Scientific Method

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The Scientific Method

As with all sciences, the science of Genetics has progressed using the Scientifc Method. This method begins when a geneticist (or any scientist) makes an observation of the biological world, and then proposes a hypothesis that attempts to explain the observation. The geneticist then performs an experiment, or a series of experiments designed to prove or disprove the hypothesis. At first glance this appears straight forward, but many pitfalls can be encountered.

  1. Observation. Are you sure the observation has not been explained? A review of the scientific literature could provide an explanation of the observation. (Of course, as you become more familiar with a specific topic you will know the literature and this will probably be unnecessary.)

  2. Hypothesis. The hypothesis must be placed in a conceptual framework. For example, a new phenotype could appear, or alternatively a phenotype could be observed in an unexpected genetic background. The geneticist must decide whether this new observation is best explained by making a cross to a line with other known, but similar phenotypes (classical genetics approach), or whether the new allele should be cloned and analyzed at the molecular level (molecular genetics approach). (In general, most modern geneticists will either initiate both approaches or collaborate with an individual that is more skilled in the area that they are not.)

  3. Conceptual framework. Once the conceptual framework has been formed the experimental approach is usually quite obvious to the geneticist: 1) make the appropriate crosses and analyze the results; or 2) isolate the DNA that is responsible for the phenotype and analyze the DNA sequences.

  4. Experimentation. After you have collected the data, you can either accept the hypothesis based on your results or propose a new hypothesis and repeat the process. What is powerful about the scientific method is that it is self-perpetuating. That is, once you have demonstrated that a hypothesis is correct, other observations can be examined by posing new hypotheses that are based on your results. In this way new knowledge is gained in an orderly scientific approach.

Diagrammatic Representation Of The Scientific Method

Copyright © 2000. Phillip McClean