Research Report #11

Steps of the Scientific Method –
Model Formulas from the Literature

In my library there are more than 3,000 books I reviewed for their association with science and education. Over the past 18 years, I had my secretary-assistants make a card file on those authors who gave a formula for the scientific method regardless of what the author called it. Authors often used a different name for the method. See my Research Report #4 “Other Names for the Scientific Method” for a wide variety of names used for activities that are basically the scientific method.

The lessons to be learned here are:

  • The unity of science, research, and knowledge seeking would be greatly improved if it was better understood that the great variety of formulas offered, as mentioned in my Research Report above, are basically the scientific method.
  • The teaching and advancement of science, research, knowledge seeking, etc. would be greatly improved if a standard model formula, such as SM-14, were taught widely.
  • Instead of “steps” or other terms, “stages” should be used as a description. I reluctantly use the term steps at times because so many people seeking information about the scientific method use the term.

The model formulas presented here are samples from various fields of endeavor.

Field: History of the Scientific Method

Source: The Scientist (1971) by Henry Margenau
17th century version of scientific method by Francis Bacon:
Then verify
Classification: 4 Steps of the Scientific Method

Source: Science and Ideas (1964), essay by J. H. Randall, Jr.
The foremost theoretical exponent of the experimental method in the Age of Reason was Diderot, editor of the French Encyclopedie (1751-77). His views: “We have 3 principal means:
      1. the observation of nature
2. reflection
3. experiment
Observation gathers facts, reflection combines them and experiment verifies the result of the combination.”
Classification: 3 Steps of the Scientific Method

Source: The Grammar of Science (1957) by Karl Pearson
      1. The scope of science is to ascertain truth in every possible branch of knowledge. There is no sphere of inquiry which lies outside the legitimate field of science. To draw a distinction between the scientific and philosophical methods is obscurantism.
      2. The scientific method is marked by the following features: -
      (a) Careful and accurate classification of facts and observation of their correlation and sequence
      (b) The discovery of scientific laws by aid of the creative imagination
      (c) Self-criticism and the final touchstone of equal validity for all normally constituted minds.
Classification: 3 Steps of the Scientific Method

Books Exclusively on Scientific Method
and the Scientific Method

Source: Scientific Method (1972) by James K. Feibleman
Scientific method is an on-going process, which nevertheless lends itself to well-defined stages. These stages are:
      1.  Observation
2.  Induction
3.  Hypothesis
4.  Experimentation
5.  Calculation
6.  Prediction
7.  Control
Classification: 7 Steps to the Scientific Method

Source: The Scientific Approach – Basic Principles of the Scientific Method (1967) by Carlo Lastrucci
8 stages of scientific approach (abbreviated):
      1. formulation of problem
      2. study of pertinent related literature for data or methods of procedure
      3. construction of a research design by which the problem is to be attacked
      4. determination of the “universe” to be encompassed
      5. gathering of data and processing it into workable form
      6. interpretation of data
      7. verification of interpretation
      8. presentation of findings in a report
Classification: 8 Steps of the Scientific Method

Field: Scientific Research

Source: Introduction to Logic (1982) by Irving Copi
The general pattern of scientific research
      1. The problem
2. Preliminary hypotheses
3. Collecting additional facts
4. Formulating the hypothesis
5. Deducing further consequences
6. Testing the consequences
7. Application
Classification: 7 Steps of the Scientific Method

Field: Science

Source: The Foundations of Science (1960) by Sheldon J. Lachman
 . . . this book will consider the scientific method as analyzable into the following six general steps:
      1. Formulation of specific hypotheses or specific questions for investigation.
2. Design of the investigation.
3. Accumulation of the data.
4. Classification of the data.
5. Development of generalizations.
6. Verification of the results.
Classification: 6 Steps in the Scientific Method

Field: Teach the Scientific Method

Source: Restructuring Science Education (1990) by Richard A. Duschl
It is the last of these that science teachers would immediately recognize as the standard scientific method. It involves:
      1. Selecting a hypothesis
2. Conducting observations
3. Collecting data
4. Testing the hypothesis
5. Rejecting or accepting the hypothesis
Classification: 5 Steps of the Scientific Method

Field: Invention (special attention is drawn to this)

Source: Industrial Creativity (1964) by J. Rossman
Survey results from 710 inventors show the following as the procedure of invention:
      1. Observation of a need or difficulty
2. Analysis of the need
3. A survey of all available information
4. A formulation of all objective solutions
5. A critical analysis of these solutions for their advantages and disadvantages
6. The birth of the new idea – the invention
7. Experimentation to test out the most promising solution, and the selection and perfection of the final embodiment by some or all of the previous steps
Classification: 7 Steps of the Scientific Method

Field: Encyclopedia

Source: World Book Encyclopedia vol. 5 (1959)
The Scientific Method, Five Steps:
      1. stating the problem
2. forming the hypothesis
3. observing and experimenting
4. interpreting data
5. drawing conclusions
Classification: 5 Steps of the Scientific Method

Field: Philosophy

Source: Reason and Nature (1959) by Morris R. Cohen

According to the currently fashionable view, it is of the very essence of scientific method to distrust all reason to rely on the facts only. The motto, “Don’t think; find out,” often embodies this attitude. Scientific method is supposed to begin by banishing all preconceptions or anticipations of nature. In the first positive stage it simply collects facts; in the second, it classifies them; then it lets the facts themselves suggest a working hypothesis to explain them. It is only in the last stage, in the testing or verifying of hypotheses (so as to transform them into established laws) that the rational deduction of consequences plays any part. Such deduction, it is maintained, brings us no new information. It only makes explicit what experience has already put into our premises.
Classification: Four Steps of the Scientific Method
Comment: Many authors list a detailed description of the steps or stages, like this one. This makes it harder to remember and teach the steps or stages. Therefore, I usually do not present detailed descriptions of the steps. However, Professor Cohen’s works on scientific method are noteworthy.

