What is the Scientific Method?

Written by J.A Dobado | Last Updated on April 22, 2024

Science differs from other fields of knowledge in the method scientists use to acquire knowledge and in the special meaning they attach to it. Scientific knowledge can be used to explain natural phenomena and predict future events.

The scientific method originated in the 17th century with people such as Galileo, Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton. The key to the method is that no initial assumptions are made, but rather careful observations of natural phenomena are made.

When enough observations have been made for a pattern of behavior to begin to emerge, a generalization or natural law describing the phenomenon is formulated. Natural laws are concise propositions, often in mathematical form, about the behavior of nature.

The scientific method is characterized by:

  • There is a process of observations leading to a general proposition or natural law. It is called inductive reasoning.
  • A hypothesis is an attempt to explain a natural law. If the hypothesis is consistent with experimental evidence, it is called a theory.
  • A theory is a model or a way of examining nature that can be used to explain natural phenomena and make predictions about them. When different or contradictory theories are proposed, the one that provides the best or simplest predictions is usually chosen. As time goes by, new experimental evidence accumulates, which implies modifying certain theories or even discarding them.

The scientific method is therefore the combination of observations and experiments together with the formulation of laws, hypotheses and theories. The scientific method is illustrated in the figure.

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