Steps in Proving a Hypothesis
As noted by a group of scientific researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, "In science, ideas can never be completely proved or completely disproved. Instead, science accepts or rejects ideas based on supporting and refuting evidence, and may revise those conclusions if warranted by new evidence or perspectives." The key to acceptance is not simply conducting an experiment in accordance with the scientific method. Instead, the key is to conduct numerous experiments that support the hypothesis with repeatable, predictable results.
1 Research and Discuss
Scientific researchers don't conduct experiments in a vacuum. If you are a fledgling scientist with a hypothesis, it's important that you do your research and discuss your hypothesis with your mentors, collaborators and peers. This will help you to refine your hypothesis and, in many cases, help you to determine what factors you need to control for in your experiment. In certain cases, discussing your work with a mentor will also let you know whether the scientific community has already accepted or rejected some form of your hypothesis.
2 Set Up Experiment
Just as you would speak to your mentors, collaborators and peers about your hypothesis, you should also discuss the parameters of your experiment before setting it up. This might include setting up a control experiment, but it can also refer to the precise measurements you'll be using, your budget and other details. Also, determine what sort of data you'll be collecting, the frequency of data collection (whether daily, hourly or more frequently) and make sure that all equipment is fully functional.
3 Conduct Experiment
When conducting your experiment, be sure to document every change carefully. If you need to calculate certain measurements, use significant digits to determine the best answer. If your data does not support your hypothesis, you should rule out any influencing factors before reassessing your idea entirely. If it still doesn't work, discuss your results with your mentor and develop a different hypothesis. Your lab report should reflect any changes. If your hypothesis stands after the experiment, continue to the next step.
For the scientific community to accept your hypothesis, you'll need to show that you can achieve the same results in multiple experiments. This means that you should repeat the same experiment and record your results. Once you have done this to the satisfaction of your mentor, you'll need to conduct additional experiments that test for the same phenomenon. Document your findings and adjust your hypothesis when necessary. When you have sufficient documentation, you may discuss your options for publication with your mentor and collaborators.
Once your study has been published, other members of the scientific community will weigh in. Some might agree with you, some might wish to collaborate and some might doubt your claims. You could attend symposiums to discuss your findings or present or defend your work. Keep in mind that acceptance takes time -- sometimes years, sometimes decades. Continue conducting and publishing your research; if few studies contradict your findings, the scientific community may accept your hypothesis as a theory.