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The Scientific Method & Computer Troubleshooting! By Bennett Hendry! !

A description of the application of formal scientific methods to computer problem solving.! ! ! 1 Define the Problem! Usually, what the client is complaining about is only a symptom of the actual problem. You must evaluate the complaint and determine if the client is telling you the actual problem, or just a symptom of the problem. In many cases, this can only be done by direct interaction with the computer in question.! ! 2 Review the literature! Use the resources available to learn about the symptom and the factors involved. If the problem you are working on has been handled by someone else before, there is probably a solution documented somewhere. Look it up! Don't re-invent the wheel.! ! 3 Make Observations and Form a Generalization! The more information you can gather about the problem and the computer, the better your chances of finding the solution quickly. Pay attention to details! Find out what (if anything) has been done to the computer recently. You should be able to describe the characteristics of the symptom and the computer in detail, and understand how the symptom is affecting the user.! ! 4 Formulate a Hypothesis! "An hypothesis is a statement about concepts, which may be judged true or false with respect to observable phenomena, formulated in a manner suitable for empirical testing." In other words, it is a description of what you believe to be the cause of the symptom and the solution, based on your observations. It must be clear, concise, and detailed. A good hypothesis predicts test results.! ! 5 Design a Study and Test the Hypothesis! A good test conforms to the following criteria:! ! * The test is repeatable.! Even if your test fixes the symptom, you may not have actually found the true cause. If possible, reverse your test to see if the symptom returns, or attempt the same solution on another computer with the same symptom. Just because you make a change to the system and the symptom goes away, does not always mean that you have actually found the cause!! ! * The test only manipulates one variable at a time.! Change one thing, then test. Then change another thing, and re-test. Use the process of elimination to isolate possible causes, and test for only one at a time. If you change several variables at once, you cannot determine which variable affected the results, and your test will be inconclusive. You may fix the problem this way, but you will not know for certain why the problem is fixed.! ! 6 Draw Conclusions! After performing your test, check again for the symptom. If the symptom is gone, you have probably found the cause (Is your test repeatable?). If the symptom is still present, you have learned something about what is not the cause. Since there are a finite number of causes for any particular symptom, you have made progress by eliminating one of them. You will always learn something from a good test, even if the results are negative.!

If it is no longer valid in the face of the new data gathered in your test. form a new hypothesis and continue the process.! ! .! 7 Re-evaluate the Hypothesis! Return to your hypothesis and determine its validity.