Scientific Method -- An organized approach utilized to systematically study and solve problems of the natural world.
A Linear Outline of the Scientific Method. (In reality, not necessarily followed in this order, and there are lots of feedbacks and interactions between the steps).
1. Define a Problem: Obtain and/or examine information and discern a pattern of importance. check that the pattern persists or occurs many times.
2. Make a Hypothesis*: Make a first guess about the reasons for the pattern based upon proven principles or understood causes/effects. A mere correlation between the pattern and some other phenomenon is not enough to establish the basis for a hypothesis. The causes and effects must be understood.
3. Test the Hypothesis: See if the same hypothesized cause is associated with the same effects in other places, or for other times etc. If this bears out, then the hypothesis becomes a "theory." If it does not bear out then the hypothesis must be modified or abandoned and Step 2 must be redone.
4. Use the Theory to make predictions. In other words, if you can forecast the pattern of importance, you can anticipate the same implications or results of the pattern in the future.
*The word hypothesis refers to a provisional idea whose merit requires evaluation. The root "hypo" is from the Greek, and means "under" or, in this context, "fundamental". The root "thesis" means a proposition put forward for rigorous consideration