The Scientific Method: Steps, Examples, Tips, and Exercise
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The Scientific Method: Steps, Examples, Tips, and Exercise

Why are some kids sad? What makes the wind blow? How do birds fly? Our world is full of curious phenomena. To find answers or solve problems, we can use a process, which was first acknowledged by the scientist and philosopher Ibn al-Haytham, in the 11th century. Also known as Alhazen, he is considered to be the father of optics – and the scientific method. There are six steps to it: 1.Observe and Ask Questions 2.Research 3.Formulate a Hypothesis 4.Test your hypothesis 5.Conclude 6.Share Results The goal of the scientific method is find out the truth. Let’s try. Step 1: Observe and Question Observation helps us formulate challenging questions that you will be able to test. A good question converts the natural sense of wonder into a focused line of investigation. When is the best time to drive to school? Which food is my dog’s favorite? For example If you observe that women smile more often than men, you might ask: why do women smile more often? Step 2: Research Find out if other people have asked the same or similar questions. If you research online, use search terms like “study …”, “research …” or “meta-analysis …” – which is a summary of research for
a specific topic. Read as much about your particular subject to see what you can find out about. For example, Research happiness based on gender or study the science of smiling in different cultural contexts. Step 3: Formulate a Hypothesis A hypothesis is a theory that you can test to see if your prediction is right or wrong. From your observation, you have noticed that woman smile more often and that people who are smiling seem to be happy. From your research you know that there are different types of smiles, shy, genuine and false. In one paper you read that baby girls smile more often than baby boys. Here is a hypothesis: Women smile more than men because they are happier than men. Step 4: Test Your Hypothesis When you test your hypothesis, you want to make sure to do this in a fair way and that the conditions are constant. For this hypothesis, we can design a test where an interviewer talks with a set of men and women for 5 minutes each, counts how many times they smile, and then asks each one to rate their level of happiness. To get a good sample of the population, we invite 300 women and 300 men. Seems like a good test, right? But wait, what if the interviewer is a woman, and men tend to smile more at women? Or vice versa? Or what if the topic discussed is one that interest women more than men? And what if people aren’t reliable reporters of their actual level of happiness? So clearly, we would need to be much more careful. Step 5: Analyze and Conclude Let’s assume that you designed a very careful experiment, controlling for as many variables as possible. Now you can analyze the data to see if your hypothesis is correct, or incorrect. Depending on your findings, you may want to change your hypothesis or change the design of your testing. Perhaps you have discovered an even more interesting
question. This stage of the scientific method can be repeated as many times as necessary until you find just the right hypothesis and test method to find accurate results. Step 6: Share the Results When you are satisfied that you have proven or disproven something important, report your results. In science, it is important to detail your methods so that your peers can review your work – which is a critical step to getting published. If your results are solid, your experiment can be repeated by other scientists. Such reproducibility is a sign of good scientific work. But failed results can also be interesting – an incorrect prediction could prove to be important and should always be reported. To make sure you get it completely right, here are 3 more things you can check before you publish: A) Any scientific theory is falsifiable Real scientists know that there is no such thing as a scientific proof. In other words, you can never prove your theory to be 100% right. All you can do is find A LOT of supporting evidence that it could be correct. Here is one example: Say that someone says “hamsters CAN fly,”. We cannot prove that this as false. Yes, we have never seen a hamster fly, but we can’t test all possible conditions or look in all possible places on the planet to know that ALL hamsters NEVER fly. Maybe a space hamster does? So while we can often prove that a phenomenon exists, it’s much harder to prove the nonexistence of something. If your theory can’t possibly be proven wrong, then it’s not falsifiable and hence, not scientific. B) Correlation is not Causation When you analyze your results, it is important to separate between two possible reasons: correlation or causation. Let’s you hear that towns that have more churches also have more bars. Could it be that religion makes people want to drink? Or that drinking helps people to find God? If you add more facts, such as “larger towns have both more bars and more churches,” you can see that a larger population is a more likely cause of higher numbers of bars AND churches. There is probably a correlation, but no causation. If we compare men with women and would conclude that woman smile more and are more happy, then this still doesn’t mean that its happiness that makes them smile. Maybe they just eat more chocolate and cookies, which makes them both: happy and smile a lot. C) Avoid Selective Windowing When you publish you got to show ALL relevant facts. Colgate once ran a advertising campaign claiming that “80% of dentists recommend Colgate”. What they didn’t tell us is that when they asked dentists to select their preferred toothpaste, Colgate was just one of many other brands they also also recommended. Colgate was later sued and forced to take down their misleading ads. The purpose of science is always to find out the truth and nothing but the truth. To use science to mislead us is wrong and terrible business practice. Lets do a last example together. I have two coins. One is bigger. Why? The small coin says 1 Cent, the bigger one says 5. Aha! Small coins are worth less money. Bigger coins are worth more money. I pull some more coins from my pocket. 2 more Pennies, 1 more Nickel, and a Quarter Dollar, which is 25 Cents. Great, my hypothesis seems true. But wait, is the quarter worth more because it is bigger? So is that a correlation or a causation? Hmmmm… My sample size is pretty small. I don’t think I am ready to report my results. Can you help out? Please apply the Scientific Method to study you local currency. Maybe you have a hypothesis that we can test until we get solid, repeatable results to report. Please publish your findings in the comments below!

