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Philosophy and Approach of the Scientific

Method
How to conduct Research and Communicate?
P Sunthar
Department of Chemical Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
Mumbai 400076, India
P.Sunthar@iitb.ac.in

Jan 2014

Philosophy Approach

Outline of the Talk

Philosophy of the Scientific Method

Everyday Approach

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

2 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Cycle of Steps

Objective: Minimise scientists bias on the Outcome


1

Characterisation (observations,
measurements)

Hypothesis (A Fundamental
Theoretical explanation of causative
mechanism)

Prediction (of other phenomena with


the same fundamental cause)

Tests of Hypothesis (validation of


predictions)

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

3 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Cycle of Steps
Objective: Minimise scientists bias on the Outcome
1

Characterisation (observations,
measurements)
Hypothesis (A Fundamental
Theoretical explanation of causative
mechanism)

Prediction (of other phenomena with


the same fundamental cause)

Tests of Hypothesis (validation of


predictions)

Observation

Hypothesis

Prediction

Test ?

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

3 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Cycle of Steps
Objective: Minimise scientists bias on the Outcome
1

Characterisation (observations,
measurements)
Hypothesis (A Fundamental
Theoretical explanation of causative
mechanism)

Prediction (of other phenomena with


the same fundamental cause)

Tests of Hypothesis (validation of


predictions)

Observation

Hypothesis

Prediction

Test ?

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

3 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Cycle of Steps
Objective: Minimise scientists bias on the Outcome
1

Characterisation (observations,
measurements)
Hypothesis (A Fundamental
Theoretical explanation of causative
mechanism)

Prediction (of other phenomena with


the same fundamental cause)

Tests of Hypothesis (validation of


predictions)

Observation

Hypothesis

Prediction

Test ?

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

3 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Cycle of Steps
Objective: Minimise scientists bias on the Outcome
1

Characterisation (observations,
measurements)
Hypothesis (A Fundamental
Theoretical explanation of causative
mechanism)

Prediction (of other phenomena with


the same fundamental cause)

Tests of Hypothesis (validation of


predictions)

Observation

Hypothesis

Prediction

Test ?

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

3 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Example: Display Failure


Observation: Computer Monitor Display is blank
Hypothesis: General Power failure
Prediction: All powered equipment should be down
Test: Switch on other equipment. Found: Some working, some
not.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be FALSE. Go back and
re-hypothesise
Hypothesis: At least one phase failure
Prediction: All powered equipment connected to that phase
should be down.
Test: Switch on only those equipments of a phase. Found all
down.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be TRUE

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

4 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Example: Display Failure


Observation: Computer Monitor Display is blank
Hypothesis: General Power failure
Prediction: All powered equipment should be down
Test: Switch on other equipment. Found: Some working, some
not.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be FALSE. Go back and
re-hypothesise
Hypothesis: At least one phase failure
Prediction: All powered equipment connected to that phase
should be down.
Test: Switch on only those equipments of a phase. Found all
down.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be TRUE

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

4 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Example: Display Failure


Observation: Computer Monitor Display is blank
Hypothesis: General Power failure
Prediction: All powered equipment should be down
Test: Switch on other equipment. Found: Some working, some
not.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be FALSE. Go back and
re-hypothesise
Hypothesis: At least one phase failure
Prediction: All powered equipment connected to that phase
should be down.
Test: Switch on only those equipments of a phase. Found all
down.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be TRUE

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

4 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Example: Display Failure


Observation: Computer Monitor Display is blank
Hypothesis: General Power failure
Prediction: All powered equipment should be down
Test: Switch on other equipment. Found: Some working, some
not.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be FALSE. Go back and
re-hypothesise
Hypothesis: At least one phase failure
Prediction: All powered equipment connected to that phase
should be down.
Test: Switch on only those equipments of a phase. Found all
down.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be TRUE

