Scientific Inquiry — Conceiving and Testing Hypotheses

Academic Article

Abstract

  • © 2011 Academic Forensic Pathology International. Scientists seek to understand how the world works by the creative act of generating a possible explanation for some phenomenon and then by testing that possible explanation to determine whether it is valid. Transforming a creative insight into a hypothesis suitable for rigorous testing is an essential skill that any scientist must develop. Hypotheses are tested in a scientific study by measuring the natural world in some way and then comparing those measurements to determine whether they support or refute the hypothesis. A well designed study reduces the possibility that chance or scientific bias accounts for the results of the study. Chance can be reduced by having at least 30 test subjects and 30 controls in a study. Bias is reduced by diligent and honest effort to make the members of the study group so similar to the members of the control group that nothing distinguishes one from the other except the factor being studied. Prospective cohort studies are powerful but expensive tools for studying common diseases or injuries. Retrospective case-control studies are ideal for studying rare entities. Retrospective studies tend to be inexpensive but often lack desirable details that were not recorded at the time of the initial case investigation. For forensic practitioners to honestly call themselves scientists they should perform original scientific research to substantiate hypotheses and advance knowledge in forensic disciplines. Useful research in forensic pathology can be performed with no more investment than time and effort, but financial support is available from several sources.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Davis GG
  • Start Page

  • 244
  • End Page

  • 248
  • Volume

  • 1
  • Issue

  • 3