The 6 steps of the scientific method (and its characteristics)

The scientific method represents a great source of knowledge; it serves to guide, organize, design and create new projects that allow us to continue researching and obtaining information within the different scientific disciplines that we know.

This method is structured in a series of steps, concretely in 6; in this article we will know the 6 steps of the scientific method and its most relevant characteristics.

The scientific method: what is it?

The scientific method consists of a set of techniques and methods which allow the development of a project or an experiment in practically any field of science; its objective is to continue acquiring and contributing new knowledge to the world of science, promoting its acquisition.

I mean, the scientific method encompasses all those steps necessary to organize the design of the research as well as its implementation. These steps are diverse, and include the initial search for information, the formulation of hypotheses, the analysis of data, etc. The objective is to arrive at a series of conclusions that will make it possible to respond to the question initially raised.

Thus, it is a methodology that has the purpose of obtaining new knowledge within the different scientific disciplines. It is fundamentally based on observation, measurement, experimentation and analysis, among others. On the other hand, it also uses hypothesis deduction, induction, prediction… Always speaking generically.

But let’s see in detail what elements and steps configure it.

Definition and characteristics of the 6 steps of the scientific method

Now that we have an idea of what the scientific method is and what it is for, we are going to know the 6 steps of the scientific method and its characteristics.

Step 1: Question / questioning

The first of the steps of the scientific method consists of the question, in the initial approach of the question. This step is critical because it allows us to start the process and determine where it will go.

Thus, the researcher in question will pose a question, a question, with the aim of solving it through the following 5 steps. They are usually questions related to observations already made, that is to say, they are not “random” questions that one can just think of. These questions are usually of the following type: What, Why, How, When, etc.

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Step 2: Observation

The second step of the scientific method is observation. It consists of the first making contact with reality that we want to study. Observing implies “actively acquiring information through sight”.

Observation also includes looking at the details of what we are studying, analysing the causes and consequences of the events. However, its main objective is to gather as much information as possible in relation to the initial question raised in step 1. This observation, moreover, must be intentional, that is, focused on seeking results.

On the other hand, the information transcribed through observation must be accurate, verifiable and measurable.

Step 3: formulating the hypothesis

After observing the object of study and gathering information on the question initially raised, we will proceed to develop step 3 of the 6 steps of the scientific method: the formulation of a (or more) hypothesis. This hypothesis, logically, will have to do with the initial question, i.e. it will attempt to answer that question/question.

Scientific method-Diagram
Explanatory diagram of the steps of the scientific method.

But what exactly is a hypothesis? It consists of a formulation generally affirmative, that is used to predict an outcome. From this, the research or experiment in question can be initiated, which will have the purpose of deducing if this affirmation is real or not.

If it is false, we can reformulate the initial hypothesis into a new one, changing data or characteristics. In other words, the hypothesis is intended to be proven; it can be real (affirmative) or not (null), in the event that it is refuted.

Step 4: Experimentation

The next step in the scientific method is experimentation, that is, the testing of the hypothesis on the basis of an experiment. That is to say, it implies taking to the practical field the previous steps (initial question, hypothesis…), studying the phenomenon in question (which is usually reproduced in a laboratory through artificial and experimental techniques).

In addition, through experimentation the necessary and/or interesting conditions are created to replicate and study a specific phenomenon.

Through experimentation, the results are obtained. Specifically, and broadly speaking, we can find results of three types: results that contradict the initial hypothesis; results that reaffirm the initial hypothesis; and results that do not provide any conclusion or data relevant to our hypothesis.

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Generally, in the first case, the hypothesis is questioned; in the second, the hypothesis is confirmed (it is considered correct, although revisions can be made); and in the third, research continues in order to find possible results.

There are different types of experimentation; one of the most commonly used methods is hypothesis contrasting.

Step 5: Data analysis

Once the data have been obtained, they are analysed, which configures step 5 of the 6 steps of the scientific method. Data generally consist of numbers, “presence” or “absence” responses, “yes” or “no” responses, and so on, it all depends on the type of experiment and the assessment or observation scales used.

It’s important write down all the data we have at our disposalincluding those we did not expect or initially believe to be irrelevant to the hypothesis.

The results or data obtained can essentially be of three types: results that refute the initial hypothesis, that confirm it or that do not provide sufficient information to allow us to refute or confirm the hypothesis.

Step 6: Accept or reject the initial hypothesis

The last of the 6 steps of the scientific method involves accepting or refuting (reject) the initial hypothesis. In other words, it is intended to answer the initial question raised in step 1.

The conclusions reached are based on an informal or statistical analysis. In the first case (informal), we must ask ourselves: Do the data obtained reinforce our hypothesis? In the second case (statistical) we must establish a numerical degree of “acceptance” or “rejection” of the hypothesis.

Technically, the scientific method ends in step 6; however, it is also true that additional steps can be added, depending on the characteristics of our research.

Bibliographic references

  • Barrantes, R. (2000). Research: a path to knowledge, a qualitative and quantitative approach. (2nd reprint of the 1st ed.). San José, C.R.: EUNED.

  • Lases, M.A. (2009) Research Methodology. A new approach.2ª.edición CIDL: México.

  • Sampieri, R. (et.al.) (2008)… In Research Methodology. Mc Graw-Hill: Mexico.