The scientific method
- Make an observation.
- Ask a question.
- Form a hypothesis, or testable explanation.
- Make a prediction based on the hypothesis.
- Test the prediction.
- Iterate: use the results to make new hypotheses or predictions.
Scientific method example: Failure to toast
1. Make an observation.
Let’s suppose that you get two slices of bread, put them into the toaster, and press the button. However, your bread does not toast (see image below).
2. Ask a question.
Why didn’t my bread get toasted? (See image below.)
3. Propose a hypothesis.
Recall that a hypothesis is a potential answer to the question, one that can somehow be tested. For example, our hypothesis in this case could be that the toast didn’t toast because the electrical outlet is broken (see image below).
4. Make predictions.
A prediction is an outcome we’d expect to see if the hypothesis is correct. In this case, we might predict that if the electrical outlet is broken, then plugging the toaster into a different outlet should fix the problem (see image below).
5. Test the predictions.
To test the hypothesis, we need to make an observation or perform an experiment associated with the prediction. For instance, in this case, we would plug the toaster into a different outlet and see if it toasts (see image below).
- If the toaster does toast, then the hypothesis is supported—likely correct.
- If the toaster doesn’t toast, then the hypothesis is not supported—likely wrong.
The last step of the scientific method is to reflect on our results and use them to guide our next steps (see image below).
- If the hypothesis was supported, we might do additional tests to confirm it, or revise it to be more specific. For instance, we might investigate why the outlet is broken.
- If the hypothesis was not supported, we would come up with a new hypothesis. For instance, the next hypothesis might be that there’s a broken wire in the toaster.