How is an Experiment Created? A walkthrough with help from some birds

Previously this blog has covered why multiple experiments are often needed before we can feel confident in a finding.  But how exactly are experiments made in the first place?

This article is a walkthrough of the basic steps common to almost every scientific experiment.  There will be a lot of sidestepping of some issues to keep it simple, but feel free to look those sore spots up!

Not all scientific research involves experiments of course.  Plenty of scientists work with archival experimental data – data that have been collected by researchers in the past  (data is actually plural, the singular is datum!).  Many areas of science use techniques that don’t involve experiments at all, like zoology field work where scientists just watch how animals behave.

For now though, let’s just think about the parts of science that do use experiments.

What is an experiment anyway?

A traditional view of an experiment would require a few different parts to be present.  There needs to be an idea that is being investigated, this is the theory.  Then this needs to be made into a more specific question, the hypothesis.  From this, a particular method is chosen.  Once the method has been completed there will be results, which are largely just numbers.  These are interpreted into the conclusions, also called the discussion section.

Continue reading “How is an Experiment Created? A walkthrough with help from some birds”

Why Studies Need Multiple Experiments, An Illustration Using Manic Rats And Beef Jerky

When we start out with a question in science, we need to break it down to its most fundamental components.

Let’s say we want to know the answer to “Do non-human animals have language?”.  First we need to specify what is meant by language.  Do we just mean verbal language, or are we including gestural languages like sign language?  Do we want to know about all animals, or just the most intelligent ones like chimps or dolphins?  Does the communication need grammar?  And so on, and so forth.

For every question we answer, a thousand smaller questions crop up.

For this reason, scientific research tends to be very niche.  A single study might attempt to answer one facet of one section of a broader question.

By doing this, we can learn more about that question in order to ask better questions.  One day, when enough of the question has been answered, we find ourselves with a theory.

Continue reading “Why Studies Need Multiple Experiments, An Illustration Using Manic Rats And Beef Jerky”