Scientific Experimentation: Concept, Types and Examples

We explain what scientific experimentation is, what it is for and its characteristics. Also, the types that there are and some examples.

Scientific experimentation
Scientific experimentation tests theories and hypotheses about studies.

What is scientific experimentation?

Scientific experimentation is understood as the methods used by researchers (especially the so-called hard or factual sciences) to test your theories and assumptions regarding your objects of study, through the repetition of certain phenomena observed in nature, in the controlled environment of the laboratory.

In other words, in order for a scientist to be able to demonstrate that he understands how certain natural phenomena to which he is studying occur, he must replicate these phenomena in his laboratory, controlling all the variables in the case in order to demonstrate that it is not something that is the product of chance. unrepeatable, but of a universal law.

For a scientific experiment to be valid, however, must comply with the steps of what is contemplated in the scientific method: a series of logical connections and steps to follow to study a phenomenon objectively and verifiably.

This method was invented in the seventeenth century during the Scientific Revolutions brought about by the Modern Age (called the Age of Reason) and was perfected during the nineteenth century up to the present day.

Scientific experimentation make use of technology and different areas of knowledge to achieve the highest degree of control and observation of the phenomena that it replicates, so that a greater and deeper understanding of what happens in nature can be achieved.

The result of these experiences can then be published and studied by other scientists, which could repeat the experience and, in principle, obtain similar results, since it is about verifiable facts and not coincidences.

What is scientific experimentation for?

Scientific experimentation
Experiments can check what is thought of nature.

The experimentation is the main way of checking hypothetical knowledge of scientists, that is, it is the main method of discerning valid theories from invalid ones.

In ancient times, for example, science was conducted through reasoning and formal logical thinking, so that natural phenomena were always given an interpretation that was consistent with the beliefs of the time.

The experimentation came to break with that model, or with the medieval one that took for granted everything that the ancient scriptures said. The possibility of experimentation leads to factual verification, empirical, of what is thought of nature. And this is fundamental for the independent development of science and technology, as we understand them today.

Characteristics of scientific experimentation

Scientific experimentation must be, to be taken into account as true:

  • Verifiable. Other scientists must be able to carry out the same experiment under the same conditions and obtain the same result.
  • Methodical. No element of the experiment can be left to chance, but must have the most detailed description of the elements considered in the experience, that is, all possible variables must be taken into account.
  • Objective. The opinion or feelings of the scientist, or his personal views, cannot be taken into account, but there must be an objective description of what happened, for better or for worse.
  • True. The results of the experiment can only be what they are, whether or not they are expected, and cannot be falsified in any way.

Types of scientific experimentation

Scientific experimentation
Deterministic experimentation seeks to prove or disprove a hypothesis already made.

There are two types of experimentation according to the purpose it pursues:

  • Deterministic. Those in which the confirmation of a hypothesis is sought, that is, it seeks to demonstrate or refute a previously formulated scientific principle.
  • Random. Those in which the result to be obtained is unknown, since the experiment is simply carried out to know what is happening, that is, to expand what is known regarding a specific topic.

And in the same way, experiments can be classified according to the degree of certainty or control of the variables possessed by the scientists who carry them out, in:

  • Pre-experiments. Those in which there is no control group, and that serve as a first approach to certain topics, that is, in exploratory and descriptive research. There is little control of the variables and it is not possible to be sure that the result obtained is due solely and exclusively to one of them.
  • Pure experiments. Those in which there are two or more comparison groups and greater control over the influencing variables, therefore also a greater degree of certainty about the results. They are typical of explanatory investigations.
  • Quasi-experiments. Those in which there are two or more comparison groups, but their constitution is prior to the experiment, that is, they are not assigned randomly, but are ordered a priori to demonstrate something, for pedagogical or correlational purposes.

Examples of scientific experimentation

  • Checking vaccines. Before starting to inoculate people, the vaccines must be checked to see if they work, and that they prevent disease. To do this, a series of experiences must first be had with infected animals and then with infected patients, and thus observe the degree of success of the medicine.
  • Determination of geological age. To find out how long it has been since certain fossils formed, an experiment is carried out measuring the traces of carbon-14 that remain in it. It is not known what the result will be, but the age of the fossil will be deduced from it.