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STEP OR STAGE #2 of the Scientific Method:

IS THERE A PROBLEM ?


Scientific Method Problems as Questions:

Look at Problems as Challenges and Opportunities

An idea, problem, decision or tentative theory should be presented in the form of a question because:

  • It encourages you to keep an open mind, and thus seek the "truth" and not to prove a statement.
  • A question is a tool and a guide for productive thinking about problem solving and investigation of a new subject.
  • A problem is often successfully reformed.

Purpose of the Scientific Method is Problem Solving
Look at Problems as Challenges and Opportunities

While working on scientific method problems, develop a passion to solve! Define the problem carefully so you know what direction to take and what scientific method activities to engage in.

  • It prevents you from wasting time and may indicate whether it is solvable.
  • A wide enough (but not too wide) definition allows for alternate solutions.
  • "A problem properly defined is often half-solved."

Things to Help You Define and Understand
the Problem Properly

  • Consider purpose, goals, criteria, and significance.
  • Why, who, what, when? where, how, what if?
  • Know the domains in which the problem falls.
  • If you don't know enough about the subject, you may have to loop ahead to Ingredient #4 and search for information to help define the problem.
  • If problem was assigned to you, review its origin. Read and reread it.
  • Define the problem's deep (or basic) structure. Juggle the elements.
  • End with a question that is brief, clear, purposeful, and thought-provoking.
  • Plan to revise the definition as your research proceeds. Again, read and reread it!

Things to Write Down, Consider,
or Do About Scientific Method Problems

Unknowns Characteristics State problem another way
Symbols Attributes Draw pictures
Use models Critical issues Concepts involved
Make idea tree Separate elements Quantitative aspects
Use imagery Make concept map Other representations
Analogies Challenge unfounded assumptions

Tentative Solutions - Keep an Open Mind.

Be alert for any possible solutions. Even if enthused with any solutions that arise, consider them tentative until you use STEP OR STAGE #4 through #6.

Since the Purpose of the Scientific Method is Problem Solving, Descartes' Techniques Still Apply

Réné Déscartes in A Discourse on Méthod (1637) advised:
  • Never accept anything for true which you do not clearly know to be such.
  • Divide each difficulty into as many parts as possible for it's adequate solution.
  • Commence with the simplest and easiest to know.
  • Do a complete review so nothing is omitted.
The publication of these excellent basic principles of scientific method problem solving so long ago gives you an idea of how long the development of the scientific method has been.