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Scientific Method | Meaning, Features, Types, Approaches, Difficulties, Importance & Limitations

Scientific Method


What is Scientific Method ?


The specific methods and techniques for acquisition or enhancement of current knowledge pertaining to research are covered under the scientific method of investigation. A method can be called scientific only when it includes data which is observable, quantifiable, and measurable as well as based upon logical principles and reasoning. The primary objective of scientific method gather data with the help observation and experimentation process through which verifiable hypotheses can be formulated. Each investigation type encompasses distinct procedures. Few distinguished characteristics however make scientific methods stand-alone from other study methods. Several hypotheses are formulated and tested by scientific methods. 

The possibility of repetition of the steps must be present for correct anticipation of forthcoming events. A number of hypotheses which are profoundly organised are developed by theories encompassing broader range of study. It further helps the researchers in formulating new hypotheses pertaining to the issue being analysed. Scientific methods are also characterized by particular sequence of analytical phases which try to eliminate prejudices and favoritism. This feature is common in all research methodologies. The method ensures proper documentation of data and processes due to its nature of creating quantifiable data. The documentation not only establishes data reliability but also assists other researchers, in testing and verifying the outcomes.

Features of Scientific Method


Following are the characteristics of scientific method of research :

1) Experiential : 
Being different from methods based on reasoning, emotions, and subjective data, scientific method is experimental in nature. Scientific method examines the facts and only believes in hypothesis which is supported by relevant facts.

2) Reproduction of Similar Results : 
Due to existence of predefined procedures in research methods, others can also reproduce the outcomes generated from scientific methods. The same research methodologies can be used by anyone to verify their results and ensure their liability as the scientists publish the outcomes obtained by them. Therefore, it can be said that results achieved from scientific methods are based on the individual or group experiences instead of being completely individual or people oriented.

3) Provisional : 
This feature of being provisional or conditional means that the outcomes obtained from these methods are debatable and any researcher is free to question them. Also, if any other researcher discovers or finds some new facts, the outcomes obtained from scientific methods need to be altered.

4) Objective : 
Scientific methods of research are not based on philosophical or emotional dota. Instead, it is supported by facts and their objectives. The prejudice on the part of researcher is also eliminated through, the objectivity feature of scientific methods.

5) Structured : 
Though random or unorganized events can be the basis of scientific research, it follows a structured and well-organised procedure. Scientific methods are systematic and leave no room for unorganized observations.

6) Collective : 
Prior to initiating a new research, the existing information is reviewed by the scientists to ensure that there are no repetitions. The existing information is upgraded and enhanced through new findings and data. In addition, the outcomes are duly documented along with the facts and figures to assist the reader in understanding the report and drawing correct conclusions.

7) Deterministic : 
Scientific methods try to establish causal relationships between occurrences and the factors responsible for them. Each and every event is triggered by some or the other reason which is analysed by scientific methods.

8) Statistical Generalization : 
Generalization of the outcomes generated from scientific methods to other researches of similar nature is possible. Various researches done for scientific purposes can be benefited to a great extent through widespread statistical generalization of results obtained front scientific methods.

9) Rationalism : 
The findings of scientific study are backed by logical reasoning and not influenced by traditions, customs, or beliefs. In other words, it can be said that scientific study is driven by the principle of rationalization.

Scientific Method in Research

Approaches for Scientific Method 


The three approaches through which scientific study can be conducted are as follows : 

1) Deduction : 
Under scientific research, deduction or deductive reasoning is the most basic form of reasoning. Here, the researcher attempts to arrive at a logical and rational inference based on a hypothesis or generalized report formulated by him/her. According to deductive reasoning, what applies to an entire group/class of individuals is also believed to be true for members of respective group/class. Accurate and careful formulation of hypothesis leads to effective deductive reasoning. On the other hand, even being logical cannot ensure the truthfulness of an inference if the generalization is incorrect. For example, "All dogs have long ears. Tommy is a dog. So, Tommy has long ears." This inference is valid. But, it is does not hold true because many dogs have small ears. Therefore, the generalization is false.

