The Scientific Method

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# The Scientific Method - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

The Scientific Method. The scientific method is used to:. Make better decisions Usually business decisions Build theory Understand the world better. The scientific method follows a logical sequence. Determine what the question is Find out what has been learned in the past

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## The Scientific Method

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Presentation Transcript

### The Scientific Method

The scientific method is used to:
• Make better decisions
• Build theory
• Understand the world better
The scientific method follows a logical sequence

Determine what the question is

Find out what has been learned in the past

Identify areas of insufficient knowledge

Choose a method to fill in the gaps

Carefully construct a means to gather data on the question

Carry out the data collection method and organize the data

Evaluate the data that have been collected

Make a provisional statement about the original question

Evaluate the process and the new knowledge to determine whether additional research is necessary

So what is the question, anyway?
• This seems pretty straightforward at first.
• You might need to make a business decision
• You might need to choose one or another medical treatment
• You might want to decide which movie to go see
• However, many times we are fairly uncertain about the nature of the problem at hand.
• You are not understanding your math homework—what’s the problem?
What is the question?
• We may have only a vague notion what it is we want to study.
• Why do people choose one TV show over another?
• Why do some teens take to the Internet while others don’t?
• What are the effects of exposure to hip-hop?
What is the question?
• Some questions have many different dimensions.
• What is the impact of gender on video game use?
• Choice of games
• Gameplay
• Console preference
What is the question?
• Just about any question can be approached many different ways
• Cognitive
• Attitudinal
• Social
• Economic
• Political
• Aesthetic
Note:

The most common and most significant mistake in social science is to skimp on the development of the question. Once a researcher gets to the point where she is choosing measures and methods, there is no saving a poorly-developed question.

The scientific method follows a logical sequence

Determine what the question is

Find out what has been learned in the past

Find out what has been learned in the past
• Efficiency
• Don’t reinvent the wheel.
• Gain insights from those who have studied the topic in the past
• Appropriate theory
• Research method effectiveness
Find out what’s been learned in the past
• How?
• Complete a literature review
• What literature should I review?
• It depends partly upon the question
• However, some literature is better than other literature
• Refereed journals
• Edited books
• Government publications
Secondary data analysis
• There may be data already available that can answer your question but has not yet been used for that purpose—Save time and money
• Omnibus surveys
• The main problem is that these studies rarely have exactly the data you want
• There’s a tradeoff between money savings and quality of the data for your purpose
The scientific method follows a logical sequence

Determine what the question is

Find out what has been learned in the past

Identify areas of insufficient knowledge

Areas of insufficient knowledge
• If the information available in the literature is not adequate to meet your needs, you will need to generate new information that can be brought to bear on your question
• May need to ‘localize’ the information
• Local ratings
• May need to apply knowledge about one medium to another
• May need to choose between competing theories
• Nature v. nurture
The scientific method follows a logical sequence

Determine what the question is

Find out what has been learned in the past

Identify areas of insufficient knowledge

Choose a method to fill in the gaps in our knowledge

Choose a method
• Methods are more or less appropriate depending on the question asked and the conditions the research is carried out under
• Studying children’s learning from Sesame Street
• Finding out what kinds of content will be most effective in getting people to vote for Rand Paul
• Figuring out what types of online video content generates the most sales
Choose a method
• Experiment
• Laboratory or natural
• Survey
• Distribution methods
• Observation
• Text analysis
• Content analysis or qualitative textual analysis
The scientific method follows a logical sequence

Determine what the question is

Find out what has been learned in the past

Identify areas of insufficient knowledge

Choose a method to fill in the gaps

Carefully construct a means to gather data on the question

Carefully construct a means to gather data on the question
• The development of an actual, real-world study takes careful planning and attention to detail
• Many decisions have to be made, some of which seem rather trivial but can have an important impact on the final outcome.
• Should I use a four-point or five-point scale?
• Should I show the film in the subjects’ homes or in a lab?
• How large a sample should I take? Does it need to be random?
The scientific method follows a logical sequence

Determine what the question is

Find out what has been learned in the past

Identify areas of insufficient knowledge

Choose a method to fill in the gaps

Carefully construct a means to gather data on the question

Carry out the data collection method and organize the data

Carry out the data collection method and organize the data
• A lot of things can go wrong with even a well-planned study when it enters the field.
• Your clips may have a screwed-up soundtrack.
• There may be someone in the house who is disruptive during a survey interview.
• Some spectacular event in the news may heavily color questions on a related topic.
• Weather could cause delay or cancellation of focus groups.
• You may plan poorly and introduce error into your own study
• You could fail to treat all subjects equally
Carry out the data collection method and organize the data
• You have to be careful in handling the data not to either lose or fail to record important information
• It’s easier to do than you think
• Especially in field studies
• Always, always, always back your data and codebook up
The scientific method follows a logical sequence

Determine what the question is

Find out what has been learned in the past

Identify areas of insufficient knowledge

Choose a method to fill in the gaps

Carefully construct a means to gather data on the question

Carry out the data collection method and organize the data

Evaluate the data that have been collected

Evaluate the data that have been collected
• This is the ‘analysis’ portion of your study
• Hypothesis testing
• Statistical analysis
• In some cases you will engage in more inductive and/or subjective analyses
Note

While many researchers spend a great amount of time applying advanced and complicated statistical analyses to their data, fairly simple and straightforward analysis procedures can be just as effective

The scientific method follows a logical sequence

Determine what the question is

Find out what has been learned in the past

Identify areas of insufficient knowledge

Choose a method to fill in the gaps

Carefully construct a means to gather data on the question

Carry out the data collection method and organize the data

Evaluate the data that have been collected

Make a provisional statement about the original question

Make a provisional statement about the original question
• Did the data support your hypotheses?
• It’s not always entirely clear. If the hypotheses are stated statistically, you can usually say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (though people try to cheat). If they are not, then there’s quite a bit of interpretation to do in evaluating the fit of the data to a particular theory or set of concerns.
• If you’re partly right and partly wrong, what do you do?
The scientific method follows a logical sequence

Determine what the question is

Find out what has been learned in the past

Identify areas of insufficient knowledge

Choose a method to fill in the gaps

Carefully construct a means to gather data on the question

Carry out the data collection method and organize the data

Evaluate the data that have been collected

Make a provisional statement about the original question

Evaluate the process and the new knowledge to determine whether additional research is necessary

Evaluate the process and the new knowledge to determine whether additional research is necessary

Here’s where you go back and with the benefit of hindsight determine for yourself whether the study you did ended up providing you with new that is sufficient or whether you need to engage in further study (keeping in mind the additional cost of additional research)

You also speculate as to how what you have learned fits into the ‘larger picture’

• What does it all mean, anyway?
• Your write-up should include your conclusions and recommendations for further research
Continuing process

Having identified the further needs for research in the area of study you have set up a base for the next round of explication

The process continues