Scientific Method of Research

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the noun research as:

(1) Scholarly or scientific investigation or inquiry. (2) Close, careful study.

Let’s examine this dictionary definition.

“Scholarly” – The method of scholars is another name for the scientific method. Time and scholarly study have shown the scientific method to be the best method of obtaining reliable knowledge. Thus, “scholarly” means using the scientific method.

The dictionary definition also states “or scientific investigation or inquiry.” Here again you need the scientific method. For confirmation, see Ingredient #12 where I quote from M. Copi’s book Introduction to Logic” on what “scientifically” means today.

In general, when complex research is done it should be performed following the scientific method. Terms such as scientific method of research are used to emphasize this.

Logic and the Scientific Method

The literature often refers to the scientific method as a rational method. It is accurate to say that it is a logical method, as extensive reasoning has shown it to be the best of all methods to obtain reliable knowledge. Being a rational or logical method means that reasoning about problem solving leads to the realization that creative methods as well as logical ones are required for solutions using logic and the scientific method.

The Medical Model

In reference to research lately in the educational field, some are advising following the “medical model” and the use of randomized testing or trials.

What is this medical model?

If you analyze the medical field, you quickly find that this field never made much progress until its practitioners and researchers began to follow our natural scientists and use the scientific method. Two influential and well-known books in the medical field are An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865) by Dr. Claude Bernard and The Way of an Investigator – A Scientist’s Experience in Medical Research (1945) by Dr. Walter B. Cannon.

Here is what Dr. Bernard said way back in 1865:

“Reasoning is always the same, whether in the sciences that study living beings or in those concerned with inorganic bodies. But each kind of science presents different phenomena and complexities and difficulties of investigation peculiarly its own.”

Here is what Dr. Cannon, a famous Harvard professor, had to say in 1945:

“The chief grievance which the popularizer expresses is that the teaching of science in grade schools, high schools, and even colleges does not result in a public with a sufficient background of knowledge to allow understanding of the simplest account of new advances. This is a deplorable situation. For a hundred years scientific investigators have been transforming the civilized world. The progress of knowledge in recent times is chiefly progress in knowledge of science and the scientific method. The investigators in physics, in chemistry, and in the medical sciences have brought about conditions, within the life span of many now living, that would seem to their fathers nothing short of miraculous.” [emphasis mine]

Scientific Method Lesson

The scientific method lesson here is that there is really no reliable medical model to follow. Instead the scientific method should be followed.

Scientific Method Controls and Variables – Randomized Research

In using the scientific method, controls and variables have long been used. Randomized testing or trials are just one of the many creative, non-logical, logical, and technical methods specified in Ingredient #12. In randomized testing participants are randomly assigned to separate groups, and controls are used to ensure more accurate results. While those who advocate using the randomized trials of the medical model don’t say so, it is important that the trials and the entire project be based on the scientific method of research, which is the scientific method.