::Scientific method


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Diagram illustrating steps in the scientific method<ref name="Garland2015"/>

The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.<ref name="Goldhaber 2010 page=940">{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.<ref>"[4] Rules for the study of natural philosophy", {{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}, after Book 3, The System of the World.</ref> 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."<ref>From the Oxford English Dictionary definition for "scientific".</ref>

The scientific method is an ongoing process, which usually begins with observations about the natural world. Human beings are naturally inquisitive, so they often come up with questions about things they see or hear and often develop ideas (hypotheses) about why things are the way they are. The best hypotheses lead to predictions that can be tested in various ways, including making further observations about nature. In general, the strongest tests of hypotheses come from carefully controlled and replicated experiments that gather empirical data. Depending on how well the tests match the predictions, the original hypothesis may require refinement, alteration, expansion or even rejection. If a particular hypothesis becomes very well supported a general theory may be developed.<ref name="Garland2015"></ref>

Although procedures vary from one field of inquiry to another, identifiable features are frequently shared in common between them. The overall process of the scientific method involves making conjectures (hypotheses), deriving predictions from them as logical consequences, and then carrying out experiments based on those predictions.<ref name=NA /><ref>See, for example, {{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}. His thought experiments disprove Aristotle's physics of falling bodies, in Two New Sciences.</ref> A hypothesis is a conjecture, based on knowledge obtained while formulating the question. The hypothesis might be very specific or it might be broad. Scientists then test hypotheses by conducting experiments. Under modern interpretations, a scientific hypothesis must be falsifiable, implying that it is possible to identify a possible outcome of an experiment that conflicts with predictions deduced from the hypothesis; otherwise, the hypothesis cannot be meaningfully tested.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}:p273</ref>

The purpose of an experiment is to determine whether observations agree with or conflict with the predictions derived from a hypothesis.<ref name="ReferenceA">Karl R. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, Routledge, 2003 ISBN 0-415-28594-1</ref> Experiments can take place in a college lab, on a kitchen table, at CERN's Large Hadron Collider, at the bottom of an ocean, on Mars, and so on. There are difficulties in a formulaic statement of method, however. Though the scientific method is often presented as a fixed sequence of steps, it represents rather a set of general principles.<ref> {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }} </ref> Not all steps take place in every scientific inquiry (or to the same degree), and are not always in the same order.<ref name="Inductive Science 1837">History of Inductive Science (1837), and in Philosophy of Inductive Science (1840)</ref>

Scientific method sections
Intro  Overview  Scientific inquiry  Elements of the scientific method  Models of scientific inquiry  Communication and community  Philosophy and sociology of science  History  Relationship with mathematics  See also  Notes  References  Further reading  External links  

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