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.