Lessons on the Scientific Method:
#1 of 5 on Basic Theories of Scientific Method

Scientific Method Is the Best
of All Knowledge Methods


In all times people have searched for ways and methods to originate reliable knowledge. An immense amount of effort, research, debate, fighting, misunderstandings, failures, and successes have resulted.


Scientific Method Is the Best of All Knowledge Methods

After all the efforts to find a way to obtain reliable knowledge, scientific method or the scientific method has been found superior to all other methods.

In An Introduction to Logic and Scientific Method (1934), Cohen and Nagel say, under the heading The Method of Science or Reflective Inquiry:

The other methods discussed are all inflexible, that is, none of them can admit that it will lead us into error. Hence none of them can make provision for correcting its own results. What is called scientific method differs radically from these by encouraging and developing the utmost possible doubt, so that what is left after such doubt is always supported by the best available evidence.As new evidence of new doubts arise it is the essence of scientific method to incorporate them – to make them an integral part of the body of knowledge so far attained. Its method, then, makes science progressive because it is never too certain about its results.

Why the Scientific Method?

One of the other reasons is that it represents a complete act of thought. John Dewey’s guide to his “analysis of a complete act of thought” has been widely cited. In Scientific Method: Its Function in Research and in Education (1932), Professor T.L. Kelley of Harvard University abstracts Dewey’s guide in a slightly different way than most authors, listing the steps shown below (he added #8, feeling it was needed). Also shown is a comparison of these steps to the steps or stages of SM-14, the best model of the scientific method.


Dewey’s Complete Act of Thought
Steps as abstracted by Kelley
Compare to the SM-14
Formula steps or stages

1. A felt difficulty  1. Curious Observation
2. A definition of the difficulty.  2. The Problem
3. A tentative solution  3. Goals, Planning
4. A mental elaboration of the solution, leading to additional tentative solutions and elaboration, if felt necessary, finally leading to #5.  4. Search, Explore
5. The belief that the solution is all right.  5. Alternate Solutions
6. An experimental verification  6. Evaluate Evidence
7. An appraisal of the experimental findings leading to acceptance of mental solution and a decision for immediate conductor to rejection and a reinstatement of a felt difficulty. The process is continued until a verified solution which is immediately serviceable is obtained.  7. Guess, Hypothesis
 8. Challenge Hypothesis
 9. Reach Conclusion
10. Suspend Judgment
8. A forward look to, or mental picturing of, future situations to which the present solution is pertinent. Note: “A tentative solution” was not included as a separate stage in SM-14 as it may occur at stage 1, between stages 1 and 2, at stage 2 or 3, and normally one or more at stages 4 and 5. 11. Take Action
12. Action Methods
13. Procedural Principles
14. Attributes, Thinking Skills