Properties of Deduction :
  • A valid deductive argument is the foundation for building a logical conclusion.
  • A valid deduction always denotes truth when it is based on true hypotheses. 
  • The validity of an argument is not affected by addition or deletion of a hypothesis from the deductive argument.
  • The procedure followed in deduction has no wear and tear. 
  • An argument cannot be valid or invalid up to a certain extent. It is either completely valid or completely invalid.

2) Induction : 
Also known as "bottom-up" approach, induction moves from specific to broader generalizations and theories. This is just opposite to deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning involves a step-by-step procedure in which the researcher makes several observations, attempts to determine a pattern in them, formulates a generalized hypothesis, and ultimately concludes a theory. For example, "One marble from the bag is black. Another marble from the bag is, black. A third marble from the bag is black. Therefore all the marbles in the bag are black".
In addition, inductive reasoning can be considered as an intellectual reasoning test which measures an individual's ability to deal with confusing and uncertain circumstances. Analytical as well as conceptual tasks are easily performed by individuals who do well in these tests.

Properties of Induction :
  • The information contained in the conclusion obtained from the inductive reasoning process is far more than its hypothesis.
  • It is not necessary that the conclusion derived from inductive reasoning is true even if the hypotheses or premises hold true. 
  • The validity of conclusion derived from inductive reasoning is influenced when a new premise is added. The impact of erosion is therefore present in inductive reasoning.
  •  The arguments of inductive reasoning are not necessarily totally valid or totally invalid. Their strength can be in terms of degrees.

3) Combining Induction and Deduction : 
In order to combine the strengths and diminish the weaknesses of deductive and and inductive reasoning, Wallace introduced a new approach which combined both the methods. This new approach assists in empirical research activity and utilizes the methods of deductive as well as inductive reasoning.

Difference Between Deduction and Induction Method :

Basis of Difference 

Deduction Method

Induction Method

Meaning

 

This method moves from general to specific.

This method goes from specific to general.

Approach

Its approach is top-down.

It has a bottom up approach.

Addition to Previous Knowledge

It does no additions to the existing knowledge.

This method makes additions to the existing knowledge.


Types of Scientific Method 


Following are the types of scientific methods :

1) Hypothetico-Deductive Method : 
H-D method is the other name for Hypothetico-Deductive method. Being a deductive process, it initiates by building a general theory followed by observation and experiments to obtain a result. More outcomes are generated through a process of inference and these outcomes can be either accepted or invalidated on the basis of facts obtained from experimentation's. In simple words, it can be said that this method involves construction of a general theory, formulating hypotheses based on it, testing and analyzing the hypotheses, and ultimately accepting or nullifying the hypotheses according to the analysis.

2) Case Study : 
Conducting an exhaustive and detailed analysis of the similar events occurred in different organisations, is called case study. Identical problems are faced by organisations: which are taken under case analysis. This method assists in gaining comprehensive, knowledge of the situation and provides multi-faceted viewpoints to the problem. However, applying this method in real life is too difficult. This is due to the difficulty in finding an organisation with the similar kind of circumstances.

3) Action Research : 
Under this method, an already identified problem is taken up by the researcher who then starts to observe and collect data with a view to solve forthcoming problems Keeping in mind the unintentional p and cons, the solution is implemented. The proteins are then addressed and the consequences are analysed. Until the problem is resolved, this procedure continues.

Importance of Scientific Method


Following are the benefits of scientific methods : 

1) Provides Adaptability : 
With the help of scientific methods, the transition of information and knowledge from an existing context to an entirely new context is possible. This provides greater adaptability to the researchers. Also, this adaptability is very crucial for the development of science and technology due to their dynamic nature.

2) Increased Applicability : 
In contrast to non scientific approaches, scientific methods are more involving, interesting, and have a broader scope. This ensures increased applicability of! these methods.

3) Realistic Approach : 
A comprehensive knowledge of several issues pertaining to science and humanities is obtained through a balanced viewpoint under scientific methods. This leads to a more realistic approach to the problem.

4) More Productive : 
These methods enable an individual to take efficient decisions and are characterized by increased effectiveness. It focuses on proactive interpretations and realizes the need for repeating the experiments in future.