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

4 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Example: Display Failure


Observation: Computer Monitor Display is blank
Hypothesis: General Power failure
Prediction: All powered equipment should be down
Test: Switch on other equipment. Found: Some working, some
not.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be FALSE. Go back and
re-hypothesise
Hypothesis: At least one phase failure
Prediction: All powered equipment connected to that phase
should be down.
Test: Switch on only those equipments of a phase. Found all
down.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be TRUE

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

4 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Example: Display Failure


Observation: Computer Monitor Display is blank
Hypothesis: General Power failure
Prediction: All powered equipment should be down
Test: Switch on other equipment. Found: Some working, some
not.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be FALSE. Go back and
re-hypothesise
Hypothesis: At least one phase failure
Prediction: All powered equipment connected to that phase
should be down.
Test: Switch on only those equipments of a phase. Found all
down.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be TRUE

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

4 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Example: Display Failure


Observation: Computer Monitor Display is blank
Hypothesis: General Power failure
Prediction: All powered equipment should be down
Test: Switch on other equipment. Found: Some working, some
not.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be FALSE. Go back and
re-hypothesise
Hypothesis: At least one phase failure
Prediction: All powered equipment connected to that phase
should be down.
Test: Switch on only those equipments of a phase. Found all
down.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be TRUE

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

4 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Example: Display Failure


Observation: Computer Monitor Display is blank
Hypothesis: General Power failure
Prediction: All powered equipment should be down
Test: Switch on other equipment. Found: Some working, some
not.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be FALSE. Go back and
re-hypothesise
Hypothesis: At least one phase failure
Prediction: All powered equipment connected to that phase
should be down.
Test: Switch on only those equipments of a phase. Found all
down.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be TRUE

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

4 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Example: Display Failure


Observation: Computer Monitor Display is blank
Hypothesis: General Power failure
Prediction: All powered equipment should be down
Test: Switch on other equipment. Found: Some working, some
not.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be FALSE. Go back and
re-hypothesise
Hypothesis: At least one phase failure
Prediction: All powered equipment connected to that phase
should be down.
Test: Switch on only those equipments of a phase. Found all
down.
Result: Hypothesis confirmed to be TRUE

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

4 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Testability of Hypothesis

Experiments are supreme. Validation essential.


Hypothesis should be testable
Verifiable (observable) predictions
Monitor failed because Gods (or some Aliens) have a control

Reproducibility
By independent persons following identical procedure
Time invariant (for static hypothesis)

Hypothesis Model Theory


Extent of validity. Scientific Theory has withstood all and several
falsification tests

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

5 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Testability of Hypothesis

Experiments are supreme. Validation essential.


Hypothesis should be testable
Verifiable (observable) predictions
Monitor failed because Gods (or some Aliens) have a control

Reproducibility
By independent persons following identical procedure
Time invariant (for static hypothesis)

Hypothesis Model Theory


Extent of validity. Scientific Theory has withstood all and several
falsification tests

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

5 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Testability of Hypothesis

Experiments are supreme. Validation essential.


Hypothesis should be testable
Verifiable (observable) predictions
Monitor failed because Gods (or some Aliens) have a control

Reproducibility
By independent persons following identical procedure
Time invariant (for static hypothesis)

Hypothesis Model Theory


Extent of validity. Scientific Theory has withstood all and several
falsification tests

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

5 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Testability of Hypothesis

Experiments are supreme. Validation essential.


Hypothesis should be testable
Verifiable (observable) predictions
Monitor failed because Gods (or some Aliens) have a control

Reproducibility
By independent persons following identical procedure
Time invariant (for static hypothesis)

Hypothesis Model Theory


Extent of validity. Scientific Theory has withstood all and several
falsification tests

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

5 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Testability of Hypothesis

Experiments are supreme. Validation essential.


Hypothesis should be testable
Verifiable (observable) predictions
Monitor failed because Gods (or some Aliens) have a control

Reproducibility
By independent persons following identical procedure
Time invariant (for static hypothesis)

Hypothesis Model Theory


Extent of validity. Scientific Theory has withstood all and several
falsification tests

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

5 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Testability of Hypothesis

Experiments are supreme. Validation essential.


