Imagine we see an apple fall from a tree and the next day we see someone trip and fall, and the next day a child shoots a bullet which inevitably ends up on the ground too. Maybe it suddenly occurs to us that there can be some kind of force that pulls and pulls bodies towards the ground and that can explain why the different masses tend to be in contact with the surface. and to have a certain weight.
While we imply the existence of the force of gravity, we cannot regard these thoughts as scientific without more. It will be necessary to perform a series of scientifically valid procedures to be able to propose its existence as a theory: it will be necessary to use the scientific method. And this method requires a series of steps to be able to develop knowledge.
In this article we will see what are the different stages of the scientific methodIn order to be able to see how scientific knowledge and different theories had to go through a series of basic procedures to be considered as such.
The scientific method: general concept
Before talking about the steps you understand, first of all it is necessary to briefly establish what is the scientific method. It is understood as such the set of methodologies and stages by which science seeks knowledge and the formulation of hypotheses to be tested experimentally.
This method is a theoretical process that is applied systematically in a certain order in order to generate valid and objective knowledge, based on empirical observation and the search for that knowledge which can be refuted or falsified and which is replicable. If the same conditions are met.
The methodology used in the scientific method can be variable, although the hypothetico-deductive procedure is generally used. This method has the advantage that as knowledge progresses, it is corrected so that unconfirmed assumptions and beliefs are rejected, using the logic and objectivity of experimentation and judgment. replication.
Through this process, what we seem to observe at the outset will give rise to a series of hypotheses which, through research, observation and experimentation, will oppose each other, generating an increasingly contrasting knowledge. thanks to the controlled replication of eventsSomething that will gradually produce theories and, in the long run and if our hypothesis remains under all universally known conditions, laws.
Therefore, the scientific method must be the basis of any research that you want to call scientific, because it allows us to obtain a relatively objective knowledge of reality, serving to answer many questions about it and the phenomena that occur there, generating theories and laws in this regard and being able on the basis of these to progress both in knowledge and in the practical application of what has been obtained.
The stages of the scientific method
As we have said, the scientific method is the main procedure that serves as the basis for the construction of scientific knowledge based on evidence, assuming its application by following a series of steps that they allow progress in the understanding of the phenomena. The steps followed by the scientific method are as follows.
1. Definition of the problem or question to be studied
The first step in the scientific method is, of course, the establishment of a problem or question to be analyzed. It can be a phenomenon that we have observed and from which we seek knowledge, or the perception that there may be a relationship with other phenomena.
But it does not need to be based on direct observationBut it can also be based on a question that arises spontaneously or by trying to see if a belief is valid.
2. Assessment and review of experiences and background
It is possible that the phenomenon that we observed or the relationship that seemed viable to us has already been verified beforehand by other researchers, being necessary to do a review of the existing scientific literature on the subject.
Obtaining this information, as well as that which can be extracted from other research of a rather theoretical or even philosophical nature of science, makes it possible to generate the theoretical framework of the study.
The theoretical framework is not a mere circumstance, nor does it simply serve to educate the readers of the scientific article resulting from the research, but rather gives an idea of the assumptions and objectives adopted by the research team, so that it helps to understand the why of what comes next.
3. Generation of hypotheses
The observation or question in question generates a series of impressions in this regard, developing the researcher with possible solutions to his questions. These possible solutions will only be hypotheses for the moment, because they are solutions proposed to the initial question which have not yet been tested.
It is important in this step to generate contrasting hypothesesBecause otherwise, they couldn’t be mere beliefs, and as much as possible exploitable. These hypotheses will make it possible to make predictions about the behavior and the interaction of the different variables linked to the original question or problem.
Essentially, the hypothesis is a benchmark on which research must hinge, either to confirm it or to refute it. This allows us to move from the abstract to the concrete without forgetting the purpose of this study.
4. Research / design and use of an empirical forgery method
The next step once the hypothesis is obtained is to choose and develop a methodology or an experiment which allows a systematic and controlled way to verify if our proposed solution is supported. To do this, we must keep in mind that the hypothesis should be evaluated in as controlled a situation as possible, taking into account the interaction of variables beyond the intention.
In general, experimentation is used for this step, because it allows the control of the situation and the variables so as to be able to observe whether the proposed variables have a relation. It is important to keep in mind that we will need large samples or the repeat of the experiment so that the result obtained is not just accidental.
