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Experiment!: Planning, Implementing and Interpreting

ISBN: 978-0-470-68826-7
288 pages
August 2012
Experiment!: Planning, Implementing and Interpreting (0470688262) cover image

Experiments are the most effective way to learn about the world. By cleverly interfering with something to see how it reacts we are able to find out how it works. In contrast to passive observation, experimenting provides us with data relevant to our research and thus less time and effort is spent separating relevant from irrelevant information. 

The art of experimentation is often learnt by doing, so an intuitive understanding of the experimental method usually evolves gradually through years of trial and error. This book speeds up the journey for the reader to becoming a proficient experimenter. 

Organized in two parts, this unique text begins by providing a general introduction to the scientific approach to experimentation.  It then describes the processes and tools required, including the relevant statistical and experimental methods.   Towards the end of the book a methodology is presented, which leads the reader through the three phases of an experiment: ‘Planning’, ‘Data Collection’, and ‘Analysis and Synthesis’.

 Experiment!

  • Provides an excellent introduction to the methodology and implementation of experimentation in the natural, engineering and medical sciences
  • Puts practical tools into scientific context
  • Features a number of selected actual experiments to explore what are the key characteristics of good experiments
  • Includes examples and exercises in every chapter 

This book focuses on general research skills, such as adopting a scientific mindset, learning how to plan meaningful experiments and understanding the fundamentals of collecting and interpreting data. It is directed to anyone engaged in experiments, especially Ph.D. and masters students just starting to create and develop their own experiments.

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Preface xi

Part One Understanding the World

1 You, the Discoverer 3

1.1 Venturing into the Unknown 4

1.2 Embarking on a Ph.D 5

1.3 The Art of Discovery 5

1.4 About this Book 7

1.5 How to Use this Book 8

Further Reading 10

References 10

2 What is Science? 11

2.1 Characteristics of the Scientific Approach 11

2.2 The Inductive Method 14

2.3 The Hypothetico-Deductive Method 16

2.4 Consequences of Falsification 19

2.5 The Role of Confirmation 21

2.6 Perception is Personal 23

2.7 The Scientific Community 29

2.8 Summary 30

Further Reading 31

References 31

3 Science’s Childhood 33

3.1 Infancy 33

3.2 Ionian Dawn 34

3.3 Divine Mathematics  38

3.4 Adolescence – Revolution! 41

3.5 The Children of the Revolution 47

3.6 Summary 50

Further Reading 50

References 51

4 Science Inclined to Experiment 53

4.1 Galileo’s Important Experiment 54

4.2 Experiment or Hoax? 56

4.3 Reconstructing the Experiment 58

4.4 Getting the Swing of Things 60

4.5 The Message from the Plane 62

4.6 Summary 63

References 64

5 Scientists, Engineers and Other Poets 65

5.1 Research and Development 65

5.2 Characteristics of Research 68

5.3 Building Theories 70

5.4 The Relationship between Theory and Reality 75

5.5 Creativity  77

5.6 Summary 79

Further Reading  80

References 80

Part Two Interfering with the World

6 Experiment!  83

6.1 What is an Experiment?  83

6.2 Questions, Answers and Experiments 85

6.3 A Gallery of Experiments 88

6.4 Reflections on the Exhibition 108

6.5 Summary 110

Further Reading 110

References 112

7 Basic Statistics 113

7.1 The Role of Statistics in Data Analysis 113

7.2 Populations and Samples 115

7.3 Descriptive Statistics 116

7.4 Probability Distribution 122

7.5 The Central Limit Effect 126

7.6 Normal Probability Plots 129

7.7 Confidence Intervals 132

7.8 The t-Distribution 134

7.9 Summary 136

Further Reading 137

References 138

8 Statistics for Experiments 139

8.1 A Teatime Experiment 139

8.2 The Importance of Randomization 141

8.3 One-Sided and Two-Sided Tests 142

8.4 The t-Test for One Sample 143

8.5 The Power of a Test 148

8.6 Comparing Two Samples 150

8.7 Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) 155

8.8 A Measurement System Analysis 159

8.9 Other Useful Hypothesis Tests 163

8.10 Interpreting p-Values 164

8.11 Correlation 165

8.12 Regression Modeling 167

8.13 Summary 171

Further Reading 172

References 173

9 Experimental Design 175

9.1 Statistics and the Scientific Method 175

9.2 Designs with One Categorical Factor 176

9.3 Several Categorical Factors: the Full Factorial Design 178

9.4 Are Interactions Important? 186

9.5 Factor Screening: Fractional Factorial Designs 187

9.6 Determining the Confounding Pattern 188

9.7 Design Resolution 190

9.8 Working with Screening Designs 191

9.9 Continuous Factors: Regression and Response Surface Methods 195

9.10 Summary 207

Further Reading  208

References 209

10 Phase I: Planning 211

10.1 The Three Phases of Research 211

10.2 Experiment 1: Visual Orientation in a Beetle  213

10.3 Experiment 2: Lift-Off Length in a Diesel Engine 216

10.4 Finding Out What is Not Known 218

10.5 Determining the Scope 221

10.6 Tools for Generating Hypotheses 222

10.7 Thought Experiments 227

10.8 Planning Checklist 229

10.9 Summary 231

References 233

11 Phase II: Data Collection 235

11.1 Generating Understanding from Data 235

11.2 Measurement Uncertainty 236

11.3 Developing a Measurement System 238

11.4 Measurement System Analysis 244

11.5 The Data Collection Plan 248

11.6 Summary 251

Further Reading  252

References 252

12 Phase III: Analysis and Synthesis 253

12.1 Turning Data into Information 253

12.2 Graphical Analysis 256

12.3 Mathematical Analysis 259

12.4 Writing a Scientific Paper 260

12.5 Writing a Ph.D. Thesis 264

12.6 Farewell 266

12.7 Summary 266

Further Reading 266

References 267

Appendix 269

Standard Normal Probabilities 269

Probability Points for the t-Distribution 270

Index 271

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"This description of the history of the scientific method and the struggle to establish a stable experimental method and framework firmly sets the foundations for the beginning of the book – Understanding the world – and is so rich in content that it could easily form a great book all by itself."  (Chemistry World, 1 June 2013)

“Provides an excellent introduction to the methodology and implementation of experimentation in the natural, engineering and medical sciences.”  (Chemistry Views, 20 July 2012)

“I highly recommend the very practical and research skills focused book Experiment!: Planning, Implementing and Interpreting by Oivind Andersson to students from the undergraduate to the doctoral levels, instructors and educators in sciences, practitioners of science in industry and government, and anyone interested in how science works through the scientific method and experimentation. This book is an indispensable guide to planning, designing, conducting, data collecting, and analyzing and synthesizing the results.”  (Blog Business World, 21 October 2012)

 

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