A scientific research begins with a single carefully observed event and progresses ultimately to the formulation of theories and laws.
A theory is a set of related propositions that presents a systematic view of phenomena by specifying relationships among concepts.
Researchers develop theories by searching for patterns of uniformity to explain their data. When relationships among variables are invariant under given conditions, researchers may formulate a law.
A law is a statement of fact meant to explain, in concise terms, an action or set of actions that is generally accepted to be true and universal.
Both theories and laws help researchers search for and explain consistency in behavior, situations, and phenomena.
Five basic characteristics, or tenets(code of belief), distinguish the scientific method from other methods of knowing.
1. Scientific research is public. Advances in science require freely available information. Researchers cannot plead private knowledge, methods, or data in arguing for the accuracy of their findings; scientific research information must be freely communicated from one researcher to another. Researchers therefore must take great care in their published reports to include information on sampling methods, measurements, and data-gathering procedures. This process of replication allows for correction and verification of previous research findings.
2. Science is objective. Science tries to rule out eccentricities (weirdness) of judgment by researchers. When a study is conducted, explicit rules and procedures are developed and the researcher is bound to follow them.
Objectivity also requires that scientific research deal with facts rather than interpretations of facts.
3. Science is empirical. Researchers are concerned with a world that is knowable and potentially measurable. (Empiricism comes from the Greek word for "experience.") . Researchers must be able to perceive and classify what they study and reject. Scientists must link abstract concepts to the empirical world through observations, which may be made either directly or indirectly via various measurement instruments.
Typically, this linkage is accomplished by framing an operational definition.
- Operational definitions are important in science, and a brief introduction requires some backtracking. There are two basic kinds of definitions.
- A constitutive definition defines a word by substituting other words or concepts for it..
- In contrast, an operational definition specifies procedures that allow one to experience or measure a concept.
4. Science is systematic and cumulative. No single research study stands alone, nor does it rise or fall by itself. A smart researchers always use previous studies as building blocks for their own work. One of the first steps in conducting research is to review the available scientific literature on the topic so that the current study will draw on the heritage of past research. This review is valuable.
5. Science is predictive. Science is concerned with relating the present to the future. In fact, scientists strive to develop theories because, among other reasons, they are useful in predicting behavior.
A theory's adequacy lies in its ability to predict a phenomenon or event successfully.
A theory that offers predictions that are not borne out by data analysis must be carefully reexamined and perhaps discarded.
Conversely, a theory that generates predictions that are supported by the data can be used to make predictions in other situations.