The scientific method is used to test a hypothesis (the best explanation) and figure out how and why something works. The process allows the person conducting the experiment to be free of any personal bias or opinion so that the conclusion is valid. If the scientific method is used and recorded with precision, others throughout the world should be able to reproduce it exactly and come up with the same results. There are five steps to the scientific method: observe, research, hypothesize, test, and conclude.
The first step of the scientific method is to observe the world and find a problem or question that you want answered. This can be a simple, everyday problem (Why did the television quit working?) or something complex (Besides gasoline and electricity, what are other sources of energy that can power automobiles?). Problems can be found by observing your home, community, state, country, or world. As long as there is an interest as to why, how, or when something occurs, it can be tested using the scientific method. Once a topic has been chosen, take careful notes about your observation. Be careful that you are not being subjective or biased in your observations, or that you are guessing why it is happening. At this stage, you are only observing.
The next step is to conduct research related to the chosen topic. A great place to start is to review other research that has been conducted on the same topic. Try to identify possible causes of the problem. For example, the television may have quit working because a part has broken, the electricity has gone out, or someone unplugged it. Try to narrow down all of the possible causes to the best or the most likely ones. Then ask yourself which of the possible causes would consistently produce the same outcome.
Next, form a hypothesis. A hypothesis is an educated guess in the form of a statement, not a question. The hypothesis should be based on all of your observations and research, and should be your best guess as to why the problem has occurred.
Testing the hypothesis is the next step of the scientific method. Begin by writing a detailed procedure of how you will test your hypothesis. You will need to have two groups, called the control group and the experimental group. In the control group, no variables are changed. In the experimental group, you will only choose one variable to change. This will allow you to see if that one variable, which should be stated in your hypothesis, is the cause of the problem. It is important that you can replicate your results, so repeat the test numerous times to ensure that it can produce the same outcome every time.
The fifth and final step is to draw a conclusion based on the results of the test. You may or may not have proved your hypothesis, but it is important to state this in a conclusion either way. Using graphs and charts can help you organize and explain the data you have collected.