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STEP OR STAGE #3 of the Scientific Method


Using the Scientific Method Requires

GOALS - End results you want to achieve
in solving a problem:

  • Goals must be realistic, flexible, and subject to change.
  • Put goals in writing. This helps analyze priorities and avoid carelessness.
  • Consider methods, processes, technologies, systems, strategies, and formulas needed.
  • Set target dates for stages and completion.
  • Learn to process information efficiently.
In considering goals, think about:
Real purpose involved Time/budget Long & short term goals
Future consequences Sub-goals Criteria to use
Values to use Your basic needs Revising as required
Perfection not always needed Where goal is leading Measurability / specific end

Using the Scientific Method Requires

PLANNING - How to reach your goals.
Always Think & Plan Ahead

  • Planning speeds solutions and avoids wasted time and effort. Put plans in writing.
  • Develop a plan to use today's huge computer databases of information.
  • Abstract and Outline: theories, concepts and basic principles involved in the problem.
  • Consider breaking down into sub-problems; each may require a plan.
  • Plan must be flexible. When working on complex, ill-structured problems, things will change frequently. Thus, don't start with too detailed a plan.
  • Plan for overall solution. Preliminary program for each ingredient of SM-14.
  • At start of work on each ingredient, prepare revised program for this ingredient.
  • Compile tentative solutions. Know the scope of areas you are going to search.
  • Experiment and test. Watch for methods to test tentative solutions.
  • Similar problems may have been solved before. Review records to benefit from experiences.
  • Use Intuition and Insightto save time and aid direction.
  • Build your team and involve its members in goals and planning.
  • When solving ill-structured problems tolerate ambiguities.
  • Plan how to control constants and variables.
A few other things to consider in your planning and using the Scientific Method:
Keep log book Time, budget, priorities Approvals and decisions of others
Algorithms "Anything goes" theory Challenge assumptions
Models, analogies Checking feedback Build up your library and files
Trial and error Impact on society Utilize sketches and diagrams
Alternate plans Emotions, stress Criteria to meet or establish
Methods, strategies Resources available Apply innovations and creativity
Watch for clues Anticipate problems Supplies, facilities, instruments
Thinking out loud List factors contributing to solution Assignment of responsibilities
Research Designs Start with easiest sub-problems Laws, licenses, legalities, patent search

Problem-based Learning -
Great Goal, But Poor Planning

There is a growing movement to tech law, medicine, engineering, business and other subjects by Problem-based Learning. In many instances those sponsoring this type of learning fail to:

  • Include any formula for the steps or stages and ingredients of the scientific method, which is the master method of problem solving.
  • Or use inadequate formulas - such as offering one that is too short.

This situation is an example of the excellent goal of teaching problem solving, but poor planning and analysis of what is needed to accomplish the goal.

If you do not teach any formula when using problem-based learning programs, you fail to a great extent getting transfer of learning. Centuries of use of the scientific method have shown there are basic stages to reliable problem solving. SM-14 is a well-researched formula. After reviewing hundreds of other formulas, I have found SM-14 to be the best suited for use of the Scientific Method in problem solving.

SM-14 becomes a strategy that guides you in solving complex, ill-structured, real-world problems. It has evolved over the centuries since Galileo's time. Another basic principle is that one learns to become an expert by solving a large number of problems, following a formula such as SM-14.