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100 thoughts on “The Scientific Method: Steps, Examples, Tips, and Exercise

  1. In Malaysia, we have 5c, 10c, 20c and 50c. The size changes from smallest to biggest according to the value too. Is 5c smaller because we need more 5c to have 50c, then stacking smaller coins will be easier and save space to change them to 50c?

  2. I have been telling people that a hypotheses (or a theory) cannot be proven correct. It can only stand a test or fail a test and be proven wrong.
    Is that in line with your comment at @4:55 ?

  3. In Sri Lanka, 5 ruppes coin is smaller in area and circumference than the 2 rupees coin. But still the 5 rupees coin is more thicker than the 2 rupees coin.

  4. In Uganda, there is a 50, 100, 200, and 500 shilling coin. 50 smaller than 500 smaller than 200 smaller than 100.100 is the biggest, 50 is the smallest. Not much correlation here.

  5. Thank you for your work, especially regarding the scientific method. I never thought that it is much simpler method. I should try to use this in my everyday life. Anyway, can you do a summary about historical method? I really appreciate it.

  6. In europe, 5 cents is smaller than 10 cents and 1 euro is smaller than 50 cents. Other than that it does apply

  7. just because it is a bigger coin doesnt mean it is worth more. 1 cent pennies are larger than the 10 cent dime.

  8. Here in the united states our dime is smaller than a nickle.

    However it seems that is the exception to the rule because most of our coin currency from the nickle, quater, half dollar and dollar increase in size as the value increases. Except for the dam dime.

  9. My grade 9s looked at the scientific method today with the help if this video! Thank you so much!!! They determined the reason for the varying sizes of Canadian coins is due to the metal it is made up of!

  10. You See the Above. They don't have that for water sticking to a spinning sphere. Liquid water on Earth Always does two things, 1) it always takes the shape of it's container and always 2) seeks it's own level. No experiment has ever proven differently (to show the mechanics of an ocean sticking to a spinning sphere Earth and behaving as oceans do) and those experiments are Required in the scientific method. The heliocentric theory is Not a scientific fact. Earth could be Flat! The Method doesn't allow for contradictions like that without valid experimentation peer reviewed meaning tested and repeatable by everyone (not publishing a paper, that is Not Peer Review) Can I Prove it Flat, No, but I can Prove a ball wrong with Earth based physics.

  11. I thought it was a Great video. It was very much like I learned in school 30 years ago. People going around claiming things are scientific fact when the theory has never been shown to be re-creatable and duplicatable by all, and have tons of contrary evidence. The mainstream scientific community is rife with it. It's become a religion.

  12. Ah but what is the true value of a coin? Is it for how valuable the materials its made of are? Or the value it represents ? If economy goes out the window, how much is the coin worth then ?
    If a dollar goes up in value, why does your singular coin change? And how does it translate to another part of the world where 1$ is enough to feed a family of four for a week? How come notes are more valuable than coins when they're just paper? Does a cheque for a million dollars have any value if the money doesn't exist somewhere physically? What about digital currency ? And so on 🙂

  13. In India, we have 1rs, 2rs and 5rs coins. However, the size and value has no relation. The 2rs coin is the largest followed by 1rs and then the 5rs coin. There is one relation of weight and value that is observed, the 5rs coin is the heaviest followed by 2rs and then 1rs. 🙂

  14. Question: Is it true that the bigger coins are, the more they are worth in Poland?

    My samples are 1 grosz, 2 grosze, 5 groszy, 10 g, 20g, 50g and 1 zł (which is worth the most). While it is true that 5g and 2g are bigger than te previous ones, 10 g is smaller than 2g. You can group all of these coins into 2 categories: bronze ones and silver ones. bronze = {1g,2g,5g} silver={10g,20g,50g,1zł}.
    Hypothesis: The size and color of the coins help with identifying how much they are worth.
    In Poland one of the features of money is that is needs to be recognizable and have a widespread acceptability. It's useful to identify how much a coin is worth just by looking at it, even without seeing the number.
    Conclusion: It is not entirely true that the bigger are coins, the more they are worth in Poland. Their whole appearance is important to identify them.

