Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Design of experiments

The experiments conducted in accord with the scientific method have several features in common. The design of experiments attempts to balance the requirements and limitations of the field of science in which one works so that the experiment can provide the best conclusion about the hypothesis being tested.

In some sciences, such as physics and chemistry, it is relatively easy to meet the requirements that all measurements be made objectively, and that all conditions can be kept controlled across experimental trials. On the other hand, in other cases such as biology, and medicine, it is often hard to ensure that the conditions of an experiment are performed consistently; and in the social sciences, it may even be difficult to determine a method for measuring the outcomes of an experiment in an objective manner.

For this reason, sciences such as physics and several other fields of natural science are sometimes informally referred to as "hard sciences", while social sciences are sometimes informally referred to as "soft sciences"; in an attempt to capture the idea that objective measurements are often far easier in the former, and far more difficult in the latter.

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