We explain what scientific observation is, why it is so important and its characteristics. Also, how is its classification and examples.
What is scientific observation?
When we talk about scientific observation we refer to the process of detailing any phenomenon of nature with analytical intent and the purpose of gathering as much objective information as possible.
It is one of the initial steps of the so-called scientific method , which consists of a series of steps that guarantee the objectivity and demonstrability of scientific studies .
Scientific observation aspires to contemplate and understand nature in its purest state , that is, without the interference of man, as the naturalists of the nineteenth century tried. However, today it is known that there is a paradox in this regard, since the presence of an observer in many cases modifies what has been observed.
In any case, scientific observation faces natural phenomena taking into account as much context as possible , seeking a thorough understanding of the conditions that influence the phenomenon that, in general, will then be replicated in a laboratory (experimentation) or environment. checked. Often the contemplation of what happens in concrete experiments is also considered an observation method.
Often these information gathering processes rely on tools such as surveys, specific instruments ( microscopes , stethoscopes, telescopes, etc.) or parallel processes (when the phenomenon cannot be observed directly), depending on the nature of the object observed and The scientific perspective itself.
Importance of scientific observation
Scientific observation has yielded the greatest amount of data throughout the history of those who make up our world encyclopedia.
This means that by observing nature and drawing conclusions from these observations, we have been able to deduce and then experimentally check many of the laws that govern the Universe .
Therefore, observation is fundamental in the systematic and orderly approach proposed by the scientific method , so that the results are as reliable as possible.
Characteristics of scientific observation
Scientific observation requires a very specific delimitation of the observed , that is, that it is understood what exactly is going to be observed of a phenomenon of nature. This narrowing of interests is essential to choose between which data to register and which not.
On the other hand, it is necessary to know what exactly (or what it is presumed to be) to observe. So the observation is not blank, but scientists have a previous hypothesis regarding what was observed.
In the same way, the observation will establish categories for the observed and will try to explain it with the previous knowledge acquired . The observation will also be repeated to verify the results, which will then be tried to reproduce experimentally.
Types of scientific observation
There are two basic types of observation, which are:
- Direct . That in which the fact or phenomenon that is pursued can be detailed.
- Hint . That in which the persecuted phenomenon is not observable, but its presence can be deduced from parallel observations or other phenomena. It also applies to observations that are based on previous data collected by other scientists.
The observation can also be classified according to its place of performance, in:
- Field observation . When the scientist is in nature itself or its instruments allow him to observe the phenomenon directly in its place in it.
- Laboratory observation . When the observed phenomenon occurs in the controlled environment of the laboratory, that is, when it is experimentally replicated.
Examples of scientific observation
A perfect example of scientific observation is the trip of the English scientist Charles Darwin to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.
Darwin already had theories about the origin of the species (which he later published in a book of the same title) and which he had accumulated throughout his other trips and observations. So its purpose was to observe biodiversity from a specific hypothetical perspective.
While there, Darwin observed the behavior and anatomy of the local species, comparing them with the species found on the mainland, and he could tell how there were fundamental similarities between the two, although they were not equal at all.
This allowed him to deduce that being so far apart, each species had adapted to a different environment, thus giving rise to a different species.
Darwin used mostly a notebook and pencil for his notes, but those who have succeeded in the study of biology have many more tools to check at a genetic and anatomical level the brilliant observations made by Darwin.