What is the scientific method and what are its steps?

The Scientific method It is a research system used more than anything in the production of scientific knowledge, which stipulates measurement and empirical criteria as its indispensable bases, as well as submission to reasoning tests. This means that the scientific method is an analysis mechanism that allows, in theory, to discern scientific experiences from those that are not.

The fundamental principles of the Scientific Method are two:

  • Reproducibility. It is the ability to repeat a certain experiment by anyone in a controlled environment and obtain the same results, so that every scientific statement can be verified by the scientific community to verify its universality.
  • Refutability. Principle that establishes that any scientific statement supported by an experiment can be refuted or falsified by means of an experimental counterexample, which evidences the non-universality of the theoretical interpretation. If the theory cannot be refuted by a counterexample, it will be accepted but not verified, since no theory is absolutely true.

This means that the Scientific Method proposes a system of knowledge of the universe who disbelieves in the absolutes, who trusts in reason and in the deductive gifts of man and in the accumulation of knowledge as a way of approaching the truth.

Some specialists argue that there is not one scientific method but several, since every scientist uses different mechanisms of measurement, definition, classification, statistical or hypothetical-deductive, which are also subject to their historical moment and therefore can change over time. Thus, what is accepted scientific truth at one time may be unbelievable in later times.

Although its historical origin is uncertain, its birth is usually located in the seventeenth century, mainly thanks to the studies of Galileo Galilei.

Steps of the scientific method

The scientific method is a experimental system knowledge, that is, based on direct observation and subsequent reproduction of natural phenomena. This does not mean, however, that all forms of experiment are necessarily scientific, nor that experimentally unsustainable theories (such as the social sciences) are less scientific.

In fact, the scientific method has been revised and refined over the centuries, as man’s understanding of the world also provides him with a better understanding of his methods and the very science on which they are based. Behold, science does not seek to be dogmatic, authoritarian, or absolute.

However, the traditional model of the scientific method, as proposed by Francis Bacon in the 17th century, comprised the following steps:

  1. Observation. This is the name given to the initial step that involves fixing the senses in nature and its phenomena, to gather the information and the necessary context to think about the problem.
  2. Induction. An attempt is made to extract the fundamental principle or the basic elements of the observed phenomenon.
  3. Hypothesis. A provisional or working explanation is prepared to answer the questions posed.
  4. Experimentation. An attempt is made to verify the established hypothesis by reproducing the phenomenon in a controlled environment.
  5. Antithesis or refutation. An attempt is made to refute the hypothesis with an experimental counterexample to demonstrate its universality.
  6. Thesis or theory. In case of not being able to refute it, a scientific theory is proposed. If it is refuted, on the other hand, or if it is not experimentally verifiable, the results are used to refine the hypothesis and move forward again. For many, a theory is nothing more than a hypothesis that has not yet been refuted.

In this way, the scientific method would function as a proven reasoning algorithm, which allows third parties to reproduce or monitor the experiences of the scientist and thus verify their procedures and interpretations.

Examples of the scientific method in everyday life

  1. Problem: The cure for a physical illness
    • Observation: The doctor examines the patient and takes note of his symptoms.
    • Induction: The symptoms allow the doctor to contrast with previous cases and with the specialized bibliography what the ailment to be treated may be.
    • Hypothesis. The doctor formulates an interpretation of the case and proposes a treatment.
    • Experimentation. The treatment is applied and the results are observed. If it is positive, we proceed to the next step (the antithesis). If not, the hypothesis is reformulated based on the new information available.
    • Antithesis. It is verified that the symptoms do not persist or that others do not appear.
    • Theory. Note in the medical history of the patient of the disease he had and the treatment received, already with the certainty of being healthy.
  1. Problem: Making a new fuel
    • Observation: Scientists study existing fuels and understand the process of obtaining energy.
    • Induction: The fundamental laws of combustion and the main fuels are extracted from the study, as requirements of a new fuel and in what other substance to find them is sought.
    • Hypothesis. An experimental work plan is carried out to obtain fuel from an alternative material.
    • Experimentation. The new fuel is experimentally obtained from alternative material. If it is achieved, we proceed to the antithesis. If not, the experimental results are incorporated into the reformulation of the hypothesis (or the formulation of a new one).
    • Antithesis. It is experimentally checked that the fuel operates as it should.
    • Theory. The experimental results are published in a scientific journal for the specialized community to support them.