Hypothesis should be testable
Verifiable (observable) predictions
Monitor failed because Gods (or some Aliens) have a control

Reproducibility
By independent persons following identical procedure
Time invariant (for static hypothesis)

Hypothesis Model Theory


Extent of validity. Scientific Theory has withstood all and several
falsification tests

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

5 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Testability of Hypothesis

Experiments are supreme. Validation essential.


Hypothesis should be testable
Verifiable (observable) predictions
Monitor failed because Gods (or some Aliens) have a control

Reproducibility
By independent persons following identical procedure
Time invariant (for static hypothesis)

Hypothesis Model Theory


Extent of validity. Scientific Theory has withstood all and several
falsification tests

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

5 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Testability of Hypothesis

Experiments are supreme. Validation essential.


Hypothesis should be testable
Verifiable (observable) predictions
Monitor failed because Gods (or some Aliens) have a control

Reproducibility
By independent persons following identical procedure
Time invariant (for static hypothesis)

Hypothesis Model Theory


Extent of validity. Scientific Theory has withstood all and several
falsification tests

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

5 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Cycle

Testability of Hypothesis

Experiments are supreme. Validation essential.


Hypothesis should be testable
Verifiable (observable) predictions
Monitor failed because Gods (or some Aliens) have a control

Reproducibility
By independent persons following identical procedure
Time invariant (for static hypothesis)

Hypothesis Model Theory


Extent of validity. Scientific Theory has withstood all and several
falsification tests

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

5 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Sci. Method and Communication


Communicate

Observation

Question

Literature

The Scientific Method

Hypothesis 1

Prediction 1

Test 1 ?

Communicate

Literature

Hypothesis 2

Prediction 2

Test 2 ?

Communicate

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

6 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Practical Guideline
Communicate

Observation

Question

Literature

The Scientific Method

Hypothesis 1

Prediction 1

Test 1 ?

Communicate

Literature

Hypothesis 2

Prediction 2

Test 2 ?

Communicate

Scientific Method is not a DIY recipe: Knowledge, Skill,


Intelligence, Creativity Required
Define the Question
Gather information (literature)
Research Options and formulate Hypothesis
Perform experiment and gather data to Test
Analyse and Interpret data and validate hypothesis
Publish validated hypothesis and results
Retest hypothesis (usually done by others)
P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

7 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Practical Guideline
Communicate

Observation

Question

Literature

The Scientific Method

Hypothesis 1

Prediction 1

Test 1 ?

Communicate

Literature

Hypothesis 2

Prediction 2

Test 2 ?

Communicate

Scientific Method is not a DIY recipe: Knowledge, Skill,


Intelligence, Creativity Required
Define the Question
Gather information (literature)
Research Options and formulate Hypothesis
Perform experiment and gather data to Test
Analyse and Interpret data and validate hypothesis
Publish validated hypothesis and results
Retest hypothesis (usually done by others)
P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

7 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Practical Guideline
Communicate

Observation

Question

Literature

The Scientific Method

Hypothesis 1

Prediction 1

Test 1 ?

Communicate

Literature

Hypothesis 2

Prediction 2

Test 2 ?

Communicate

Scientific Method is not a DIY recipe: Knowledge, Skill,


Intelligence, Creativity Required
Define the Question
Gather information (literature)
Research Options and formulate Hypothesis
Perform experiment and gather data to Test
Analyse and Interpret data and validate hypothesis
Publish validated hypothesis and results
Retest hypothesis (usually done by others)
P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

7 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Practical Guideline
Communicate

Observation

Question

Literature

The Scientific Method

Hypothesis 1

Prediction 1

Test 1 ?

Communicate

Literature

Hypothesis 2

Prediction 2

Test 2 ?

