Science revolves around experiments, and learning the best way of conducting an experiment is crucial to obtaining useful and valid results. When scientists speak of experiments, in the strictest sense of the word, they mean a true experiment, where the scientist controls all of the factors and conditions. Real world observations, and case studies, should be referred to as observational research, rather than experiments. For example, observing animals in the wild is not a true experiment, because it does not isolate and manipulate an independent variable.
THE BASIS OF CONDUCTING AN EXPERIMENT
With an experiment, the researcher is trying to learn something new about the world, an explanation of ‘why’ something happens. The experiment must maintain internal and external validity, or the results will be useless. When designing an experiment, a researcher must follow all of the steps of the scientific method, from making sure that the hypothesis is valid and testable, to using controls and statistical tests.
Whilst all scientists use reasoning, operationalization and the steps of the scientific process, it is not always a conscious process. Experience and practice mean that many scientists follow an instinctive process of conducting an experiment, the ‘streamlined’ scientific process. Following the basic steps will usually generate valid results, but where experiments are complex and expensive, it is always advisable to follow the rigorous scientific protocols.
Conducting a experiment has a number of stages, where the parameters and structure of the experiment are made clear. Whilst it is rarely practical to follow each step strictly, any aberrations must be justified, whether they arise because of budget, impracticality or ethics.… Read the rest