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Friday, June 19, 2015

Science Starts with a Question, Not a Conclusion

Science is the perpetual pursuit of truth. It explores, identifies, investigates and forms models to predict future events. Models are applied to new instances and are tested against their natural environment to ensure that they are valid under similar situations. Science rests on asking questions. If science starts with a conclusion, the entire process of investigation becomes invalid.

A person who jumps quickly to a conclusion without appropriate fact finding often does so based on their personal and subjective perspective. The conclusion is more about the investigator’s personality and goals than it is about truth. The researcher projects their bias into the study and skews the results; the entire report becomes invalidated.

Starting with a question ensures that all possible outcomes are considered as an explanation. The researcher should not selectively accept and reject relevant information without ensuring they are outside the scope of the study. An accurate picture is created when all of the competing information is included in the study and used to draw logical conclusions.

The process of investigation is so important that we have developed a scientific method of balances and controls. The discovery process rigidly defines how to investigate a problem to help limit investigator bias that inadvertently seeps into the study. Ensuring scientific exploration follows appropriately methodology leads to higher relevance, validity and internal consistency of the study.

I have seen researchers push for a conclusion before designing the study. Even though they may not be aware of it, the investigator designs the entire study to justify their point.  They were not able to see the obvious and more parsimonious answers in front of them because they were perceptual blind to alternative explanations.

Whether one is conducting academic research, investigating a corporate problem, is a law enforcement investigator, or trying to replicate previous studies it is important to start with a question and not an answer. A question creates a better reflection of truth by logically moving to an unknown conclusion.

Training researchers to approach complex problems with the right mindset helps in generating better results that can be applied to predict future events. As the models change, develop, and adjust they become more accurate with each repetitive investigation. Only through openness of thought and exactness of measurement will new discoveries lead to higher performance. Each investigator should seek truth above confirmation of self-beliefs and bias.

Do you have a question or an answer? “By doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth.” Peter Abelard (French Philosopher)

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