Communicate

Scientific Method is not a DIY recipe: Knowledge, Skill,


Intelligence, Creativity Required
Define the Question
Gather information (literature)
Research Options and formulate Hypothesis
Perform experiment and gather data to Test
Analyse and Interpret data and validate hypothesis
Publish validated hypothesis and results
Retest hypothesis (usually done by others)
P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

7 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Practical Guideline
Communicate

Observation

Question

Literature

The Scientific Method

Hypothesis 1

Prediction 1

Test 1 ?

Communicate

Literature

Hypothesis 2

Prediction 2

Test 2 ?

Communicate

Scientific Method is not a DIY recipe: Knowledge, Skill,


Intelligence, Creativity Required
Define the Question
Gather information (literature)
Research Options and formulate Hypothesis
Perform experiment and gather data to Test
Analyse and Interpret data and validate hypothesis
Publish validated hypothesis and results
Retest hypothesis (usually done by others)
P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

7 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Practical Guideline
Communicate

Observation

Question

Literature

The Scientific Method

Hypothesis 1

Prediction 1

Test 1 ?

Communicate

Literature

Hypothesis 2

Prediction 2

Test 2 ?

Communicate

Scientific Method is not a DIY recipe: Knowledge, Skill,


Intelligence, Creativity Required
Define the Question
Gather information (literature)
Research Options and formulate Hypothesis
Perform experiment and gather data to Test
Analyse and Interpret data and validate hypothesis
Publish validated hypothesis and results
Retest hypothesis (usually done by others)
P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

7 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Practical Guideline
Communicate

Observation

Question

Literature

The Scientific Method

Hypothesis 1

Prediction 1

Test 1 ?

Communicate

Literature

Hypothesis 2

Prediction 2

Test 2 ?

Communicate

Scientific Method is not a DIY recipe: Knowledge, Skill,


Intelligence, Creativity Required
Define the Question
Gather information (literature)
Research Options and formulate Hypothesis
Perform experiment and gather data to Test
Analyse and Interpret data and validate hypothesis
Publish validated hypothesis and results
Retest hypothesis (usually done by others)
P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

7 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Common Mistakes

Assume that hypothesis is an explanation (without testing)


Ignoring data that do not agree with hypothesis (strong beliefs)
Failure to quantitatively estimate errors of measurements
Systematic (background) Errors could be a new phenomenon

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

8 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Common Mistakes

Assume that hypothesis is an explanation (without testing)


Ignoring data that do not agree with hypothesis (strong beliefs)
Failure to quantitatively estimate errors of measurements
Systematic (background) Errors could be a new phenomenon

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

8 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Common Mistakes

Assume that hypothesis is an explanation (without testing)


Ignoring data that do not agree with hypothesis (strong beliefs)
Failure to quantitatively estimate errors of measurements
Systematic (background) Errors could be a new phenomenon

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

8 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Common Mistakes

Assume that hypothesis is an explanation (without testing)


Ignoring data that do not agree with hypothesis (strong beliefs)
Failure to quantitatively estimate errors of measurements
Systematic (background) Errors could be a new phenomenon

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

8 / 10

Philosophy Approach

Activity
Hypothesise, Predict, Design Tests
Why is the colour of
swimming pool blue (dark on
deeper side)?
Why is steam coloured
white ?
Why are plants green ?
Why is a digital image stored
in Red, Green, Blue?
Why is it cold as we go away
from equator or high in
altitude?
What determines the distance
between two fibres in a spider
web?
P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

9 / 10

Philosophy Approach

References

Wikipedia: Scientific Method


(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method)
Prof Frank L. H. Wolfs (Rochester Physics Labs Manuals) http:
//teacher.nsrl.rochester.edu/phy_labs/Labs.html
Study Guides and Strategies
http://www.studygs.net/scimethod.htm
George M. Whitesides, Whitesides Group: Writing a
Paper,Advanced Materials 16 137577 (2004). DOI:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/adma.200400767

P Sunthar (IIT Bombay)

Scientific Method

Jan 2014

10 / 10