The scientific method offers scientists a basic step-by-step procedure, helping to ensure their experimental results are credible and useful. Understanding the essential principles or tenets of the scientific method can help you conduct experiments efficiently and effectively.
Formulate a Question
The first requirement of the scientific method is that a scientist explore and observe the world around him and formulate a question that experimental results might answer. Because the scientific method takes quite a bit of time, it helps for scientists to choose questions that interest them so that they don't become bored of the experiment they are conducting. Better questions are those that haven't been asked before or haven't been answered fully.
Develop a Hypothesis
The second essential tenet of the scientific method is to develop your hypothesis. The hypothesis is a statement in which the scientist defines what she thinks is going to happen during the experiment. For example, if a scientist conducts an experiment on whether or not a plant will grow and live without water, her hypothesis might be: "If I don't water these plants, then the plants will not live." Remember that a hypothesis does not have to be correct. It is simply an educated guess.
Design an Experiment
Because only those hypotheses that can be tested with a measurable experiment are valid, the third tenet of the scientific method is to design an experiment. When designing an experiment, a scientist should include both a control group, as well as any variables that he will be testing in his experiment. For example, if a scientist is testing whether or not a certain plant can survive without water, she needs a control group in which a plant received adequate water. Having the control group ensures that the plant that is not being watered is not dying because of other reasons.
Draw a Conclusion
After an experiment is conducted, the scientist draws a conclusion. Many scientists draw conclusions by organizing and developing their results into a formal report so that other scientists can review their results. It is necessary that a scientist includes all of the information that she found during the experiment, whether or not it supports her thesis or overall conclusion. Developing a conclusion without bias is key to ensuring that your experiment maintains credibility.
Reflect upon Results
The final essential principle of the scientific method includes reflecting upon your results. Consider whether or not the results caused you to ask more questions, which could lead you toward another experiment. You should also reflect upon your results with other scientists and determine whether or not your results contradict or prove the theories of other scientists.