The Scientific Method

I have two courses this semester:

Food For Thought – Freshmen/Sophomore introduction to Food Science

Food Chemistry – Introduction to the chemistry of food. I have an earlier post on what I think Food Chemistry is all about: here

For the Food Chemistry lab, the students will be working on semester-long team projects.

For the first lab, they will be given the exercise of using scientific principles to explain how they would identify the 1) box 2) unknown white powder from Dr Lab Cat’s Kitchen.

They are also given information on what the scientific method is, which I culled from three different websites: Wikipedia, from a Physics class at Rochester and at the University of California, Riverside.

This is what they are told:

The Scientific Method

“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.” (Carl Sagan).

“Science is best defined as a careful, disciplined, logical search for knowledge about any and all aspects of the universe, obtained by examination of the best available evidence and always subject to correction and improvement upon discovery of better evidence. What’s left is magic. And it doesn’t work.” (James Randi)

The scientific method is the process by which scientists, collectively and over time, endeavor to construct an accurate (that is, reliable, consistent and non-arbitrary) representation of the world.

The essential elements of a scientific method are iterations, recursions, interleavings, and orderings of the following:

  1. Characterizations (Quantifications, observations, and measurements)
  2. Hypotheses (theoretical, hypothetical explanations of observations and measurements)
  3. Predictions (reasoning including logical deduction from hypotheses and theories)
  4. Experiments (tests of all of the above)

A linearized, pragmatical scheme of the four above points is sometimes offered as a guideline for proceeding:

  1. Define the question
  2. Gather information and resources
  3. Form hypothesis
  4. Perform experiment and collect data
  5. Analyze data
  6. Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypotheses
  7. Publish results

It will be interesting to see how they approach the box and powder problem. I have my objectives as to what I want them to learn. I hope this exercise helps them on the way.



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