Scientific Methods

HPSC-X540 — Fall 2021

Instructor
Jutta Schickore
Course Description

Scientific knowledge is often taken to be reliable because it arises from the use of “the scientific method”. But it is by no means easy to explicate what “the scientific method” is and what the distinct rules and procedures are that make inquiry scientific. This course introduces students to philosophical and historical debates about scientific methods. We will begin with the history of the concept “scientific method” itself: when and why did it emerge, what roles did it play in science, and how did it change over time? We then follow key debates about the idea of scientific methods. We discuss questions such as: Is there one distinctive “scientific method” in science, are there many methods, or should we be skeptics about method? What is the function of a “methods section” in a scientific paper? Are there methods of discovery? What role do hypotheses play in science? The last part of the course will focus on specific methodological topics related to experimental research. We will examine issues such as experimental control, replication, negative results, uncertainty, risk, and failure.