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Experiment!: Planning, Implementing and Interpreting by Oivind Andersson

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5

Scientists, Engineers and Other Poets

Why should there be the method of science? There is not just one way to build a house, or even to grow tomatoes. We should not expect something as motley as the growth of knowledge to be strapped to one methodology.

—Ian Hacking

One reason why many Ph.D. students find it difficult to connect the philosophy of science to their research is that philosophers like to describe the scientific method using examples from the natural sciences, especially physics. They discuss predictive theories expressed in mathematical terms, which describe the most fundamental mechanisms in the world. In many sciences, theories are rarely mathematical or predictive but still have great explanatory power. Evolution by natural selection is just one example. Students in engineering science do not always work with basic mechanisms and some of their research lies very close to technical development. This makes it difficult for many students in applied research fields to relate to scientific method as it is described in textbooks. To amend the situation, general characteristics of research will be given here that work both in basic and applied fields. I will also make the point that there is a distinct difference between development work and academic research. It is important to focus on research during the research studies, as this is what research students are supposed to learn.

The long-term goal of science is to explain and understand what happens in the world. ...

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