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The scientific method – from conjecture and hypothesis to predictions and analysis

Having the ability to question what is all around us, is vital to our progression as the alpha species on Planet Earth.

But how did we go from asking questions to logically rationalising our natural environment through conjecture, hypothesis and predictions, and thus the definition of the scientific method?

The scientific method

What is conjecture?

Conjecture is defined as deriving a predicted outcome from our current understanding and knowledge.

From a conjecture we then can proceed onto a hypothesis.

What is a hypothesis?

A hypothesis is defined as a possible explanation for a conjecture.

When planning an experiment, it is very easy to skip over actually defining its conjecture and hypothesis.

The experimental process then seeks to either prove or disprove your hypothesis.

It’s easy to get hung up on making sure your hypothesis is always correct.

In reality, it does not matter if your hypothesis is wrong or right.

What is a prediction?

The next step in the method after defining your hypothesis is a prediction.

This is the logical consequences of your hypothesis.

If ‘X’ does do ‘Y’, then property ‘Z’ would be indicative of ‘Y’ and, therefore prove ‘X’.

This is a common prose for a prediction, such as during the analysis of the shape of DNA.

What is the DNA method?

Assigning a prediction for the work Francis Crick did on the structure of DNA, “If DNA had a helical structure, its X-ray diffraction pattern would be X-shaped.”

After a prediction is made, you can move on to the main course of the scientific method: testing.

To go back on the DNA method, the testing done of that prediction would be the actual crystallisation of pure DNA structures and then diffracting X-rays through them and analysing the diffraction pattern.

Analysing the testing

Through the data collected during testing, a final conclusion is formed based on the facts that are determined.

This step is the marriage between hypotheticals and solid evidence.

Analysis can sometimes be wrong, but this allows for better understanding and knowledge for future testing.