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Research Methods Information: Scientific Method & Scientific Rigor

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Scientific Method and Rigor

What is Meant by Scientific Method?


What is the Scientific Method?

"A method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses." [1]

The practice of scientific research -- whether quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods -- demands that the researcher's work is intellectually rigorous, accurate on all points, ethical, and dispassionately executed. 

The steps of the scientific method vary slightly according to field (see the 1st video below) but the list below outlines the general approach. [2]

  • Make an observation or observations.
  • Ask questions about the observations and gather information.
  • Form a hypothesis -- a tentative description of what's been observed, and make predictions based on that hypothesis.
  • Test the hypothesis and predictions in an experiment that can be reporduced.
  • Analyze the data and draw conclusions; accept or reject the hypothesis or modify hypothesis as necessary.
  • Reproduce the experiment until there are no discrepancies between observations and theory.


[1] Oxford Dictionaries

[2] List of steps from Zimmerman, K.A. & Britt, R.R. (2012). What is Science and the Scientific Method?

What is Meant by Scientific Rigor?

Scientifc Rigor

"Rigor in quantitative research is judged by how narrow, concise, and objective the design and analysis techniques are and how scrupulously the rules have been adhered to and applied to all decisions.

Rigor in qualitative research is defined by quite the opposite set of criteria and is associated with being open to the data, scrupulously adhering to a specific philosophical perspective, and thoroughness in collecting data.

Rigor is also judged by the logic of the emerging theory and whether the results are adding to what is known about a phenomenon.” [1]

Scientific rigor is the concept more typically applied to qualitative research because this type of research is not experimental in nature. The steps of a qualitative study must comply with the fundamental trustworthiness of the investigation. The criteria for this have been outlined by Guba, E.G.(1981). Criteria for assessing the trustworthiness of naturalistic inquiries. Educational Resources Information Center Annual Review Paper, 29, 75-91. [2]

  • Truth value/credibility of the study: degree to which researcher has established "confidence in the truth of the findings for the subjects and the context in which the study was undertaken"
  • Applicability: degree to which the findings can be applied to other contexts, settings or groups
  • Consistency: extent to which the findings would be consistent if inquiry were replicated with same subjects or similar context
  • Neutrality: degree to which the findings are a function of the subjects/informants and condition of the research and not of other biases, motivations, and perspectives.

[1] Definitions from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Nursing: Course site for Research for Nursing Practice: Introduction to Qualitative Research. URL:

[2] Krefting, L. (1991). Rigor in Qualitative Research: The Assessment of Trustworthiness. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 45(3), 214-222.

Identifying Fake News & Faulty Research

Scientific rigor addresses the quality, credibility, and authoritativeness of sources. The issue of fake news is something to be aware of as these fake stories may report false data and misrepresent research. Fake news is "a story that's completely false, usually invented for traffic and ad revenue, or to advance a political agenda — or both." [From TechCrunch]

Infographic on how to spot fake news

SOURCE: The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
"How to Spot Fake News"

Another resource:

Schulten, K. (2015). Skills and Strategies | Fake News vs. Real News: Determining the Reliability of Sources. The Learning Network. Teaching and Learning with the "New York Times."

See also the following FAQs from our LibAnswers Knowledge Base:

Selected Articles on Scientific Rigor

Selected Articles on Reliability and Validity

Selected Books on Research Quality