It is a core scientific principle to only change one of the parameters in an experiment at a time, and keep all others constant, as opposed to picking random parameters (i.e. typically being unable to control the parameters) and performing a factor analysis afterwards.

Is there a short term or phrase to express this concept? I was hoping to find the term in the Wikipedia pages about the Scientific Method or experiments, but both articles seem to deal in loftier terms.

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    Yes; the one parameter you're changing is known as the "independent variable", and the process of fixing the others as best you can is known as "scientific control". The whole shebang is known as a "controlled experiment". – Dan Bron Aug 15 '14 at 0:47
  • @DanBron Great, thanks! Can you make that into an answer so that I can accept and upvote it, or should I? – phihag Aug 15 '14 at 0:54
  • I appreciate the offer, but odds are this question is going to be closed as "general reference" (meaning we encourage people to look up such concepts themselves), and answering would contradict that message. – Dan Bron Aug 15 '14 at 0:55
  • BTW, for the sake of completeness, I believe the term for parameters you can't adequately control is "confounding variables". – Dan Bron Aug 15 '14 at 0:58

This principle is simply called scientific control, wherein one changes the independent variable while trying to avoid the influence of confounding variables.

| improve this answer | |
  • Ha! Well done. +1 from me. Might as well accept your own answer while you're at it. – Dan Bron Aug 15 '14 at 1:09
  • @DanBron Sure, will do, as soon as I'm allowed to – phihag Aug 15 '14 at 1:26
  • Cool. Welcome to english.SE! – Dan Bron Aug 15 '14 at 1:34
  • Your reputation precedes you. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 15 '14 at 8:19

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