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- How to Write a Strong Hypothesis | Steps & Examples
How to Write a Strong Hypothesis | Steps & Examples
Published on May 6, 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023.
A hypothesis is a statement that can be tested by scientific research. If you want to test a relationship between two or more variables, you need to write hypotheses before you start your experiment or data collection .
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Table of contents
What is a hypothesis, developing a hypothesis (with example), hypothesis examples, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about writing hypotheses.
A hypothesis states your predictions about what your research will find. It is a tentative answer to your research question that has not yet been tested. For some research projects, you might have to write several hypotheses that address different aspects of your research question.
A hypothesis is not just a guess – it should be based on existing theories and knowledge. It also has to be testable, which means you can support or refute it through scientific research methods (such as experiments, observations and statistical analysis of data).
Variables in hypotheses
Hypotheses propose a relationship between two or more types of variables .
- An independent variable is something the researcher changes or controls.
- A dependent variable is something the researcher observes and measures.
If there are any control variables , extraneous variables , or confounding variables , be sure to jot those down as you go to minimize the chances that research bias will affect your results.
In this example, the independent variable is exposure to the sun – the assumed cause . The dependent variable is the level of happiness – the assumed effect .
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Step 1. Ask a question
Writing a hypothesis begins with a research question that you want to answer. The question should be focused, specific, and researchable within the constraints of your project.
Step 2. Do some preliminary research
Your initial answer to the question should be based on what is already known about the topic. Look for theories and previous studies to help you form educated assumptions about what your research will find.
At this stage, you might construct a conceptual framework to ensure that you’re embarking on a relevant topic . This can also help you identify which variables you will study and what you think the relationships are between them. Sometimes, you’ll have to operationalize more complex constructs.
Step 3. Formulate your hypothesis
Now you should have some idea of what you expect to find. Write your initial answer to the question in a clear, concise sentence.
4. Refine your hypothesis
You need to make sure your hypothesis is specific and testable. There are various ways of phrasing a hypothesis, but all the terms you use should have clear definitions, and the hypothesis should contain:
- The relevant variables
- The specific group being studied
- The predicted outcome of the experiment or analysis
5. Phrase your hypothesis in three ways
To identify the variables, you can write a simple prediction in if…then form. The first part of the sentence states the independent variable and the second part states the dependent variable.
In academic research, hypotheses are more commonly phrased in terms of correlations or effects, where you directly state the predicted relationship between variables.
If you are comparing two groups, the hypothesis can state what difference you expect to find between them.
6. Write a null hypothesis
If your research involves statistical hypothesis testing , you will also have to write a null hypothesis . The null hypothesis is the default position that there is no association between the variables. The null hypothesis is written as H 0 , while the alternative hypothesis is H 1 or H a .
- H 0 : The number of lectures attended by first-year students has no effect on their final exam scores.
- H 1 : The number of lectures attended by first-year students has a positive effect on their final exam scores.
If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
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A hypothesis is not just a guess — it should be based on existing theories and knowledge. It also has to be testable, which means you can support or refute it through scientific research methods (such as experiments, observations and statistical analysis of data).
Null and alternative hypotheses are used in statistical hypothesis testing . The null hypothesis of a test always predicts no effect or no relationship between variables, while the alternative hypothesis states your research prediction of an effect or relationship.
Hypothesis testing is a formal procedure for investigating our ideas about the world using statistics. It is used by scientists to test specific predictions, called hypotheses , by calculating how likely it is that a pattern or relationship between variables could have arisen by chance.
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The scientific method is a series of steps followed by scientific investigators to answer specific questions about the natural world. It involves making observations, formulating a hypothesis , and conducting scientific experiments . Scientific inquiry starts with an observation followed by the formulation of a question about what has been observed. The steps of the scientific method are as follows:
The first step of the scientific method involves making an observation about something that interests you. This is very important if you are doing a science project because you want your project to be focused on something that will hold your attention. Your observation can be on anything from plant movement to animal behavior, as long as it is something you really want to know more about. This is where you come up with the idea for your science project.
Once you've made your observation, you must formulate a question about what you have observed. Your question should tell what it is that you are trying to discover or accomplish in your experiment. When stating your question you should be as specific as possible. For example, if you are doing a project on plants , you may want to know how plants interact with microbes. Your question may be: Do plant spices inhibit bacterial growth ?
