This post is intended for students in general chemistry class.
To assess whether or not an original knowledge is scientific, one should look into the process of acquiring it. This process is the scientific method. Scientific method also provides a process in solving a problem. Thus, we can define scientific method as a systematic process of inquiry for knowledge or to solve a problem. It should be noted however, that science is broad. It covers natural and social sciences. Natural sciences usually use the experiment method while social sciences often include non-experimental methods to solve problems.
The systematic process may start with an existing problem, but often times the problem may not be obvious that careful observation is required. Thus, the following are the typical steps of the scientific method: (1)Observing, (2) Stating the perceived problem, (3)Gathering more data about the problem to be able (4) to come up with an intelligent guess or formulate hypotheses, then each hypothesis is proved or disproved by (5) an experiment. Out of the results/data, analysis and interpretation are done so that (6) conclusions can be drawn. (7) Recommendations should be given in order to inform, or improve the methods used, or for further studies, etc. The process and results need to be reported so that others may know in a forum called (8) publication. How can it be scientific when nobody knows about it? To sum up, the typical steps of the scientific methods as subheadings of a scientific report are: Observation, Problem of the Study, Literature Review, Hypothesis, Experiment, Conclusion, Recommendation, and Publication. As a process the following are the steps:
Identifying and stating the Problem
Gathering data or reviewing the literature
Reporting or publishing
One should not close his/her senses in the entire process of inquiry. We then say that observation is always present from the start to the end. However, only relevant observations are reported. These relevant observations maybe the ones that lead to the problem and those that are required in the experiment. Observation requires the use of the senses. Observations that can be done with the use of the naked senses alone is called direct observation. Those that can be done with the aid of instruments are called indirect observation. Report of an observation is usually written in the passive voice form. It is expected to be objective, unbiased descriptions. In the experiment, it is required that the observations must be of acceptable (usually high) degree of accuracy and precision.
Statement of the Problem
Scientists or researchers need to have something to focus with in the entire process of inquiry. This is the need of stating the problem. The problem is the main focus of the process of inquiry from the beginning to the end. Statement of the problem can either be in declarative form or in interrogative ( question form). Typically, there are two parts of the statement of the problem: the general statement and the specific statement. The general statement of the problem is usually written in declarative form while the specific problems (sub-problems) are written in question form. Question form is preferred to have focus, because a specific question requires specific answer. Take a look at the example below.
The study aimed to describe the growth of a (scientific name of) plant inside and outside the house. Specifically, it sought answer to the following questions:
1. Is there a difference in the growth of the plant inside and outside the house in terms of
1.1 height of the plant;
1.2 width of the leaves;
1.3 color of the leaves; and
1.4 number of branches? and
2. How long the plant live inside and outside the house?
For natural sciences re-searchable problems are those that can be tested empirically and can be subjected to experiments. For social sciences re-searchable problems cover those that can be represented by indicators. These indicators are those that can be systematically studied using either experimental or non-experimental methods. Examples of non-experimental methods are survey methods and observational methods. Experimental methods are those that include manipulation of variables and the subjects of the study are randomly assigned. Control of variables is also essential. Non-experimental methods are those that do not involve manipulation of the variables.
Hypothesis is a logical solution to a problem which can be proved or disproved. This can be out of pure reasons or reasons that come out of limited knowledge and observations of the problem. Hypothesis is an educated or intelligent guess because it is logical. Hypothesis should not be confused with theory. A theory is more than just a simple logical solution. A theory is a unified explanation or solution to a problem based on verified hypotheses ( hypotheses that have been proved or disproved). Thus, theory is based on multiple sets of data that have been tested while hypothesis is based on limited data. Example, on energy drinks and diabetes: “drinking energy drink causes diabetes” is a hypothesis because diabetes could be caused by other factors. Hypothesis deals only of the possibilities, hence has higher degree of uncertainty compared to a theory
It should be noted that to formulate a hypothesis, one should ask whether or not it is verifiable. A hypothesis must be verifiable or testable.
Testing a hypothesis or a theory involves the following steps: Designing the experiment; gathering data; processing or analyzing, presenting and interpreting data. The written parts are materials, methods, results and discussion. Design of the experiment and gathering data fall under "Materials and Methods" while processing or analyzing, presenting and interpreting data fall under "Results and Discussion."
