Scientific method

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The scientific method is the process by which scientists seek to understand reality. It is the thing that unites all sciences, however varied they may seem. Although imperfect, as any human enterprise is certain to be, it remains the most reliable method for understanding our world. As Albert Einstein once said:

"All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike — and yet it is the most precious thing we have." [1]

Perhaps best viewed as a way of eliminating alternative explanations for natural phenomena, the scientific method may be summarized (and somewhat idealized) as follows:

  1. Observation — A certain phenomenon is carefully observed and described.
  2. Hypothesis — One or more hypotheses are formulated to explain the phenomenon. Such hypotheses often take the form of causal mechanisms or mathematical formulations. They must provide testable predictions so that the next step can be undertaken.
  3. Testing — Independent observations or experiments are performed to confirm or disconfirm the original hypothesis, or to choose from among the competing hypotheses. Often these first three steps are repeated until a satisfactory explanation is found.
  4. Review — Results are published for peer review in scientific journals. Other researchers perform their own observations or experiments and may publish their own ideas about the phenomenon or criticisms of the original research. This provides a crucial mechanism by which poor explanations are "weeded out" and good explanations are made more precise or reliable.

See also

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