An observation is simply the awareness of a natural event, by means of our senses, or indirectly by extensions of our senses.
This immediately separates science from non-science. Science does not begin with an idea, belief or a concept but with an observation of a natural phenomenon. All questions, guesses, hypotheses, concepts and experiments in science must follow an observation.
Observations do not need to be made directly with our limited senses of sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste. Many astronomical events, organisms, or chemical reactions cannot be perceived by means of our senses, but observing them is possible indirectly by means of sensitive instruments which extend our senses. Those instruments include light microscopes, electron microscopes, telescopes, spectroscopes, oscilloscopes, chloridometers, thermometers, and balances.
Observation may also be indirect with respect to time. Events which occurred in the past may be perceived by studying such records as photographs, graphs, or fossils. Light from distant galaxies are not direct observations of immediate events, but those which occurred perhaps millions of years ago. Thus, the very first step of science may have one of many beginnings which support the concept that there are many approaches to scientific investigation.
For an observation to be scientific, it must be repeatable. One time observations are outside the realm of science. If one person observes a UFO (unidentified flying object) and the observation is never again repeated, it cannot be a part of the procedure of science. Mystics, psychics, astrologers, and other pseudoscientists often rely heavily on simultaneous or near simultaneous events which are one time observations. Such coincidental events are often used as evidence to support ideas, but unless those observations can be repeated many times over and over again by others, then they are unscientific and unreliable as a basis for understanding the universe around us.
Correct observation is difficult even for the most experienced scientist. Witnesses who saw a crime may find it difficult to identify a suspect and the identification may be in error. Scientists observing nature may not detect important events or may incorrectly describe others. Doctors may incorrectly diagnose a disease due to poor observation or lack of observation of a given symptom.
The most important block to correct and clear observation is bias. Most often people see only what they want to see or what they "should" see according to their culture, religious belief or political orientation. Past experience is often a block to perceiving new and unusual events. "Common knowledge" may be used as an excuse to overlook vital evidence. "Common sense" is often a notion based on preconceived ideas and bias of the worst type.
Even with a minimum of bias, all observations are subject to some degree of error. No measurement is absolutely accurate, no observation is perfect. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized and it will become more obvious in the procedure of science called the experiment.
Step #2: THE PROBLEM
PROCEDURES OF SCIENCE