5) Ethical Neutrality : 
Scientific methods aim to arrive at accurate and rational inferences related to the population being considered and are therefore ethically neutral.

6) Constructs Generalized Theorems : 
Another advantage of scientific methods is that they formulate generalized theorems on the basis of scientific logic's.

Limitations of Scientific Method 


Following are the limitation of scientific method :
  1. A lot of dependency is on the researchers. 
  2. Investing too much belief on authors, the information generated does not necessarily qualify on qualitative grounds.
  3. There is a constant threat of data manipulation, plagiarism, negligence, duplication, etc. 
  4. Sometimes it might be frustrating and sluggish to collect and disseminate outcomes.
  5. A lot of time as well as huge costs are incurred in conducting a complete scientific research.

Difficulties in Applying Scientific Method


It is important to understand and analyse the difficulties which arrive while establishing the above-mentioned features of scientific methods. It is also advised to identify the influence of these difficulties on the managerial decision-making on the basis of marketing research. Following points highlight the difficulties in applying scientific methods :

1) Possibility of Blased Conclusions : 
Direct involvement of researchers in internal research of an organisation or indirect involvement when a third party researcher attempts to represent the outcome can lead to binsness and manipulation. They wish to see their careers enhancing along with the marketing organisation. The urge to get their outcomes validated, leads the researchers to gather information which supports the opinions of their superiors or clients. This can be done either through avoiding the data's objectivity or ignoring an in-depth analysis. The closer a researcher is to the decision making. greater are the chances of biasness, prejudice, and manipulations.

2) Imprecise Measuring Devices : 
Accurate measurement is one of the unique features of scientific methods which differentiate them from non-scientific activities. However, due to the large number of researchers involved, interview is one of the primary methods to gather information. This process considered somewhat subjective and seldom results in accurate measurements. The information obtained can be quantified only approximately as most of it are personal views and attitudes. For example, what individual feels about organisational policies can be measured only in degrees and not precisely.. The devices used to measure the data by marketing researchers are not as accurate as those of natural scientists.

3) Influence of Measurement Process on Results : 
In contrast to the weight of chemicals, speed of light, area of a room, etc., human beings tend to modify or change themselves when they realize that they are being measured or assessed. For example, employees tend to bring amendments in their behavior when they come to know that they are being monitored through cameras.

4) Time Constraints : 
Usually, scientific methods involve in-depth and contextual analysis of facts. But in reality, these researches have to be really quick and take lesser time so that the product can be launched at an earlier stage to attain first mover advantage and larger market share. This aspect of scientific research thus leads to lack of of information.

5) Difficulty in using Experiments to Test Hypotheses: 
The cause and effect relationship is very clearly established through the experiments undertaken in a research process. It holds a lot of importance in scientific research. However, its use in business research is sometimes impossible because all the factors which influence the product like weather, competitor's strategies, customer attitudes, etc., cannot be controlled. Hence, repetition of experiments again and again is not possible. In addition, reliability of the research is affected due to incomplete availability of experimentation tool.

6) Greater Complexity of Subject : 
Numerous factors like machinery, raw materials, furnishing, manpower, etc., have their influence over the product. The scientific research process is faced with complexities because these factors have to be kept in proper alignment.

Distinction Between Scientific and Non-Scientific Method


Experimentation, logical arguments, observation, and their combination are the main pillars of scientific methods. These are formal methods which attempt to represent the truth and establish a systematic linkage between information through rationality and logic.

On the other hand, the non-scientific methods are considered as an informal approach. They are basically unplanned and based on random thought process. Emotions, intuitions, and experiences are the source of information under these methods.

The following table highlights the difference between Scientific Method and Non-Scientific Method : 

Basis of Difference

Scientific Method

Non-Scientific Method

Objectivity

Higher degree of objectivity is seen in this method.

It is characterized by lesser objectivity.

Precise

The procedures of scientific methods are systematic.

These methods possess random thinking and disorganized procedures.

Described by

These are driven by proper evidences and facts.

Philosophies are the basis of these methods.

Objective

 

The main objective is generalization of fact to assist identical cases.

The main objective is providing philosophies and theories.

Nature

 

These methods are experimental in nature.

These methods are theoretical in nature.


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