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Supporting Ingredients to The Scientific Method (SM-14)

INGREDIENT #13 of the Scientific Method:


How Do Scientists Use the Scientific Method?

Since Galileo's time, various basic principles, guides, objectives, and thoughts about "the scientific method" and its use have been discussed and debated. There are no established standards concerning these procedural principles and theories.

Controversy exists about some, if not all, of them. They must be considered and applied with an open mind as you pursue complete creative problem solving using the Scientific Method.

The Basic Procedural Principle is to
Follow the 11 Basic Steps of the Scientific Method

These 11 steps or stages represent the mental activity steps or stages of the complete act of problem solving and decision making thought. Proceeding in a systematic manner avoids aimless wandering. However, as these steps or stages are subject neutral, you need to apply the supporting ingredients to actually reach a decision on solving a problem.

The Organized Sciences

The organized sciences have their peer review systems, professional organizations, customs, consensus of opinion, ethical standards (I recommend NAS's responsible Science: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process, Vol. I & II, 1993), and constant debates about theories, methods, what is the structure of science, and what is our "organized body of knowledge." Look first to them for leadership in procedural principles and theories, as they have been mainly responsible for these. A few major ones are listed below.

The Purpose of The Scientific Method

The basic purpose is to refine, extend, and apply knowledge, and to seek the "truth," although the "truth" can probably never be determined. Results must always be held open to extension, modification, even possible replacement.

How do Scientists Use the Scientific Method - Some of the Procedural Principles and Theories

Experimentation - Testing and experimentation, whether on a blackboard or computer, or in the lab, are usually essential activities in the use of The Scientific Method. Government standards must be observed in experiments involving people, animals, and the environment.

Replicable - Results must be reproducible, communicable, and communicated.

A Skeptical Attitude - A Skeptical Attitude toward authoritative statements is required in seeking the truth. Data used in your thinking must be "true" insofar as it is possible to determine "truth." It may be useful to determine key terminology.

Values and Ethics - As much as humanly possible, a researcher should strive to be free of prejudice and bias that often creep into human judgment and action. They must give due credit to his team or collaborators. Ethical conduct is expected.

Infallibility - No claims should be made that "The Scientific Method" produces infallible solutions. State rather: "On the evidence available today, the balance of probability favors the view that ..."

Gather All Evidence - If bias or inadequate effort causes you to ignore or fail to find contrary evidence, you will not arrive at the "truth."

Mathematics - Qualitative and quantitative methods of mathematics should be used whenever possible.

Society - There is a growing interest in the concept that science is a social activity.

All Stages of The Scientific Method - Each has various procedural principles and theories peculiar to them. See Steps or Stages 1 to 11.

Ethical Standards

Federal Policy on Research Misconduct

Scientists have always been concerned about the integrity of the research process. This interest has increased now that the federal government has instituted more regulations about it. These regulations illustrate basic ethics. More information can be obtained by going to the website of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (www.ostp.gov).

From the site:
I. Research Misconduct Defined

Research misconduct is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.

Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them as fact.

Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research records.

Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion. Also see Stage 13 at my website www.decisionmaking.org.

Next: ... Ingredient 14, Attributes and Thinking Skills. These are of prime importance in doing a good job of decision making.