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Science methods

Analysis - molecular

Science is a powerful technique for understanding the world around us. Across all the sciences, there are a few basic principles, which researchers adhere to.

Scientific paper

A scientist will first formulate a hypothesis - an idea about how or why something is the way it is. Then, the scientist will devise a series of experiments to test whether the hypothesis is true or false. If it is false, a new hypothesis must be formulated to offer an alternative explanation.

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If it appears true by that experiment, it must be tested against others. Each experiment must be repeatable. Only when it has passed many tests does a hypothesis about the world become considered 'true'.

Falsifiability

Another key scientific principle is falsifiability. This means that something is only true as long as no evidence has come along to disprove it. A proper scientific hypothesis must be capable of being disproved.

This creates a built-in mechanism for rejecting old views in the face of new evidence. Of course, the process involves debate and counter argument as new struggles against old. Few experiments can be as clear-cut as we would like, and it takes time to build up conclusive evidence.

For scientists at the Museum, evidence for hypotheses usually come from examining specimens - which are re-examined constantly to verify or disprove new theories.


Asking more questions

Research is ongoing. There are few projects that answer one question without suggesting several more...

Scientific paper and question mark

Avenues for more research can be opened at any point. There are always more questions than researchers to study them. Usually, finding the answer to one question simply reveals further questions to ask - in this sense, science research can never be said to be 'completed'.