Good things take time: The scientific process


If you’ve ever felt like the world around you doesn’t make sense, you’re not alone.

What is the point of essential oils? Why do you feel exhausted, but still have a hard time falling asleep?

Life is full of questions that we might not know the answer to, but the beautiful thing is, most questions can be answered with scientific research and testing.

Whether it’s learning that some essential oils can help purify the air you breathe, or noticing that physical activity helps you sleep better, if you’re looking for facts — doing research and running tests is how scientists get to bring us answers.

The scientific method

Because science ought to be thorough, scientific findings through research and testing can take some time. It may seem tedious, however, the amount of time it takes pays off when your results show facts rather than possibilities.

In order to avoid presenting information that may be erroneous or could be disproven, scientists use a rigorous scientific process to test theories, draw conclusions, and eventually publish findings.

1. Make observations and ask a question

The first step is recognizing a problem or asking a question about something you don’t understand.

Say you notice that you’re having a hard time sleeping at night when you don’t go to the gym or take walks throughout the week – you’re making observations. But why is it?

2. Form a hypothesis

A hypothesis is an educated guess on explaining how something happens. So from using your observation — that you sleep better when you exercise throughout the week — you can hypothesize that physical activity impacts sleep quality.

It’s important that your hypothesis is testable. If it can’t be tested, it can’t be proven.

3. Design an experiment to test your hypothesis

In order to test whether your hypothesis is correct, you need to design an experiment that will yield meaningful results. To form solid conclusions, you need to define the conditions you would like to test for and collect data in each setting.

For example, getting a sleep tracking app or device, and tracking your sleep quality over the course of a month where you would not exercise for the first half of the month and exercise regularly the second half.

4. Analyze data and draw a conclusion

After you’re done testing, you need to analyze the data you collected to see whether a specific change of condition resulted in significant changes of your outcome of interest.

In short, you will have to show that your quality of sleep was lower when you weren’t active but increased when you started doing more physical activities.

If results show that sleep did in fact improve when you were more physically active, you can draw a conclusion that physical activity positively impacts sleep quality.

However, before this conclusion is accepted as a fact, this experiment will need to be replicated on a large scale — to ensure that your results are not an exception — or tested in laboratory settings. When you find facts from studies published in scientific journals, that means that the experiment has been tested time after time and the results were significant and consistent.

5. Slow and steady wins the race

It’s easy to make an assumption, but difficult to state a fact. Because of this, the time taken to test and analyze hypotheses and form conclusions is well worth it.

Let’s face it, no one wants to eat anything that’s half-baked and science is no different.

The thoroughness and attention to details makes it so that you’re presenting facts instead of fluff, and in turn — not allowing anyone to digest something that isn’t fully cooked yet.