In Chapter 2 we have seen how scientific inquiry can be characterised, distinguished from other ways of knowledge construction, and that scientifically acquired knowledge has a high chance of being viable, reliable, and of withstanding critical scrutiny. It examines aspects of our natural world and enables evidence-based factual statements and judgments. But how can we make sure that a statement is scientific in a sense that it fulfils certain requirements of scientific knowledge generation? What is the method with which scientists arrive at insights that deserve the label scientific? This chapter and the next aim at describing all the features that make scientific research such a powerful way of gaining viable insights.
After identifying the basic steps of a scientific investigation and their characteristics in terms of typical activities of scientists and researchers, a systematic step-by-step guide through the elements of a chemical research project is presented in the form of Lee's scientific knowledge acquisition web. Key issues are the formulation of hypotheses, the analysis and interpretation of experimental results and data, appropriate strategies in cases of errors and encountered difficulties, record keeping, and reporting and publishing considerations. While this chapter discusses conceptual and methodological issues, it defines the arena of good scientific conduct and helps to enlighten the standard of what counts as good. Thus, it lays a foundation for Chapters 5 to 8.