What is scientific research? This article will try to have a clear definition of this term, so that there can be no confusion as to what it means.
Research refers to an activity that involves studying phenomena or materials (or both) in order to determine how they work, and then using these findings to create new tools or applications for them. Scientists perform experiments, gather data, and analyze these studies to prove or disprove theories about the world around us.
This process is repeated over and over again, constantly updating our understanding of nature. In fact, science has helped make possible many things we take for granted such as modern medicine, technology advances, and a thriving economy.
Many people are familiar with some types of research, like looking at plants and minerals to see if they contain important chemicals or studying animal behavior to learn more about survival. These are all examples of empirical research, which looks at facts rather than hypotheses or conclusions.
However, there is another type of research that goes one step further by testing whether those conclusions are accurate. This line of inquiry is theoretical, because it questions why something works under the given conditions.
The reason most scientists do not directly study theory is due to the cost involved. Funding would need to be found to conduct experimental tests, researchers would need to be recruited, equipment would need to be gathered or made, and enough time would need to be allotted for the experiment to run successfully.
Definition of research
Definitions of scientific research vary, but they all share one key element: an explicit plan to test or investigate something. This testing can be done for educational purposes, to help people or improve how to do things, or to discover new applications for already tested materials.
Scientific research is not just studying nature or learning about it, but exploring it with systematic experiments and analysis. Investigating unknown materials often fall under that category as well.
When researchers use the term “research” they are referring to this definition typically.
Definition of scientists
What is it to be a scientist? This seems like an easy question, but defining what that means has been a source of controversy for centuries! Some say that being a scientist means having a degree or certification proving you are knowledgeable in science, which would make Dr. Brock such a person.
Others say that being a scientist simply means wanting to learn more about how nature works. If this was your definition then anyone can call themselves a scientist – after all, we’re all natural born learners.
Yet others suggest that being a scientist means applying the scientific method to investigate questions about the world around us.
In fact, many people believe that someone who produces work or ideas that seem scientifically sound is very likely using the scientific method as their framework.
We could even argue that everyone (at least every adult) uses the scientific process subconsciously on a daily basis. For example, when deciding whether to eat at McDonalds or Chipotle, you use reasoning based on knowledge of physics, psychology, and nutrition to choose the healthier option.
So clearly, being a scientist doesn’t mean only studying hard sciences like math, biology, and chemistry, but rather any topic that involves using logical thinking to analyze material.
Definition of experiments
An experiment is an activity that tests how well one theory predicts what happens in reality. Experiments use controlled conditions to test whether there is a correlation between two variables.
In experimental science, scientists perform studies or investigations that are known as experiments. These experiments typically have a variable (or factor) that can be changed, and then we observe the effects of the variable on something else.
These other things are called dependent or outcome variables. The independent or explanatory variable is the thing being studied for its correlations with the dependent variable. For example, if you wanted to determine if eating raw vegetables causes diarrhea, your dependent variable would be “diarrhea” and your independent variable could be “vegetables” (raw or cooked).
By studying the relationships between many different types of vegetables and diarrhea, researchers can infer about which vegetable(s) may cause diarrhea in people.
Definition of a hypothesis
A hypothesis is an assumption or statement that seeks to explain away a phenomenon or state a fact. For example, if you want to know why it has been determined that eating fruits and vegetables helps prevent cancer, then your hypothesis could be that all fruits and vegetables help prevent cancer.
The theory or explanation under which a hypothesis sits must make sense because there are two parts to the hypothesis. The first part states what we already know, not necessarily how we get those facts. But the second part states something new, so it is important to validate that idea.
That second part should make sense based on other ideas like theories.
Definition of a test
A scientific experiment is conducted using a hypothesis, materials or substances used in the experiment, and a measurable outcome or conclusion.
A test is an important part of any experimental research. Scientists use tests to determine if their hypotheses are accurate or not. They also use them to determine what changes they need to make to achieve their goals.
The term “test” can be tricky because there are several different types depending on the purpose of the test. For example, when doing clinical trials, a diagnostic tool such as a blood test or X-ray is called a diagnostic test because it is used to diagnose disease.
But when doing basic science experiments, changing variables and testing different treatments or solutions are the main focus so those things are the tests.
Tests that assess whether or not your current health strategy is working are referred to as efficacy studies or observational studies. Because they look at past results, they do not require you to participate, but you will get better information from this type of study than a trial where participants must agree to take the intervention either due to being recruited into the trial or through coercion.
Definition of a sample
A sample is an example or representation of something that comes from the field under investigation. Scientists gather samples by randomly picking them, usually with statistical tools to determine how representative they are of the whole.
A small sample size can be due to there being no more pieces in the field at the time, not enough interest in the research, or too many other similar studies already done.
When scientists analyze their data, they use statistics to compare like with like. They make sure their samples are consistent and equal so that what happens in the study is related to the thing being studied and not influenced by things such as different researchers using different strategies or variables in studying the same concept.
The examples used in this book have all been adapted for readability and ease of understanding. None of these songs, videos, pictures, or stories belong to anyone except the writers who created them.
Definition of a variable
A variable is something that can be altered or changed. For example, if you were to ask someone how they like their coffee, then depending on what kind of drinker they are, they may say black with cream or white with sugar.
This isn’t too difficult a concept, but it does get confusing when talking about science research. When doing scientific experiments, there are certain variables that researchers include in the study to determine the effect that has on the outcome.
These variables are important because you want to make sure those changes don’t affect the results.
Definition of significance
What does it mean to say that something is significant? We use the word “significant” to describe things that make an impact or carry out changes. For example, studying how exercise impacts our health can be very interesting. Therefore, we call studies that show that more systematic research so you can determine what intensity and length of workouts are best.
Most people know about the benefits of doing some kind of activity every day, but few know how much exactly one should do. By conducting studies, we have determined that 30 minutes of active behavior per day is the minimum requirement for achieving these benefits.
By having this knowledge, you now know enough to begin changing your lifestyle by adding at least thirty minutes of physical activity to your daily routine! But what if I told you that there was a way to test whether or not this guideline is actually true?
We could probably come up with a way to tell whether or not this rule applies to everyone, but let’s look at an example. Suppose someone claims that eating only foods that list no additives as part of their diet will help them lose weight.
They start advertising this theory by telling people that nothing such as sugar (or salt) needed to be in the food they eat, because it is already a natural ingredient. Since these theories seem plausible, many people believe them and start practicing this new habit.