Difference Between Hypothesis and Theory

Difference Between Hypothesis and Theory

If you’ve studied science, or you’re currently doing so, you’ve probably asked yourself a hundred questions about the difference between terms. You would have asked the difference between law and principle, about how compounds and mixtures are varied. You would have questioned the distinction between weight and mass.

Science, admittedly, is a complex subject because it encompasses the entire universe. The universe is without a doubt the most complex and varied topic we can discuss, and science helps us understand it better and better as we study the field.

One comparison you may have made is about the difference between theory and hypothesis. What’s the disparity between the two? What do these concepts mean? In this article, we will define each term and lay down their characteristics, so you could easily tell their variances. If you’re a student, having a clear grasp of these two terms will make you appreciate the theories and hypotheses better.

Definition of Theory

A theory is defined as an attempt to explain some natural phenomenon based on facts that have been tested and repeatedly confirmed through experiments and observations. This tentative definition, which is from a scientific point of view, is somewhat reliable and less likely to change. Aside from science, this term is used to describe a simple hunch.

Here are some characteristics of a good theory.

  • It has to be accurate and in line with presented facts.
  • It must have a broad scope and resources that can extend beyond particular observations. This means it is testable and can support substantial scientific research.
  • A theory is open-ended in nature. That is, it has to be resourceful enough to encourage further research.
  • There should be a consistent pattern with other related theories in the same field. It must be observed and confirmed to be repeatable before being accepted.
  • It is required to be enlightening and comprehensive enough to explain a phenomenon that may be otherwise confusing.

Note that a scientific theory can change after a while if it does not support new observations. This has happened in quite a number of cases in the past.

Definition of Hypothesis

A hypothesis is defined as an educated guess used to refer to proposed explanations for an observable phenomenon. Usually, when a scientist discovers and proposes something for the first time, it is limited to her or his knowledge of the matter, which is exactly what an educated guess is. Other scientists would not readily accept this proposition until it has been tested as verified thoroughly.

From this explanation, one can say that one of the differences between hypothesis vs theory is that the former is an unchallenged educated guess while the latter has been challenged and confirmed to be backed up by facts.

What are some of the characteristics of a hypothesis?

  • It should be clear enough for anyone to comprehend, and it should be precise and straight to the point.
  • It must be open-ended in nature, encouraging further studies in the form of challenges. In other words, it should be empirically testable.
  • Observing a hypothesis should be as simple as possible for easy comprehension and better grounds for further studies.

Remarkably, in the theory vs hypothesis evaluation, every process that may lead to the former starts from the latter. After a series of tests and observations without fail, the latter would be assumed to be a theory generally accepted in the world of science.

Hypothesis vs Theory Comparison Table

To further classify the difference between a theory and hypothesis, here’s a table with the main differences between them.

Basis of ComparisonTheory Hypothesis
Definition Extrapolation about a phenomenon An educated guess about the explanation of a phenomenon
Level of confirmation Validated and confirmed Has to be validated
Derived from A validated hypothesis An educated guess of a problem
Basis Repeated experiments Collected data

Conclusion of Main Difference Between Hypothesis vs Theory

Do you now clearly understand what is the difference between theory and hypothesis? The best way to explain what is the difference between hypothesis and theory is to go through the scientific method. If you know these steps by heart, you’d know which comes first. Before you can produce a good and acceptable theory, you must go through the scientific method several times, testing and retesting until you get a conclusive and valid result. Statistics and literature can help you validate your results. It will also be helpful if you’d be able to consult experts in the field. Just remember that a hypothesis comes prior a theory.