Methods

“Why should there be a method of science? […] We should not expect something as motley as the growth of knowledge to be strapped to one methodology.”

– Ian Hacking, Canadian Philosopher of Science


The existence of one, golden-standard scientific method is a myth. [Image source (public domain): Christopher S. Baird]

If we are to speak honestly about the creation of scientific knowledge (e.g., ‘facts’) as well as understand the conditions under which knowledge is created, then we must speak clearly about the methods by which scientists create scientific knowledge. And, as the Canadian philosopher of science Ian Hacking recommends, we should try to refrain from speaking about one–and only one–scientific method. To restate Hacking’s message more forcefully: There is no singular, all-encompassing, universal scientific method. Science is much more diverse and infinitely more interesting than that. When we speak of scientific method, we must not speak in the singular, we must speak in the plural. We must speak of methods.

In Dr. Merritt’s science classes, you will learn about–and put into practice–the three most commonly enacted scientific methods: descriptive, comparative, and experimental. These links will take you on a journey deeper into these three methods and, for those interested, a few other less discussed scientific research methods. Although each of the methods are treated separately within the pages of this website, students would be wise to keep in mind that most of these investigative methods overlap and/or are frequently used in combination with one another.


Last updated: July 2019

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