The hypothesis is a key component of the scientific process. A hypothesis is an idea that is suggested as an explanation for a natural event, a particular experience, or a specific condition that can be tested through definable experimentation. It states the purpose of your experiment, the variables used, and the predicted outcome of your experiment. It is important to note that a hypothesis must be testable. That means that you should be able to test your hypothesis through experimentation . Your hypothesis must either be supported or falsified by your experiment. An example of a good hypothesis is: If there is a relation between listening to music and heart rate, then listening to music will cause a person's resting heart rate to either increase or decrease.
Once you've developed a hypothesis, you must design and conduct an experiment that will test it. You should develop a procedure that states very clearly how you plan to conduct your experiment. It is important that you include and identify a controlled variable or dependent variable in your procedure. Controls allow us to test a single variable in an experiment because they are unchanged. We can then make observations and comparisons between our controls and our independent variables (things that change in the experiment) to develop an accurate conclusion.
The results are where you report what happened in the experiment. That includes detailing all observations and data made during your experiment. Most people find it easier to visualize the data by charting or graphing the information.
The final step of the scientific method is developing a conclusion. This is where all of the results from the experiment are analyzed and a determination is reached about the hypothesis. Did the experiment support or reject your hypothesis? If your hypothesis was supported, great. If not, repeat the experiment or think of ways to improve your procedure.
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How to Write a Hypothesis: Step-by-Step Guide and Examples
Table of contents
Each academic research revolves around specific statement or problem — a research hypothesis.
A hypothesis is a suggested prediction for a phenomenon or observed event, based on prior knowledge or research. It is a tentative statement that can be tested through further investigation and analysis. A hypothesis usually takes the form of a statement that suggests a relationship between two or more variables.
Every research project, be it a a term paper, research paper or a dissertation, should begin with defining a hypothesis. While this may seem simple, in reality beginners face a lot of problems. This includes difficulty with formulating a hypothesis accurately and capturing the main idea. In this blog post, we will tell you how to write a hypothesis so it is accurate and correct.
What Is a Research Hypothesis: Expanded Definition
A research hypothesis is a statement or assumption that answers a question you asked earlier but haven't tested yet. In fact, this is basis of your work which you use to prove or reject your assumption. Major research projects most often deal with several hypotheses. These relate to various aspects of an issue under study. Thus, you will divide assumptions by research sectors and study them in a segmented manner. When making an assignment, one must work based on an existing theory and gained knowledge. One must also take into account that it must be testable. That is, it can be rejected or confirmed with methods of scientific research. Hypothesis example may look like this:
In your work, you must prove or reject this hypothesis by providing survey results. Show some statistical analysis , study of reports and other processed data.
Remeber that you can hire a paper writer who will integrate survey outcomes and conduct statistical analysis in your research paper hypothesis.
Variables in Hypotheses
To make a qualitative guess, you should consider variables in your hypothesis. They can be divided into independent and dependent ones. In fact, you must establish causal relationship between two or more variables. Independent ( confounding variable ) is what researcher can control or change, i.e. initial condition. Dependent ( extraneous variable ) is what researcher studies. It is observed in created conditions. Before you start learning how to write an assignment with independent and dependent variables, you should define the main idea of your work. For example, you take an assumption that eating hedgehog meat reduces risk of cardiovascular disease. Independent variable is hedgehog meat consumption, which is cause. Improvement in cardiovascular health is a dependent variable – an intended effect.
How to Write a Hypothesis: 5 Simple Writing Steps
Novice researchers most frequently ask how to write a hypothesis statement. This is a complex process that includes compilation of laconic predictions. These are based on conducted experiments. We can support you in this task. We have developed 5 steps for researchers so they can write a high-quality and comprehensive assignment.
Step 1. Generate a Question Before Writing Your Hypothesis
At the first stage of writing a hypothesis for a research paper you must define a research question that you need to answer. It should be focused on particular problem. Try to make it specific and yet suitable for research within framework of your project. To write quality assignment, you must use 6 classic statements. Thus, you must clarify: who, what, where, when, why and how. You must make question understandable in terms of positioning problem. Example of correct hypothesis:
Step 2. Gather Preliminary Research for Your Hypothesis
Before writing a research hypothesis, conduct some preliminary research to find out if your assumption is working and can be proved. You will get the key insights through observations or experiments. You can also use results of your colleagues who have already studied this issue. Thus, you will build a concept with formulated variables. You will study them and identify relationships between them.
