Goetia Niflheim
13 min readJun 26, 2020


I. The concept of the method of scientific knowledge. Classification of methods of scientific knowledge

A method is a way to achieve a goal. Under the method of scientific knowledge is understood a system of regulatory rules, principles, and techniques aimed at an objective study of reality, at the attainment of truth about an object.

The method of cognition, in its essence, expresses purposefulness, regularity of the process of cognition as a process programmatically carried out. It is an important tool of scientific knowledge, the engine of science, a means of its development and enrichment with new results.

Ideally, the method includes the following components:

  1. Problem aspect. The formulated goal, task.
  2. Ontological aspect. A description of the objective situation in which the problem is solved.
  3. Procedural aspect. A procedure — a list of operations necessary to achieve the goal in the given conditions.

The method of scientific knowledge has a number of requirements:

  1. The determinism of the method, ie its conditioning by the laws of both the object itself and cognitive activity. The determinism of the method excludes an arbitrary set of techniques and operations, but does not exclude the subject’s activity in using the method.
  2. Compliance of all components of the method of the research objective.
  3. The effectiveness and reliability of the method: it must be such that it can give a result with a high degree of probability.
  4. The efficiency of the method, ie the costs of its creation and use should always be less than the amount recouped by the results of the study, which shows the conditionality of the method by personnel, economic and socio-organizational factors.
  5. Clarity and effective recognition of the method. The method should be such that any person who wishes to do so can use it with appropriate training.
  6. The reproducibility of the method, ie the possibility of using it an unlimited number of times, and this depends on the reproducibility of all components of this method.
  7. Learningability. This requirement allows you to include in the method only what you can teach. For example, personal abilities, the experience of a researcher cannot enter the structure of a method.

There are two ways to form a method: spontaneous and focused. Within the framework of human activity, a certain set of actions spontaneously develops, through which the desired result is obtained. Then the found set of actions is realized and purposefully used.

The system of methods used in modern scientific knowledge is as diverse as science itself. It is customary to single out general scientific and private methods. General methods are used at all levels of knowledge and all scientific disciplines in the study of any subject area. These include observation, experiment, classification, etc. Private methods are methods of a particular science (electron microscopy methods, a descriptive method in biology, etc.). Note that this separation of methods is always arbitrary, since as the development of knowledge, the scientific method can move from one category to another.

Widespread classification of methods of scientific knowledge by the level of knowledge to which they belong.

II. Characterization of empirical level methods

The empirical level of scientific knowledge includes all those methods, techniques, methods of cognitive activity, which are the content of practice or its direct result.


Observation is a way of knowing the objective world, based on the direct perception of objects and phenomena using the senses without interference from the researcher. Observation activity can be significantly increased by measuring an object, its properties and relationships. Measurement is the physical process of determining the numerical value of a quantity by comparing it with a standard.

The tasks of observation may be:

  1. A preliminary orientation in the object;
  2. Hypothesis;
  3. Its check;
  4. Refinement of the results obtained using other methods;
  5. Illustration.

Features of scientific observation: 1) connection with the solution of a certain theoretical problem and hypothesis testing; 2) planned and organized character; 3) systematic elimination of errors of random origin.

Observation as a method of cognition is used where experiment is impossible or very difficult (astronomy, hydrology, etc.), or where the task is to study the natural functioning or behavior of an object (psychology, sociology, etc.).

Observation as a method of cognition has drawbacks. The personal characteristics of the researcher, attitudes, interests, psychological conditions can significantly affect the results of observation. The greater the distortion of the perceived object, the stronger the researcher is focused on confirming his hypothesis. As a result, only part of what is happening is perceived. In observation, the observer depends on the studied process or phenomenon. The observer cannot, remaining within the boundaries of observation, change the object, regulate and unlimitedly reproduce the conditions of observation, and in this sense, its activity in the observation is relative.

