Five Steps used in Scientific Investigation

A scientific investigation is a process involving five steps, which are designed to confirm an idea or opinion put forward based on a question to be answered. This investigation will possibly provide new knowledge or discoveries, correct a previous finding, or further enhance an earlier experiment. Now you can take an in depth look at each step.

1. Ask a question

There must be a question that needs an answer. Based on the situation presented there is something to find out, which may either be what, how, when, where or why. It must be noted that investigations vary depending on the scientific question.

A typical question could be: “What causes a dog to bark?” Equipping yourself with knowledge on the subject area, and looking at similar investigations on the topic will prove useful. This provides the background to move on to the next step.

2. Make a hypothesis

Based on your preliminary research you may come up with an answer to the question. The answer you have arrived at will become your hypothesis for this investigation, which will be tested by an experiment or simple observation.

Your hypothesis in this case could be: “A dog barks when it sees a stranger.” From your research you have found out that there are several reasons why a dog barks, but in this experiment you just want to prove that a dog barks when it sees a stranger.

3. Plan the investigation

In the planning stage of your investigation you decide on all the different requirements or apparatus needed to perform your experiment or observation, and exactly how you will proceed. Taking the hypothesis into consideration, about a dog and a stranger, this would involve a dog, someone who is a stranger to the dog, and someone familiar with the dog.

To ensure an accurate result you may use more persons in the investigation to prove your hypothesis. Your investigation will run smoothly with careful planning.

Generally, the tools and equipment used in a scientific investigation will vary based on the experiment. Some common tools used in experiments are a timer, thermometer, scale, telescope, measuring container, light source, water, pencil, note book and tape measure. It is important that the tools used are in proper working condition to ensure accuracy in your results.

The steps used in a scientific investigation may also vary. Example, it may involve observing a pattern, such as a movement or growth rate, or it may be a case of controlling variables in a case of doing an experiment to find out if sunlight is necessary for a plant to survive.

4. Test the hypothesis

At this stage of the investigation you will execute your experiment and record your data. Your data is the information collected from the experiment and may come in various forms. It may be based on a simple observation or measurements taken during the process.

To be as accurate as possible, with certain investigations you may have to do repeat trials. Repeats are done if you wish to obtain an average. It is important to record each finding immediately as you go along. Data can be represented using graphs, pie charts or tables.

5. Conclusion or Explanation of result

At this final stage, your hypothesis may be proven correct or incorrect. You will provide details of your outcome, and give reasons for this result. If you are not very satisfied or still unsure with your result you may repeat the experiment.

The results obtained are presented in a report form, which may be published and shared with persons who may have interest in such investigation. Sharing your results, based on your experiment will prompt other scientists to repeat the experiment. If the same result is obtained each time, then you can be assured that the result is correct.

This scientific investigation can be expanded by exploring related areas of this topic. Example, you may look at another hypothesis in relation to the dog and what causes a dog to bark, which may be: “A dog barks when provoked.” This is performed by repeating the five steps in the investigation process.