Field: Management Science

Source: The Analytical Hierarchy Process (1985) by B.L. Golden
Steps in Using the AHP (Analytical Hierarchy Process):
      1. Define the Problem.
2. Select the Decision Group.
3. Identify Issues and Objectives.
4. Develop the Structure of the Hierarchy.
5. Judge the Importance of the Decision Factors.
6. Evaluate Alternative.
7. Report on Results.
8. Check Reasonableness.
9. Finalize Choices.
10. Documentation.
Classification: 10 Steps of the Scientific Method

Field: Educational Research

Source: Educational Research (1971) by Walter Borg and Meredith Gall
The basic steps of the scientific method are as follows:
      1. Recognition of the problem
2. Definition of the problem in clear, specific terms
3. Development of hypotheses
4. Development of techniques and measuring instruments that will provide objective data pertinent to the hypothesis
5. Collection of data
6. Analysis of data
7. Drawing conclusions relative to the hypotheses based upon the data.
Classification: 7 Steps to the Scientific Method

Field: Investigation

Source: The Police Manager (1978) by Ronald G. Lynch
Once the means-ends analysis is completed, the following seven-step decision-making process can begin. The seven steps are:
      1. Set the objective.
2. Identify obstacles in the way of the objective
3. Collect and analyze data.
4. Develop alternative solutions.
5. Select alternatives to be implemented.
6. Develop and implement a plan.
7. Evaluate the results of implementation.
Classification: 7 Steps to the Scientific Method

Field: Thinking Skills

Source: Clear Thinking (1990) by Hy Ruchlis with Sandra Oddo
General principles for solving problems:
      1. Define the problem
2. Gather facts to solve the problem
3. Use human memory, logical reasoning, and reliable information to gather or produce more facts.
4. Reach a conclusion.
Classification: 4 Steps of the Scientific Method

Source: Brain Power: Learn to Improve Your Thinking Skills (1980) by Karl Albrecht
Proposes a 2-phase process for problem solving, the expansion phase, followed by the closure phase. The six steps to this process are:
      1. Problem finding
2. Problem stating
3. Option finding
4. Deciding
5. Taking action
6. Evaluating results
Classification: 6 Steps in the Scientific Method

Field: Decision Making

Source: Thinking with Equations (1990) by Charles Wales
Five thinking operations of decision making:
      Define the Situation
State the Goal
Generate ideas
Prepare the GENI Plan
Take Action
The GENI process:
Goal, Equation, Need, Information
Classification: 5 Steps of the Scientific Method

Note: For many other model formulas on decision making, see Brief “Models, Systems Guides for Decision Making in the Literature” on my website

Field: Problem Solving

Source: The Complete Problem Solver (1989) by John R. Hayes
Defines actions involved in problem solving:
      1. Finding the problem
2. Representing the problem
3. Planning the solution
4. Carrying out the plan.
5. Evaluating the solution
6. Consolidating gains
Classification: 6 Steps of the Scientific Method

Source: Thinking Skills (1986) by Barbara Presseisen
Refers to Sternberg’s “steps” for solving problems:

      1. Problem identification
2. Process selection
3. Strategy selection
4. Representation selection
5. Allocation of resources
6. Solution monitoring
7. Sensitivity to feedback
8. Translation of feedback into action plan
9. Implementation of an action plan
Classification: 9 Steps in the Scientific Method

Field: Creative Problem Solving

Source: Creative Education Foundation, 289 Bay Road, Hadley, MA 01035,
They have taught this model formula for creative problem solving (without reference to scientific method) to millions of seminar attendees and others.
Current Osborn-Parness Process:
      Objective Finding
Fact Finding
Problem Finding
Idea Finding
Solution Finding
Acceptance Finding
Classification: 6 Steps of the Scientific Method

Field: Psychology

Source: Psychology for Life Today (1966) by Charles R. Foster
Quotes John Dewey’s Stages in Process of Thinking – most thinking can be broken down into these steps.
      1. A felt difficulty
2. Location and definition of the problem
3. Suggestion of possible solutions
4. Reasoning of possibilities of the suggestion or suggestions
5. Further observations and experiments leading to acceptance of rejection of the proposed solution.
Classification: 5 Steps of the Scientific Method

Source: Psychology’s Scientific Endeavor (1975) by Christopher Monte
The classical statement of scientific method:
      1. Observation
2. Defining the problem
3. Proposing a hypothesis
4. Experimentation
5. Theory formulation
Classification: 5 Steps of the Scientific Method

Field: Operations Research

Source: Introduction to Operations Research (1957) by C. Churchman
Major phases of an operations research project:
      1. Formulating the problem
2. Constructing a mathematical model to represent the system under study
3. Deriving a solution from the model
4. Testing the model and the solution derived from it
5. Establishing controls over the solution
6. Putting the solution to work: implementation
Classification: 6 Steps of the Scientific Method