Step 3. Write a Strong Hypothesis
With results of preliminary preparation and research questions, you can study how to write a strong hypothesis . First of all, highlight the main testing problem. You must formulate it as briefly as possible. Try to avoid stretching statements in an attempt to make paper longer. Be as clear as possible, avoid vague judgments. For example:
This is not good option. It is better to apply hypothesis in the form of:
This is a clear sentence that is devoid of unnecessary details. It allows you to immediately see an expected effect. Get practical help in writing research paper if you wish for more quality.
Step 4. Refine Your Research Hypothesis
Make sure a hypothesis for a research proposal formulated correctly. You must check if it has following elements:
- Dependent and independent variables.
- An object or phenomenon for testing.
- Expected outcome of study that you plan to work through. This must be part of an experiment or an observation.
This way, you will specify question under study. You also will be able to verify it if needed. That is, you will move from general to particular.
Step 5. Write a Null Hypothesis
You may need to write a null hypothesis. Why and when, you may ask? When you use this method for processing specific statistics. You should specify if you plan to prove your point on its basis. In fact, it is clear position that doesn’t establish links between variables. For example, this statement is null hypothesis:
It is basis for presenting one's own opinion. It allows to build an evidence base stemming from researcher's evidence.
What Is the Difference Between a Null Hypothesis and an Alternative Hypothesis
To better understand how to write null and alternative hypothesis that will form backbone of study, examine testable statements. Based on results, null hypothesis is prepared. It is a statement with no connection between variables. At the same time, scientists usually work with an alternative hypothesis. Here, they have already found a connection between phenomena. Ever considered custom research paper writing service ? So, the above statement about frequency of doctor visits can be modified to research of:
Quite often, researchers find it difficult to formulate basis for writing a research paper . Therefore, some examples of hypothesis will be useful for them. This will correspond to if-then connections. With their help you will also briefly outline the main part of current research. We will help you in formulating an assignment and offer several working options:
Tips on Writing a Hypothesis
It’s difficult to start writing a hypothesis for a research proposal. Especially for aspiring academics! After all, it is important that an assignment is clear and specific. It must also be viable for further development. Here are some tips to help you formulate your statement:
- Analyze interesting aspects. Review current studies and problems on the selected topic. Highlight what you wanted to explore, perhaps it will be a concept close to your previous works.
- Clarify the details. Spend time on preliminary analysis. You must also highlight controversial aspects and contemporary issues. Sometimes, even well-researched phenomena can be promising.
- Focus on your own work. It’s always easier to continue than to start anew. At the same time, you might not have considered all the theses in the previous study.
- Make the variables clear. Avoid ambiguous statements.
Sounds a bit difficult? College paper help is there for you.
How to Write a Scientific Hypothesis: Final Thoughts
So, if you've come this far, you should already know how to how to write a hypothesis step by step. Before starting writing, analyze the problem and the topic. You should highlight the thesis that can be developed further. We recommend going through the following steps:
- Define the question you expect to receive an answer to.
- Do some preliminary research.
- Write it strongly.
- Refine it with variables, subject and phenomenon, and expected result.
- Make a null hypothesis and consider a different option.
Let our assistants write your hypothesis for you! Choose a paper writer to your liking, send them your requirements and get a great paper in no-time!
Frequently Asked Questions About Writing a Good Hypothesis
1. how can i improve my hypothesis.
To make the hypothesis working and of high quality, be sure you select both independent and dependent variables and add them to the statement. Examine the relationships of these elements. Think if you can prove them and explain them in further research.
2. Is there a maximum number of hypotheses that is allowed in one research paper?
You can write as many hypotheses as you want for your paper, because it all depends on your view on the topic and the desire to develop it in several directions. The main thing is that your project shouldn't be overloaded with too many hypotheses and that you pay enough attention to each of them.
3. How do I test my hypothesis?
It’s easy to test the statement before you write a hypothesis for a research proposal. Do an experiment: ask your question and try answering it. If you succeed, this assignment can be used for more detailed study.
4. How long is a hypothesis?
While writing the hypothesis, you must make it as direct as possible and, at the same time, clear it of extraneous judgments. Typically, it's 20 words long. We don’t recommend exceeding this volume, so as not to face difficulties in interpretation.
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How to Develop a Good Research Hypothesis
The story of a research study begins by asking a question. Researchers all around the globe are asking curious questions and formulating research hypothesis. However, whether the research study provides an effective conclusion depends on how well one develops a good research hypothesis. Research hypothesis examples could help researchers get an idea as to how to write a good research hypothesis.
