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Scientific methods

Juan R. González Álvarez
Juan R. González Álvarez
Scientific methods are the systematic procedures and techniques used for (i) the description, analysis, and synthesis of parts of the observable universe and their transformations, (ii) the recording and organization of the acquired knowledge into testable formalisms and methods, and (iii) the dissemination of this knowledge. These methods have resulted in the technological leaps made by advanced societies.

The term “method” derives from the Greek “methodos”, composed of the terms “meta”, which means “beyond”, and “hodos”, which means “way”. Scientific methods can be didactic –from the Greek “didaskein”, which means “to teach"– and heuristic –from the Greek ”heuriskein“ meaning ”to discover“–. An example of didactic methods is lectures, while the consistency tests applied to ensure that a hypotheses is internally consistent and in acordance with previous formalisms [1] are examples of heuristic methods.
We have considered here a plurality of methods, in opposition to the traditional, textbook-like, presentation [2] of the ”scientific method“. We agree with William R. Robinson, Donald J. Wink, and William S. Harwood that the ”scientific method“, as presented in many textbooks and encyclopedias, is not the way ”science is done“ [3–5]. The problems with the usual linear observation-hypothesis-testing-theory chain presented in many textbooks and encyclopedias are that (a) scientific research is not linear, (b) research does not always lead to a theory and (c) communicating and teaching the new findings is a key aspect of science.
The nonlinear collection of scientific methods is used in science to perform the transformation of raw data (obtained from Nature) into empirical data (statistical and controlled), which requires hypotheses (tested and verified), which are then incorporated into formalisms (axioms, definitions, and theorems), and finally taught (at all levels).
The net result of applying scientific methods
The net result of applying scientific methods
  1. Scientific knowledge is accumulative, with new theories do not contradicting the old ones. Contrary to what is usually stated in public, quantum mechanics does not contradict general relativity. General relativity was developed for systems for which quantum corrections are negligible and vice versa. The contradictions arise only when the principles of general relativity are directly applied to quantum systems or when the principles of quantum theory are directly applied to general relativistic systems, but the direct application of a theory outside its range of validity is a methodological mistake.
  2. Inquiry Into Physics, sixth edition 2007: Thomson Learning, Inc. Ostdiek, Vern J.; Bord, Donald J.
  3. The Inquiry Wheel, an Alternative to the Scientific Method; A View of the Science Education Research Literature 2004: J. Chem. Educ. 81(6), 791–792. Robinson, William R.
  4. The Inquiry Wheel, an Alternative to the Scientific Method 2005: J. Chem. Educ. 82(5), 682. Wink, Donald J.
  5. Author replies 2005: J. Chem. Educ. 82(5), 682–683. Harwood, William S.
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Juan R. González Álvarez
Juan R. González Álvarez @juanrga

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