Experiment is a method of scientific knowledge, which is characterized by the active intervention of a researcher in the process under study. Experimental study of an object or phenomenon has certain advantages compared with observation, since it allows you to study phenomena in a “pure form” by eliminating side factors; if necessary, tests can be repeated and organized in such a way as to investigate individual properties of the object, and not their combination.

The main goal of the experimental study is to obtain fundamentally new information.

A single classification of experiments does not exist. However, many types and species of experimental research have been identified and described:

  • By the nature of the studied object, it is customary to distinguish between physical, biological, etc. experiments;
  • According to the main goal, there are distinguished verification (empirical verification of a certain hypothesis, theory) and search (collecting the necessary empirical information to build or refine any guesses, hypotheses);
  • According to the method and result, experiments are divided into qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative experiments, as a rule, are undertaken to identify the impact of certain factors on the process under study without establishing an exact quantitative relationship between them; they are usually searchable. Quantitative experiments are carried out to ensure accurate measurement of all significant factors affecting the behavior of the studied object or the course of the process. Usually, qualitative and quantitative experiments represent successive stages in the cognition of phenomena and characterize the degree of penetration into the essence of these phenomena.

An experiment is called direct if the object is a directly existing object or process. In those cases when direct experimental investigation of the object itself is impossible or difficult, economically inexpedient or for some reason undesirable, they resort to the so-called model experiment, in which it is not the object itself that is examined, but the model that replaces it. A model is a really existing or mentally presented system that, replacing the original in cognitive processes, is with it in relation to similarities (similarities).


Analysis is a method of cognition by breaking up or decomposing research objects (objects, properties, etc.) into their component parts. The decomposition aims to move from the study of the whole to the study of its parts and is carried out by abstracting from the relationship of the parts with each other, i.e. from the structure of the object.

Synthesis is a research method consisting in combining, reproducing the relationships of individual parts, elements of a complex phenomenon and comprehending the whole in unity. Analysis and synthesis mutually suggest and complement each other. Ultimately, analysis involves synthesis, and synthesis is impossible without a preliminary analysis of the system.

The transition from fact analysis to theoretical synthesis itself is carried out using methods that, complementing each other, make up the content of this complex leap. One of these methods is induction — the method of transition from knowledge of individual facts to knowledge of the general, to empirical generalization and the establishment of a general position that reflects a law or other essential relationship. The direct basis of inductive inference is the repeatability of signs in a number of objects of a certain class. The conclusion by induction is a conclusion about the general properties of all objects belonging to this class, based on the observation of a fairly wide variety of isolated facts. It is customary to distinguish between full and incomplete induction. In turn, the latter is divided into the following types: 1) induction through simple enumeration (popular induction); 2) induction through the selection of facts from the total mass according to a certain rule; 3) scientific induction, carried out on the basis of knowledge of the causal relationships of phenomena within the studied class.

In complete induction, the general conclusion is based on the study of all objects (phenomena) of this class. Since a complete set of objects from a given class is subject to study, the obtained conclusion has the character of a reliable conclusion.

Deduction is a method of transition from general propositions to particular ones, as well as the necessary following from some statements (premises) to other statements using laws and rules of logic. The necessary nature of the follow makes the knowledge obtained not probable, but reliable. The direction of thought from general to particular can characterize a whole system of scientific research. So, all classical mechanics with its applications to the phenomena of nature and technology is built on the basis of three laws of I. Newton.

The growing role of deduction in scientific knowledge is associated with the fact that scientific research is increasingly confronted with phenomena inaccessible to direct perception (microcosm, metagalaxies, bygone eras in the development of mankind, etc.). But the role of deduction should not be exaggerated, as well as the role of inductive methods. The role of deductive methods is limited in that they do not allow us to obtain meaningfully new knowledge. In the deductive conclusion, in fact, there is nothing that is not already contained in the premises.