It is essential to assess the type of variables we will use to test our hypothesis, as well as the characteristics of the sample or stimuli to use and the control for any strange variables. We will need to make these variables operational, defining the values they can have so that we can collect them later.
5. Experimentation or testing of the hypothesis
The next step, once the experiment or the method to be used has been designed, is to perform the experiment itself. It is important to collect the data in a systematic way, always in the same way so that there are no discrepancies that invalidate the possible interpretation of the data.
the same the experiment is carried out by manipulating the variablesBut without actively promoting that the result favors our hypothesis because otherwise we would introduce a bias in the subsequent interpretation. In fact, we should rather aim at trying to refute our hypothesis rather than confirming
6. Comprehensive analysis of the results
The experiments carried out will launch a series of results, which will have to be analyzed so that we can subsequently assess whether or not they correspond to the hypothesis we have adopted.
It is important to note that one experience on one occasion is not enough to be able to determine if a hypothesis is true or not, But will have to be reproduced many times or with different subjects.
We also need to assess the possible influence other factors other than those of our hypothesis that could interfere with or generate one or the other result, whether the relationship between the variables we imagine is true or not. All of this must be evaluated using a statistical methodology in order to assess whether our results are reliable and valid.
Once the results have been analyzed, it will be necessary to evaluate what they imply in the face of our hypothesis, depending on whether or not the predictions on the behavior of the variables fulfilled have been achieved. they should have happened if our assumption was correct. In short, this step he seeks to provide an answer to the question or problem initially posed. If the data match, the experiment will support the hypothesis and refute it otherwise.
Of course, we must keep in mind that we are only confronted with a positive or negative datum of an experiment: it will be necessary to replicate in order to determine whether our hypothesis is satisfied under other experimental conditions or in other experiences.
On the other hand, it is also necessary to take into account the limits of the methodology used during the research and the nature of the concepts used during the formulation of the hypotheses and the operationalization of the initial questions.
This is one of the most important steps in the scientific method the discipline known as the philosophy of science, As it allows to know to what extent it is valid or not to draw certain conclusions from the results of the analysis of the data worked. To do this, we reflect on the ontological nature of the phenomena studied, and the possible weaknesses of the methods used from an epistemological point of view.
8. Reformulation or generation of new hypotheses
Whether the hypothesis we have adopted has been verified empirically or not, it can be redefined or if it has been shown to use as a basis for generating new knowledge and new questionsSomething that will make us understand more and more in depth the phenomena and problems studied.
In any case, it should be remembered that rebuttal of hypotheses also offers knowledge that was not possessed before conducting the research, so in these circumstances all is not bad news.
Is replication part of the process?
In many cases it has been emphasized that scientifically extracted knowledge needs to be replicated. This does not mean reanalyzing the data obtained to see if another team of researchers comes to the same conclusions from the same information (this is called reproduction), but collect data similar to that collected by other scientists and reach equal or very similar conclusions.
For example, replicating a study of the cognitive biases that predispose us to racism would mean taking another sample of people and finding in that group the same biases, and in the same amount, as in the study we are trying to replicate.
However, whether this is a prerequisite is open to debate. For example, in some areas of biology, psychology, and social science, it is unrealistic to expect to find a set of data to analyze. that reflect the same as that reflected in the original study data set. This, in principle, makes replicability issues important, so that an investigation which does not lead us to the same conclusions as another on the same subject is not in itself a sufficient reason to rule out a theory or theory. a hypothesis.
Likewise, disciplines such as logic or mathematics often do not allow studies to be replicated, as they are always based on the same premises, and not on different groups of data but referring to the same phenomenon.
In any case, we must not forget that under the label of “science” there are in fact different sciences and different scientific methods. Therefore, replication will only be part of the scientific method steps in cases where it makes sense.
- Barboza, M. (2015). Application of the scientific method to the performance of forensic examinations. Costa Rican Forensic Medicine – Virtual Edition, 32 (1). Costa Rica.
- Otzen, T., Manterola, Cm Rodríguez-Núñez, I. and García-Domínguez, M. (2017). The need to apply the scientific method to clinical research. Problems, advantages and feasibility of developing research protocols. International Journal of Morphology, 35 (3): 1031-1036.
- Quintero, GA (1956). Brief history of the scientific method. Department of Fine Arts and Publications of the Ministry of Education. Panama.
- Sotelo, N. and Pachamé, J. (2014). Module I: Scientific method, scientific methodology applied to criminal investigations. National University of Silver, Argentina.