Experiment Design for Critical Thinkers
"All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, lecturer, philosopher
Open to All Students entering Grades 8,9,10 in 2022-23
Experiment design is an important method used in different fields to answer relevant questions. For example:
Marketers: Will Indians switch to cereal for breakfast?
Economists and Criminologists: Do police reduce crime? If so, by how much?
Psychologists: If you win the coin toss, you get Rs. 100 and if you lose the toss you give Rs. 50. Would most people take this bet?
Engineers: Which material should be used in bicycle frames?
Scientists: Is the speed of light finite?
The process of answering such questions involves proposing hypotheses, and designing experiments to test the hypotheses. Often, testing a hypothesis may not be straightforward. For example, an investigator wants to test the hypothesis that males at age 16 are taller than females at age 16. When doing this comparison it will quickly become clear that, apart from gender, there are several factors that may affect the height of an individual – their parents’ height, nutrition, parents’ income, etc. How does the investigator tease these several factors apart? What can the researcher do to ensure that other factors do not interfere in testing their specific hypothesis?
In this course we will answer such questions by proposing a hypothesis, designing experiments to evaluate the hypothesis, performing the experiments and generating data which when analysed will inform whether the hypothesis is true or false. We will do this through multiple experimental situations.
We will put on our lab coats to do classical laboratory experiments or don a pair of binoculars to perform an observational experiment. Apart from doing our own experiments we will also put ourselves in the shoes of past researchers and understand how they created their experimental setups and how we can improve them today. For example, would we have reached the same conclusions that geneticist Gregor Mendel reached if we had the same experimental set up?
Through this course we will understand the role of variables, apples-to-apples comparisons, the role of bias, and how to attempt to overcome bias. These are vital skills, often not taught formally at school or even at college level. Yet, the skills and mindset this course targets is relevant for knowledge-workers in every field.