Classification methods are widely used to process and generalize facts in scientific research. Classification allows you to solve a number of cognitive problems: to reduce the diversity of the material to a relatively small number of formations (classes, types, forms, types, groups, etc.); identify the initial units of analysis and develop a system of relevant concepts and terms; detect regularities, stable signs and relationships, ultimately, empirical laws, summarize the results of previous studies and predict the existence of previously unknown objects or their properties, discover new relationships and relationships between already known objects.

Classifications are expressed as natural language texts and various kinds of tables, schemes. The importance of classification is great in the sciences related to the variety of objects studied (biology, geography, geology, etc.).

One of the methods of scientific cognition is an analogy, through which knowledge of objects and phenomena is achieved on the basis that they have similarities with others. The degree of probability (reliability) of conclusions by analogy depends on the number of similar signs in the compared phenomena (the more they are, the greater the probability of a conclusion).

III. Theoretical research methods

The theoretical level of knowledge includes all those forms of reflection in which objective laws and other universal, necessary and essential connections of the objective world are reflected in a logically connected form, as well as conclusions drawn from logical means or arising from theoretical premises of the investigation. The theoretical level represents various stages, steps, steps of indirect knowledge of reality.

Methods and forms of cognition with the help of which an idealized object is created and studied

  • Abstraction is a mental distraction from non-essential properties, connections, relations of objects and the identification of the parties of interest to the researcher. It is usually carried out in two stages. At the first stage, significant properties, relationships, etc. are determined. At the second stage, the object under study is replaced with another, simpler one, which is a simplified model that preserves the main thing.
  • Idealization is the mental construction of objects that are practically impossible (for example, ideal gas, absolutely solid). As a result of idealization, real objects lose some of their inherent properties and are endowed with hypothetical properties.
  • Mental experiment deals with the same objects — a specific theoretical method that constructs idealized, impracticable situations and states, which studies processes in a “pure form”. The peculiarity of this method is that it allows the scientist to rely on sensory representations, to make visualized the idealized object and process, to fill the concepts of theory with sensory content. In a thought experiment, for example, a trolley moving without environmental resistance may participate; rockets flying at the speed of light; elevators falling into airless space, etc.
  • In those cases when the studied object is not accessible for direct intervention by the researcher or for some reasons this intervention is not practical, they resort to the modeling method. The essence of modeling as a method of cognition is to replace the object of study with a model. Modeling involves the transfer of research activity to another object, acting as a substitute for the studied object. The substitute object is called a model, and the research object is called the original (prototype).
  • The most important means of constructing and studying an idealized theoretical object is formalization. Formalization is the mapping of an object or phenomenon in the symbolic form of an artificial language (mathematics, chemistry, etc.) and providing the possibility of studying real objects and their properties through the study of the corresponding signs.

The introduction of symbolism ensures the completeness of the review of a certain area of problems, the brevity and clarity of the fixation of knowledge, avoids the ambiguity of terms.

  • Evidence is a basic requirement of scientific knowledge. Under the proof in the broad sense of the word we understand any procedure for establishing the truth of a proposition using logical reasoning or through sensory perception of certain physical objects and phenomena. In the narrow sense, proof involves the establishment of objective truth through the whole apparatus of methodological tools. Evidence in the broad sense is often used in the humanities, and it includes empirical evidence in the natural sciences, based on observational and experimental data. Evidence in the narrow sense of the word is usually used in logic, mathematics, and theoretical physics. Such proofs are chains of correct conclusions leading from the true premises (the initial propositions for the given proof of judgments) to the provable (final) theses. The truth of the premises is not justified in the proof itself, but in any way established in advance.

IV. General science approaches

In modern scientific knowledge, general scientific approaches are of particular importance. The concept of an approach logically always emphasizes the main direction of research, a kind of “angle of view” on the object of study.

The most important feature of these approaches is the fundamental applicability to the study of any phenomena and any sphere of reality. They can work in all, without exception, scientific disciplines. This is due to the general scientific nature of the categories that underlie these approaches.

