is an educated guess about how things work.  You must state your hypothesis in a way that you can easily measure.  So, my hypothesis might be:  If I put gas in my car, it will start. 

Experiment to Test Your Hypothesis

Now we test the hypothesis by doing an experiment: Your experiment tests whether your hypothesis is true or false. It is important for your experiment to be a fair test.  A "fair test" occurs when you change only one factor or variable and keep all other conditions the same. For our car example, test the hypothesis by doing an experiment.  I will put gasoline is in the tank then attempt to start the car.  

Next we will analyze the data and draw the conclusion. Once your experiment is complete, you collect your measurements and analyze them to see if your hypothesis is true or false.  Since the car started on the first try; therefore, putting gasoline in car enabled the car to start. Scientists often find that their hypothesis was false, and in such cases they will construct a new hypothesis starting the entire process of the scientific method over again. 

Complete the Scientific Method with a Conclusion

Finally, communicate your results. Professional scientists publish their final report in a scientific journal or by presenting their results at a scientific meeting or conference.  As far as my car, I may tell a friend that putting gas in the car enabled it to start. I hope this gives you a better understanding of what the scientific method is and how it can be used.  

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