A design is a plan. Designing an experiment includes plans on how to manipulate and control variables, how data are to be gathered, processed, analyzed, presented and be interpreted. The design advances from being a plan to a pattern once the experiment is done.
Gathering data can be done prior to formulation of hypothesis or theory to be tested. More data from literature and previous studies need to be gathered to advance the hypothesis into a theory and also to know if the study needs to be continued. Well, there are times that problems have already been answered by other studies so there is a need to either abort or modify the problems in the study. Gathering data is also done in the process of experimentation where data are needed to prove or disprove the hypothesis or theory.
Conclusion should be an answer to the problem and be supported by the data/results from experiment. Conclusion can be a generalization or a result of synthesis, or a specific answer as a result of analysis. In stating the conclusion, one should avoid redundancy of words so that the phrase “therefore I conclude” should not be written as it is under the subheading "Conclusion."Instead, be direct.
A stand-alone conclusion is usually written when the report is very long as in thesis or dissertations. Stand-alone conclusion includes the major results that support the conclusion and restatement of the problems that are answered. In this case, the readers are not burdened of flipping back the pages for the problems and major results.
A recommendation of a specific study does not come out of the blue. They have bases rooted in the study itself. This maybe a recommendation on how the methods used can be improved, a recommendation to study further those that were not included in the study but related, or recommendation for use, and etc.
Time Frame: 3 hours ( 2 meetings)
Ask the students to make a written report of an observation or an account of an experience. Out of the written observation, let them identify and write a statement of a problem- choosing the one that has already a solution (They should not do an actual experiment for this activity). Then to continue making the report, going through the process of scientific method to solve the problem. Give ample time for the student to do this. Ask the students to submit the written report in the next class meeting.
Take note that this is just a classroom activity not an investigatory project. The main objective of this activity is just to assess whether or not the students can follow the steps of the scientific method. Novelty, high precision and accuracy are not to be expected. Also, the students in this activity are not expected to do an actual experiment, because this will take time and also not safe without teacher's supervision.
In the next meeting, group the students and ask them to present their individual outputs to the group. The group makes comments and suggestions for improvement of the individual output. Then, the group decides whether to adopt and improve one of the reports presented or make a new one for the group’s output. The group output/report should be in power point presentation and a group representative should be requested to present to the entire class for comments and suggestions.
From what they learned in the group activity, ask the students to submit a revised copy of their individual output.
Curr. Program/Year Level:_________________________________ Date:_________
The Scientific Method
Activity No. __
OUTCOME In this activity, the students are expected to submit a well written report of solving a problem following through the steps of the scientific method.
Make a written report of an observation or an account of an experience. Out of the written report, identify and write a statement of a problem (choose a problem that has already a solution). Then continue making the report going through the process of scientific method to solve the problem without doing an actual experiment ( It is not safe to do an experiment in the absence of your teacher). The written report must be submitted in the next class meeting in the following sequence of subheadings.
Observation (recording observations)
Statement of the problem ( stating the problem in interrogative form)
Literature Review (includes information from literature with proper citations and references)
Method (includes list of materials needed, written procedures, identification of variables,
presenting results, and analyzing and interpreting results written in discussion form)
Conclusions ( can be direct or stand alone)
Publication (present your output to the class)
In the next meeting, form into groups with 5 members. Present your individual outputs to the group for comments and suggestions. In this case, the group decides whether to adopt and improve one of the reports presented or make a new one for the group’s output. The group report should be in power point presentation and a group representative should present to the entire class their output for comments and suggestions.
From what you learned in the group activity, each student must submit a revised written copy of their individual output.
References and Suggested Readings:
Bretherton, Paul (2017 April 16). Science and the structure of an argument: How to Sort GoodInformation from Bad. [Web log post]. Science 2.0 Ion Publications. Retrieved from http://www.science20.com/dr_paul_bretherton/science_and_the_structure_of_an_argument_how_to_sort_good_information_from_bad-225032
Brown, L. and Holme, T. (2012). Chemistry for engineering students. New Tech Park, Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia, pp 29-31.
Changizi, Mark ( 2010 August 3). Can science be justified?. [Web log post]. Science 2.0 Ion Publications.Retrieved fromhttp://www.science20.com/mark_changizi/can_science_be_justified
Creswell, John ( 2009). Research design (3rd Ed.). Perkin St. Far Ease Square, Singapore: SAGE Publications Asia-Pacific