SCIENTIFIC METHOD




SCIENTIFIC METHOD
(Presentation outlines)

Keyword: characteristics of scientific research; developing the research plan; research design; data analysis; research strategy; research process; steps of research

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The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as: "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses
Science provides a carefully developed system for answering questions so that the answers we get are as accurate, objective and complete as possible.
Although scientific research method depends on the collection of empirical facts, yet facts alone do not constitute a science. For meaningful understanding, facts must be ordered in some fashion, analyzed, generalized, and related to other facts. Thus, theory construction is a vital part of the scientific inquiry.
Since facts collected and findings evolved through the scientific method, are interrelated with the previous findings of other scholars or earlier theories, scientific knowledge is a cumulative process.
The scientific method could either be an inductive method or the deductive method. Inductive method involves establishing generalizations, i.e., building generalizations inferred from specific facts, or drawing particular principles from general instances, while deductive method involves testing generalizations, i.e., it is the process of reasoning from general principles to particular instances.
Research and theory are not opposed to each other. Research leads to theory and theory to research. In fact, descriptive research leads to explanatory research which leads to theoretical research.
CHARACTERISTICS OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH
Ø  Verifiable evidence, i.e., factual observations which other ob­servers can see and check.
Ø  It means truth or correctness of a statement or describing things exactly as they are and avoiding jumping to unwarranted conclusions
Ø  Precision, i.e., making it as exact as necessary, or giving exact number or measurement, Instead of saying, "I interviewed a large number of people", one says, "I interviewed 493 persons".
Ø  Systematization, i.e., attempting to find all the relevant data, or collecting data in a systematic and organized way so that the conclusions drawn are reliable
Ø  Objectivity, i.e., being free from all biases and vested interests. It means, observation is unaffected by the observer's values, beliefs and he is able to see and accept facts as they are, not as he might wish them to be.
Ø  Controlling conditions, i.e., controlling all variables except one and then attempting to examine what happens when that variable is varied. This is the basic technique in all scientific experimentation allowing one variable to vary while holding all other variables constant. Unless all variables except one have been controlled, we cannot be sure which variable has produced the results.
Though a physical scientist is able to control as many variables as he wishes in an experiment he conducts in the laboratory (say, heat, light, air pressure, time interval, etc.) but a social scientist cannot control all variables as he wishes. He functions under many constraints. For instance, a researcher wants to study the behavior of students in a classroom. Now, students' behavior in a classroom depends upon several factors, like efficiency of the teacher of communicating his views, subject which is being taught, availability of black-board, fan, etc., in the room, quietness in the verandah outside the classroom, and so forth. A researcher may be able to control some of these variables but not all.
The Scientific Method
Ø  Systematic; series of logical steps.
Ø  Identifying the problem
Ø  Formulating a hypothesis /Make testable predictions in the hypothesis
Ø  Developing the research plan
Ø  Collecting and analyzing the data
Ø  Interpreting results and forming conclusions
Ø  Example…
Ø  Identifying the Problem
Ø  First, and arguably the most important, step
Ø  Several sources
Ø  Theoretical basis
Ø  Professional practice
Ø  Personal experience
Ø  Shear curiosity
Ø  Starts as a broad question that must be narrowed
Ø  Problem statement; experimental approach to the problem; etc.
Ø  Formulating a Hypothesis
Ø  Hypothesis:
A belief or prediction of the eventual outcome of the research
A concrete, specific statement about the relationships between phenomena
Based on deductive reasoning
2 types of hypotheses:
Null hypothesis (HO)
All is equal; no differences exist
Alternative (research) hypothesis (HA)
Usually specific and opposite to the null
Developing the Research Plan
A strategy must be developed for gathering and analyzing the information that is required to test the hypotheses or answer the research question
Four parts:
·         Selection of a relevant research methodology
·         Identification of subjects or participants
·         Description of the data-gathering procedures
·         Specification of the data analysis techniques
o   Pilot studies, all must be determined in advance!
o   Collecting and Analyzing the Data
o   Following all the pre-determined protocols
o   Time in the lab collecting data
o   Analyzing the composite data
o   Controlling the environment
o   Interpreting Results and Forming Conclusions
o   DATA ANALYSIS IS NOT AN END IN ITSELF!
o   Does the evidence support or refute the original hypotheses?
o   Accept or reject the hypotheses
o   Conclusions should be drawn:
o   Develop new hypotheses to explain the results
o   Inferences are typically made beyond the specific study
The basic procedure is the same for all scientific inquiries and research. Only techniques may vary according to the problem under study. However, one thing that needs to be remembered is that hypotheses are not involved in all researches. Some researches may only collect the data and develop hypotheses from the analysis of data. Thus, "anything involving careful objective collecting of verifiable evidence in search for knowledge is scientific research" (Horton and Hunt)
The goal behind the scientific method is to prove or disprove a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a prediction about the relationship between two specific variables. For example, a researcher may question whether there is a relationship between the amount of studying a person does and the grade he or she achieves; a hypothesis might propose that the more a student studies, the higher his or her grades are. The data collected during a research study would aim to prove or disprove this hypothesis.
Several types of studies exist within the scientific method – experiments, descriptive studies, case studies, surveys, and non-descriptive studies. In an experiment a researcher manipulates certain variables and measures their effect on other variables in a controlled environment. Descriptive studies describe the nature of the relationship between the intended variables, without looking at cause or effect. Surveys are used with large groups of people who answer questions about specific information. Non-descriptive studies use correlation methods to predict the relationship between two (or more) intended variables.
4. The research process
Step 1: Find a research idea
Selecting general topic, reviewing the literature (previous research)
Step 2: Convert your research idea into a specific research hypothesis
Hypothesis is a statement about the relationship between two (or more) variables a good hypothesis must be testable (all of the variables, events, and individuals are real and can be defined and observed) a good hypothesis is refutable (it can be demonstrated to be false, allows for the possibility that the outcome will differ from the prediction)
Step 3: Determine how you will define and measure your variables make a specific prediction about the outcome of empirical observation e.g. people who watch more violent programs are more aggressive than those who watch less TV violence
Step 4: Identify the participants or subjects. Select the subject group
Step 5: Select a research strategy
The type of question asked (existence of a relationship vs. causal relationship) ethics and other constraints
Step 6: Select a research design
Make decisions about the specific methods and procedures you will use to conduct the research study (one individual vs. more, comparisons at the same time or over a period of time)
Step 7: Conduct the study
Decide whether the study will be conducted in a laboratory or in the field
Step 8: Evaluate the data
Use statistical methods to examine and evaluate the data
Step 9:  Report the results
Describe what was done and how the findings were interpreted
Step 10: Refine or reformulate your research idea
Test the boundaries of the results and refine the original research

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