The Socratic Method – “I need a Strain Gauge”

“Asking the right questions, [amid these uncertain and challenging times,] and knowing the desired outcome, enables making the correct product and process choices. “ (A.C. The New Normal)


We get many technical enquiries asking for strain gauge sensors. It often starts with a simple question, “I need a strain gauge”. This may appear to have an obvious answer – “Here’s one for you”, but this is not really what is being asked. Better to answer the question with another question, “What do you want to measure?” This leads to so many questions and answers on both sides, and eventually results in another phenomenon: the Socratic Effect. What this means is that the more questions we are asked, the more we learn. It challenges our answers by undermining what we think we know and ultimately provides us with the ability to reinforce the foundations of our knowledge through learning.


What this means to our customers is that we are forced to constantly update our knowledge, learn new skills, processes, materials and testing standards. This enables us to advise you using the most up-to-date, comprehensive information to support your measurement application.

This continual improvement means that our products and installation processes also get reviewed, leaving us with well-proven, reliable, robust, and above all repeatable products and processes. For example, our new line of Advanced Sensors Technology strain gauges was born from questioning what we can do better, rather than the opposite “it’s always worked this way”.


On the other side, our accessories and processes have remained relatively stable because modern replacements have either not been proven to work, or proven not to work. This is especially true of adhesives, where we test generic and commercial products and prove, time and again, that most are ineffective for our stringent requirements.




Strain gauges measure… strain. They do not directly measure pressure, load, force, acceleration, displacement, and certainly not stress. But, they can be calibrated to measure any of these things when employed appropriately. For example, if you want to measure force or load you can build a loadcell with strain gauges, for pressure you can use a diaphragm with a strain gauge, or for stress you can measure the maximum and minimum principal strains and calculate the stress using material properties found using strain gauges and a strain-gauged based load cell.


Asking the right questions, and knowing the desired outcome, enables making the correct product and process choices.






The Socratic Method enables anyone to ask simple questions which can increase the knowledge of novices and experts alike. Often the answer to questioning a method is “we’ve always done it this way” which limits the ability to increase understanding. In testing it defines what we want to achieve before we start, all the way to interpreting the data to gain the desired test objectives.


Next time you have a measurement application and you call one of our strain gauge experts, rest assured that the intensive questioning is to ensure we offer you the very best advice, and we both learn at the same time!

achittey's picture

Anton Chittey

United Kingdom