Each of the general scientific approaches, taken on its own, should not be absolutized. The approaches are based on one category, reflecting only one (albeit significant) side of the object of cognition. General scientific approaches are effective and adequate ways of exploring reality provided that they are used together with other approaches, as well as with traditional means.

The structural approach focuses on the study of the internal structure of the system, identifying the patterns of the process of ordering elements in the system, analysis of the nature and specificity of the relationships between the elements. The structural approach in scientific research is applied where the nature of the tasks set requires the dismemberment of the subject of study into separate components. When disassembling an object, the researcher temporarily violates its integrity, abstracting from it.

The functional approach focuses on identifying the features of the functioning of systems. The system in the framework of this approach is considered from the perspective of the external aspect. The functional approach is distracted from the content and structure of the system, focusing on the task of detecting functional relationships between the input and output parameters of the system.

Currently, a systematic approach has become widespread.

The scale, variety of connections and relationships of natural, technical, and social processes require their study not separately, but as a whole, with the involvement of knowledge from various fields. It is this approach in the cognitive process that is designed to provide systematic research, the hallmarks of which are the following: 1) the presence of an interdisciplinary nature; 2) the end point of system research is the formation of a holistic, integrative model of the studied object; 3) system studies deal with relatively independent objects isolated from the environment. Therefore, cognition has a divided, two-pronged orientation. On the one hand, internal relations and dependencies characterizing a given object as an autonomous whole are subject to research. With another
hand, any holistic object interacting with the outside world is dependent on other systems. This makes it necessary to study the influence of the environment on the integrity of the system, its preservation or destruction. A deep analysis of the internal and external relations of the object allows you to create a holistic scientific picture about it; 4) the specific logic of system research — here the separation of the object and the analysis of its components is carried out in depth not to infinity, but to a certain limit. The criterion is such a penetration depth into the structural components that is necessary for the scientific explanation and description of the object as a certain integrity.

The main provisions of the systems approach are defined in the general theory of systems, which studies the laws, principles and methods of functioning and development of integral objects of the real world. Systems theory includes systemology and system research.

Systemology is a specific direction of the general theory of systems, which represents specific processes and phenomena as systems, justifies the presence of certain system-forming features in specific objects, classifies and describes them. The theory of systems is currently developing in several directions:

  1. The theory of rigid systems having strong and stable connections and relationships. Such systems include systems of inanimate nature.
  2. The theory of soft systems having their own structure, responding to external influences, but preserving the internal essence and ability to function and develop.
  3. The theory of self-organization. Self-organizing systems are self-healing systems to which all living systems belong. The study of self-organizing systems is engaged in a promising branch of scientific knowledge — synergetics.

Algorithmic approach is closely related to cybernetics and the constructive direction in mathematics. It is widely used in the description of the functioning processes of control systems, information processes, complex systems, etc. A particularly important role is played in the sciences of behavior, the psyche, and learning. In the sciences dealing with intelligence, the algorithmic approach acts as a certain system of requirements, according to which the researcher approaches the study of the process of information processing by a person, and also as a means, language, used in the framework of various methods of the study itself (observation, experiment, modeling).

The application of the algorithmic approach is advisable in cases where it is possible to represent the phenomenon under study in the form of a process subject to strict rules.

Probabilistic approach is based on the concept of probability and guides the researcher to the study of processes as some statistical ensembles. The application of a probabilistic approach to the study of processes is aimed at identifying statistical patterns. The imposition of a large number of random circumstances giving rise to statistical laws, in many cases leads to results that are practically independent of the case, which gives the right to speak about laws.

Information approach — the allocation and study of the information aspect of various phenomena of reality. The main objectives of the study are to determine the flow of information, their volumes, coding methods, processing algorithms. This approach does not take into account the internal structure of systems if they process information in the same way and turn out to be equivalent in the information sense.