  15. In Israel, we have coins of 10 Agoras (1/10 of a Shekel, 1 Agora is 1/100 of a Shekel), 1/2 of a Shekel, 1 Shekel, 2 Shekels. 5 Shekels, and 10 Shekels. Their sizes are non-indicative of their value, as these are the coins sorted from biggest to smallest: 1/2 of a Shekel, 5 Shekels, 10 Shekels, 10 Agoras, 2 Shekels, 1 Shekel.
    Something to note is the color of the coins. All of the coins valued under 1 Shekel are golden, while all of the coins that are valued at or above 1 Shekel are silver. The one outlier is the 10 Shekel coin, which is golden with a thick silver trim.
    Have a good day observing coins!

  16. You know I went to this planet once, and I saw some flying hamsters. Some hamsters can definitely fly. (Sarcasm, bad joke, great video by the way)

  17. Swiss here! We had many years ago a 1 rp and a two rp which supported your hypothesis. Today we don't have them anymore but we have still the rest:
    5 rp is smaller than
    10 rp is smaller than
    20 rp is bigger than
    50 rp is smaller than
    1 CHF is smaller than
    2 CHF is smaller than
    5 CHF
    As you can see your hypothesis does not stand against the 0.5 CHF coin.

  18. Thank you so much, my native language is Spanish. I have learned how to pronounce more words, and I have improve my knowledge of the scientific method.

  19. Sprouts, I have a question. In this one show, "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide," the science teacher applies the scientific method to his irresponsible student Ned. Here is the quote: "Observation: Ned is smart, but lazy, thus he is doing poorly in science. Hypothesis: Ned will goof around and turn in a sloppy paper towel experiment in the last second. Prediction: Ned's rushed and illegible experiment won't win any ribbon, which brings us to experiment, which is what's gonna happen tomorrow when you prove my prediction correct." Is the teacher's scientific method incorrect to the real thing?

    While I'm here, I might as well ask a scientific enthusiastic like you another question. Are you skilled or experienced in physics, statistics, kinematics, or probability? If so, I have a couple questions in any of those fields.

  20. In the US the dime is smaller than the nickel, this disproves the hypothesis that size is relative to value.

  21. problem/observation-
    the ants dig more in the dark
    why is it that ants dig more in the dark then the light
    they navigate better in the dark because some ants have eyes that are to small to see in the light

  22. If science is to find the truth and nothing but the truth how is something falsifiable if it's possibly false? It's a best guess scenario.

  23. Alex Ball 
    Intro to pysch
    1.                I would like to examine do wearing socks have an effect on your speed in track. I am doing my topic on this because I was told that wearing no socks under your spikes would help your time improve, so I stopped running track with socks on at the meets. I began to see my times improve after I had stopped wearing socks and believed the two were related. 
    2.                My hypothesis is that not wearing socks while running track does not improve your speed. Your speed is affected by a lot of factors, however socks are not one of them. How you train and prepare your body is the real factor to your performance on the track. 
    3.                The variables I use would be track speed, and running with or without socks. The socks would be the independent variable, while track speed would be the dependent variable. The socks would be independent because wearing socks depends on nothing. The track speed would be the dependent variable because it depends on whatever is happening with the socks. 
    4.                I would use a controlled group of runners for my experiment. I would use track runners who have experience as the subjects to conduct this experiment. Using random everyday people wouldn’t be a good choice of subjects because they aren’t use to running competitively and how to run track properly. 
    5.                Yes I would do a double blind study with the subjects because I want the runners to run their best both ways. If the runners know that an experiment is being conducted they might subconsciously change how they run. Because of this I want my runners to run their absolute best with and without socks, after they finish the experiment I will tell them that they were in a experiment. 
    6.                Ethically I found that this was a bad experiment to conduct because to many factors affect a runners speed to specifically pin it solely on socks. I still believe that socks hold no significant impact on a runners speed and how fast he goes.

  24. At the end, no your hypothesis is wrong about the coins, because a dime is the smallest coin, a penny is bigger than a dime, and a nickel is bigger than a dime, but I dime is still worth more than the nickels and dimes,but the quarter is bigger than the nickel, but is only 15 cents more than the dime, where on the other hand the nickel is 20 cents less than the quarter. So in conclusion, if a coin is bigger, than it does not essentially mean that is is worth more just because of the size.

  25. In Brazil, we have 1c (in practice we don't see them anymore), 5c, 10c, 25c, 50c, 1 BRL (equivalent to 100c).

    1c is smaller than 5c
    5c is bigger than 10c
    10c is smaller than 25c
    25c is bigger than 50c
    50c is smaller 1 BRL


    1) 5c and 25c break the relation of increasing size for increased value.
    2) 5c and 25c have different colors (reddish and yellowish).
    3) 5c and 25c are thinner than 10c and 50c, respectively.


    1) Some countries define a coin value based on intuitive sizing for blind people, using the coin area as a reference.
    2) Some countries define a coin value based on technical matters such as the material type used, the material amount used, coin size, which in essence are related to volume or weight vs unitary cost to produce the coin.

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