Scientific Methods

Psychology is a scientific study of behavior. As psychologists we take a scientific approach to understand behavior. Our knowledge about the psychological processes is based on the scientific evidence accumulated through research. As scientists, we rely on the scientific methods, when we conduct psychological research such as specifying the conditions under which we make observations, observing in a systematic or orderly way and accepting or rejecting alternative explanations of behaviors on the basis of what we observe.
The word 'Science' comes from the Latin word "Scientia" which means 'Knowledge'. This has two connotations- content and process. The content of science is what we know such as facts we learn in a psychology subject course. But science is also a process - i.e. an activity in which we gather data, noting the relationships and offering explanations. In other words, science is the scientific gathering of data to provide. In other words, science is the scientific gathering of data to provide descriptions of events taking place under scientific conditions, enabling the researchers to explain, learn, and control events.

The modern science is based on certain assumptions and concepts which me scientific and accurate. We make use of these assumptions and concepts in searching the unknown in a systematic manner. This course of action is known as the Scientific Method.

Broadly speaking, scientific method means scientific orientation. It is perspective to look at things or phenomena as if they are facts. The way we arrive at the goals is the method and its operationalization results in various techniques. The techniques are the means and tools we use in collecting facts.

Principles of the Scientific Method

The various major principles involved in the scientific method are as follows: 

  • Scientific method is used for a purpose such as to verify old theory or find out new knowledge. 
  • Scientific method is related to a theory. This is in two ways:
    • Every scientific method is operationalized on some theoretical bases 
    • Every scientific method through its research activity gives rise to a new theory or modifies the ole one. It may come up with a new hypothesis rejecting the old one. 
  • Every scientific activity aims at validating or revalidating the established truth. 

Characteristics or Elements of Scientific Method

The scientific approach has certain key distinguishing characteristics which it shares with modern science. The elements of the scientific method refer to those aspects of the scientific method on which practical design of inquiry is prepared. These are: 

Empirical: In a scientific endeavour, the data are gathered by experimentation and observation. It does not rely on intuition, belief or opinion. 

Systematic: The data or observations are made in a systematic or orderly comprehensive manner. By systematically following the path from observations to principles to observations we are continuously formulating, modifying and extending the principles to accord observations to make observations and then formulate principles (Deduction) or we may tentatively set up some principles to make observations (Induction). 

Quantifiable: One important characteristic of science is measurement, which means quantifying the events or behavior according to generally accepted rules. The generalizations can be translated into quantitative and numerical terms. The concepts can be defined in measurable and observable terms. This enables comparison of observations directly. 

Publicizing results: The results of science are communicated to others through publications in professional journals, conferences, meetings etc. The continuous exchange of information about the current research work is vital to the scientific process. This helps in stimulating repetition or replication of research under similar and different conditions by others. 

Scientific methodology: All psychologists use scientific techniques to accurately collect and evaluate psychological data. The major tools used are empirical experimentation, surveys, clinical methods etc. whether the data comes from laboratory experiments, real life situations, psychological testing or therapy situations. 

Objectivity: Objectivity is essential in all phases of the scientific process. There should be no personal feelings or expectations that influence later what is being recorded or observed. The scientific method is free form subjective or personal biases of the observer. Objectivity involves providing the definitions that are precise and fully understandable in the same way to any appropriately, trained person as well as making observations that accurately reflect what exists in real (objective) world. Objectivity is introduced to eliminate observer's personal biases, preconceptions and convictions which could easily distort or blur the event or the object being observed. The findings and observations are consistent and do not depend on the subjective biases of the observer in the scientific method. 

Falsification: The scientific approach is falsifiable that means it can challenge the existing explanations and theory by testing the hypothesis that follow logically from it. If the test shows that the hypothesis is false then it can be. modified in the light of the new findings demonstrating that the hypotheses is false. It can prove the hypothesis false if the results indicate so. 

Replication: This is another important part of the scientific approach. The observations are repeatable and verifiable, since the collection and interpretation of data is systematic, objective and rational, it is not possible to repeat the observations and verify the results expected to appear under certain situations. 

Theory as a research tool: A theory is a scientific short hand way of summarizing the observations by stating laws or principles to guide the researcher and predict accurately what can be expected to occur under certain conditions. 

Statistical precision and accuracy: Statistical techniques are used for analyzing, classifying, organizing, interpreting and verifying data to enhance precision and accuracy. 

Thus the aim of the scientific method is to provide new and useful information in the form of verifiable data; the data obtained under conditions such that other qualified people can repeat the observations and obtain the same results: This require orderliness and precision in investigating relationships and in communicating them to others. 


  • Our knowledge about psychological processes is based on scientific evidence from research and as scientists we rely on the scientific methodology when we conduct psychological research. The common sense psychology is non-scientific and subject to many kinds of errors. The scientific method shares certain distinguishing characteristics of modern science. It is empirical systematic, repeatable, verifiable, falsifiable, objective, communicative to others, uses theory as a research tool and employs scientific and statistical techniques for collecting and evaluating data. 
  • Psychology is scientific study of behavior. In order to understand, explain, control and predict behavior, psychologists take a scientific approach. They rely on scientific methods for making observations. Observing in a systematically or orderly way and accepting, rejecting alternative explanations of behavior on the basis of what they observe. 

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