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Original Title: Scientific Method of Research

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You are on page 1of 9

1/23/2004

Prof. T. Dobbins

Outline

Scientific Research Method

Development of Mathematical Models

Applying these methods to completing an MS Thesis or a

Ph.D. Thesis

facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new

or revised theories or laws

2 : the collecting of information about a particular subject

Scientific Method of Research

Four Steps:

1. Observation 2. Hypothesis

s

si

he

ot

yp

H

False

st

Te

True

4. Predictions 3. Testing

If the experiments prove the hypothesis to be true, it becomes a theory or law of nature. If the experiments prove the

hypothesis to be false, the hypothesis must be rejected or modified. The scientific method used properly should give us

predictive power (to understand phenomena which have not been tested).

Further reading found at http://teacher.nsrl.rochester.edu/phy_labs/AppendixE/AppendixE.html

Observation

an act of recognizing and noting a fact or occurrence often involving

measurement with instruments

Experiments gained from knowledge of the

literature.

Sorting Observations (from Literature Searches):

Useful Not Useful (Yet!)

Contains unanswered Proclaims research has

questions which you think you explained everything (does not

have means of addressing contain unanswered questions)

future use in confirming/denying your

hypothesis (once your hypothesis is found)!

Hypothesis

tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test its logical or empirical

consequences

Example,

Hypothesis of author Anton (UTRC paper) : Ionic radius of Ti4+ enhances desorption kinetics.

Observation in Paper by Anton et al.: NaAlH4 doped with Ti4+, Ti3+ and Ti2+ have different ionic radii, but the same

rate of enhanced H2 desorption kinetics.

New Hypothesis in Paper by Anton (not tested by Anton, et al.): Ti2+, Ti3+ and Ti4+ adopt the same oxidation state

after entering the NaAlH4 structure.

Good Hypothesis can be TESTED with Experiment or Calculation.

This requires A LOT of thought and reading--- leap from observation to

hypothesis. It is worth the effort because after thinking this through, you are

ready to go into the laboratory (which is the FUN part of research)!

Suggestions (no one can tell you HOW to do this, you have to develop this skill):

1. Couple archival journal reading with your in-class theory.

2. Couple archival journal reading with your common sense or intuition about the

way things should be in the system that you are studying.

3. Follow a logical reasoning about what you are reading with scientific and/or

mathematical basis (use drawings and diagrams to help your understanding).

4. Write up your thoughts and opinions either in report format (or in a way which

you can follow within one notebook).

Experimental Testing

to be assigned a standing or evaluation on the basis of tests 2 : to apply a test

as a means of analysis or diagnosis

Example,

New Hypothesis: Ti2+, Ti3+ and Ti4+ adopt the same oxidation state after entering the NaAlH4 structure.

Test: EXAFS Absorption spectroscopy can measure bond length and # of bonds. We may dope NaAlH4 with

Ti2+, Ti3+ and Ti4+ and measure bond length of each. If they are the same, then they have all assumed one

oxidation state after entering the structure (and we can measure this oxidation state also using EXAFS by

determining the # of bonds).

Good TESTS will prove or disprove your hypothesis.

Experimental Tests can be performed within the realm of computing. (e.g. Coventor

model with calculations and predictions can serve as experiment and model).

Consider all alternatives. Experiment may not disprove all (but may disprove only

parts) of your hypothesis. That is still alright to perform. Carefully note which aspects

of your hypothesis this experiment will test.

Consider the availability of instrumentation to perform your tests.

Suggestions:

See IfM website for list of available equipment.

If you do not know (or have never heard of it), learn about that equipment, what it measures,

what it can fabricate, what is does, etc. (For nearly ALL Characterization Techniques, see

Metals Handbook, Volume 10 (LATECH call #: REFERENCE-- TA459 .A5)

Ask questions! Schedule meetings with appropriate people in charge of equipment to inquire

about capabilities and terms/conditions for use.

Predictions

to declare or indicate in advance; especially : foretell on the basis of

observation, experience, or scientific reason

Example,

Test: EXAFS Absorption spectroscopy can measure bond length and # of bonds. We may dope NaAlH4 with Ti2+, Ti3+

and Ti4+ and measure bond length of each. If they are the same, then they have all assumed one oxidation state

after entering the structure (and we can measure this oxidation state also using EXAFS by determining the # of

bonds).

Prediction 1: If Ti2+, Ti3+ and Ti4+ gain equivalent oxidation states after entering the structure, then the same should be

true for Co2+, Co3+, and Co4+ (or any other metal dopant).

or

Prediction 2: If Ti2+, Ti3+ and Ti4+ gain equivalent oxidation states after entering the structure via ball-milling, then the

same should be true for Ti2+, Ti3+, and Ti4+ after entering the structure via chemical precipitation from Na+,

Al3+, and Ti?+ salt solutions.

Good Predictions can also be tested against your hypothesis.

Consider going back to the basics (textbook theory) to development of a

mathematical model/construct which will help to make predictions about more

systems than you can reasonably test.

Suggestions:

You may begin thinking about predictions as soon as you have a hypothesis,

however, if your hypothesis is proven false, your prediction will also fail!

Use mathematical model to test your prediction.

Mathematical Models

Empirical vs. Deterministic

Empirical Deterministic

Based on experimental Based on first principles approach!

observation (e.g. least squares (e.g. Monte Carlo calculations,

curve fitting, coventor MEMS Density Functional Theory,

Molecular Dynamics, Computational

calculations, XAFS FEFF8.0 Fluid Dynamics)

Analysis)

Examples,

Test: EXAFS Absorption spectroscopy data is in hand. Prediction 1: If Ti2+, Ti3+ and Ti4+ gain equivalent oxidation

states after entering the structure, then the same should be true for Co2+, Co3+, and Co4+ (or any other metal

dopant).

Model: We use FEFF8.0, WINXAFS to fit the XAFS equation to measured data --- varying types of neighboring

species (e.g. neighbors may be 2 Na atoms and 1 Al atom or 3 Al atoms and 1 Na atom). bond length and # of

bonds (coordination number) until we have a good fit. We did not know what environment our Ti atom was in

prior to model fitting, now, we have modeled our system to match our data. Our model is then made up of the

XAFS equation, bond lengths, and # of bonds.

Keys to Implementation in your Research:

All thesis experiments should have empirical models (at least).

If do not have a mathematical model--- only data, then we need to find an equation for

which we can perform least squares fitting your data.

My suggestion: If you run into an interesting hypothesis which can be tested via

deterministic models (first principles approach), meet with IfM modeling faculty

(Mainerdi, Paun, Hegab or DeRosa) to discuss the hypothesis and modeling.

Further Suggestion:

Know what has been done by others. Do not reinvent the wheel

unnecessarily!!!

about fundamental advances in the field.

Do not strive to solve all problems in the field, look for small advances in

your field.

Prepare to report results even if hypothesis fails. False hypothesis are also

advancements in science (and will save others time and money on

repeating these experiments). Failed hypothesis should also be used to

make suggestions for future directions (making you and EXPERT since you

can suggest new directions in your field!!!).

What do I need to do to Complete a

Thesis Option???

Perform 1 iteration of the Scientific Method!!!

Observation

Hypothesis

Experimental Test

Prediction --- then you may STOP (You do not need to test

predictions in order to successfully write your thesis). Your thesis

should, however, include a reporting of your predictions under the

heading Suggestions for Future Work. If you complete one

iteration within 5 weeks, then you should go further.

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