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Scientific Method Steps

The ‘scientific method’ merely refers to a broad framework for studying and learning more about the world around us in a scientific manner. It is not so much a series of absolute, unchangeable steps as a guideline to the method that must be used when trying to reach a scientifically acceptable theory about a subject matter. Therefore, it is not possible to provide a finite number of steps or an exact procedure for following the scientific method. However, the scientific method steps detailed below describe the main steps that scientists commonly take when conducting a scientific inquiry.

Steps of the Scientific Method

  1. Make an Observation

    Scientists are naturally curious about the world. While many people may pass by a curious phenomenon without sparing much thought for it, a scientific mind will take note of it as something worth further thought and investigation.

  2. Form a Question

    After making an interesting observation, a scientific mind itches to find out more about it. This is in fact a natural phenomenon. If you have ever wondered why or how something occurs, you have been listening to the scientist in you. In the scientific method, a question converts general wonder and interest to a channelled line of thinking and inquiry.

  3. Form a Hypothesis

    A hypothesis is an informed guess as to the possible answer of the question. The hypothesis may be formed as soon as the question is posed, or it may require a great deal of background research and inquiry. The purpose of the hypothesis is not to arrive at the perfect answer to the question but to provide a direction to further scientific investigation.

  4. Conduct an Experiment

    Once a hypothesis has been formed, it must be tested. This is done by conducting a carefully designed and controlled experiment. The experiment is one of the most important steps in the scientific method, as it is used to prove a hypothesis right or wrong, and to formulate scientific theories. In order to be accepted as scientific proof for a theory, an experiment must meet certain conditions – it must be controlled, i.e. it must test a single variable by keeping all other variables under control. The experiment must also be reproducible so that it can be tested for errors.

  5. Analyse the Data and Draw a Conclusion

    As the experiment is conducted, it is important to note down the results. In any experiment, it is necessary to conduct several trials to ensure that the results are constant. The experimenter then analyses all the data and uses it to draw a conclusion regarding the strength of the hypothesis. If the data proves the hypothesis correct, the original question is answered. On the other hand, if the data disproves the hypothesis, the scientific inquiry continues by doing research to form a new hypothesis and then conducting an experiment to test it. This process goes on until a hypothesis can be proven correct by a scientific experiment.

The whole process is collaborative and is conducted in a clearly documented manner to help other scientists who are doing research in the same field. Throughout history, there are instances where scientists have stopped their research before completing all the steps of the scientific method, only to have the inquiry taken up and solved by another scientist interested in answering the same question.