The Scientific Method

Definition: Biology is the study of living things

  1. Ecology
  2. Physiology
  3. Anatomy​
  1. Observation: taking in of information received about the natural world
  2. Hypothesis: an educated guess/idea based on an observation
  3. Experimentation: an experiment is a test designed to prove/disprove a hypothesis
  4. Collection of data: data are results obtained after carrying out an experiment
  5. Conclusions: explaining the results
  6. Analysis: explaining new knowledge in relation to existing knowledge
  7. Reporting and publishing results: describing and releasing results to other scientists and the public
  8. Development of theory and principle: a theory is a hypothesis supported by numerous experiments; a law is a definite, factual explanation of an important aspect of nature
The scientific method

Principles of Experimentation:

  • Careful planning and design
  • Safety e.g. wearing gloves and lab coat
  • Experimental control: a control is a factor in an experiment that provides a standard upon which results may be compared
  • Sample size: larger sample size gives a better representation in the results
  • Random selection: e.g. clinical trials must include younger people as well as older
  • Replicates: a replicate is a repeat of an experiment
  • Double-blind testing: neither doctor nor patient knows whether an active drug has been given
  • Ethics: conducting experiments honestly and being aware of the importance of right from wrong conduct in science

Limitations of the Scientific Method:

  • Extent of our basic knowledge: lack of knowledge leads to inadequate hypotheses
  • Basis of investigation: lack of technology/materials/equipment
  • Interpretation of results: scientists may interpret results differently
  • Application to a changing natural world: information obtained from organisms in the past may not be valid today – they may have to be repeated
  • Accidental discovery: experiments may have gone completely “wrong” – i.e. “we did not get the desired result” or “we made an error in preparation and an unexpected result is obtained”; e.g. discovery of penicillin

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