This blog will help you understand what is a research hypothesis, its characteristics and, how to formulate a research hypothesis
Table of Contents
What is Hypothesis?
Hypothesis is an assumption or an idea proposed for the sake of argument so that it can be tested. It is a precise, testable statement of what the researchers predict will be outcome of the study. Hypothesis usually involves proposing a relationship between two variables: the independent variable (what the researchers change) and the dependent variable (what the research measures).
What is a Research Hypothesis?
Research hypothesis is a statement that introduces a research question and proposes an expected result. It is an integral part of the scientific method that forms the basis of scientific experiments. Therefore, you need to be careful and thorough when building your research hypothesis. A minor flaw in the construction of your hypothesis could have an adverse effect on your experiment. In research, there is a convention that the hypothesis is written in two forms, the null hypothesis, and the alternative hypothesis (called the experimental hypothesis when the method of investigation is an experiment).
Essential Characteristics of a Good Research Hypothesis
As the hypothesis is specific, there is a testable prediction about what you expect to happen in a study. You may consider drawing hypothesis from previously published research based on the theory.
A good research hypothesis involves more effort than just a guess. In particular, your hypothesis may begin with a question that could be further explored through background research.
To help you formulate a promising research hypothesis, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the language clear and focused?
- What is the relationship between your hypothesis and your research topic?
- Is your hypothesis testable? If yes, then how?
- What are the possible explanations that you might want to explore?
- Does your hypothesis include both an independent and dependent variable?
- Can you manipulate your variables without hampering the ethical standards?
- Does your research predict the relationship and outcome?
- Is your research simple and concise (avoids wordiness)?
- Is it clear with no ambiguity or assumptions about the readers’ knowledge
- Is your research observable and testable results?
- Is it relevant and specific to the research question or problem?
The questions listed above can be used as a checklist to make sure your hypothesis is based on a solid foundation. Furthermore, it can help you identify weaknesses in your hypothesis and revise it if necessary.
Source: Educational Hub
How to formulate an effective research hypothesis.
A testable hypothesis is not a simple statement. It is rather an intricate statement that needs to offer a clear introduction to a scientific experiment, its intentions, and the possible outcomes. However, there are some important things to consider when building a compelling hypothesis.
1. State the problem that you are trying to solve.
Make sure that the hypothesis clearly defines the topic and the focus of the experiment.
2. Try to write the hypothesis as an if-then statement.
Follow this template: If a specific action is taken, then a certain outcome is expected.
3. Define the variables
Independent variables are the ones that are manipulated, controlled, or changed. Independent variables are isolated from other factors of the study.
Dependent variables , as the name suggests are dependent on other factors of the study. They are influenced by the change in independent variable.
4. Scrutinize the hypothesis
The types of research hypothesis are stated below:
1. Simple Hypothesis
It predicts the relationship between a single dependent variable and a single independent variable.
2. Complex Hypothesis
It predicts the relationship between two or more independent and dependent variables.
3. Directional Hypothesis
It specifies the expected direction to be followed to determine the relationship between variables and is derived from theory. Furthermore, it implies the researcher’s intellectual commitment to a particular outcome.
4. Non-directional Hypothesis
It does not predict the exact direction or nature of the relationship between the two variables. The non-directional hypothesis is used when there is no theory involved or when findings contradict previous research.
5. Associative and Causal Hypothesis
The associative hypothesis defines interdependency between variables. A change in one variable results in the change of the other variable. On the other hand, the causal hypothesis proposes an effect on the dependent due to manipulation of the independent variable.
6. Null Hypothesis
Null hypothesis states a negative statement to support the researcher’s findings that there is no relationship between two variables. There will be no changes in the dependent variable due the manipulation of the independent variable. Furthermore, it states results are due to chance and are not significant in terms of supporting the idea being investigated.
7. Alternative Hypothesis
It states that there is a relationship between the two variables of the study and that the results are significant to the research topic. An experimental hypothesis predicts what changes will take place in the dependent variable when the independent variable is manipulated. Also, it states that the results are not due to chance and that they are significant in terms of supporting the theory being investigated.
Research Hypothesis Examples of Independent and Dependent Variables:
Research Hypothesis Example 1 The greater number of coal plants in a region (independent variable) increases water pollution (dependent variable). If you change the independent variable (building more coal factories), it will change the dependent variable (amount of water pollution).
Research Hypothesis Example 2 What is the effect of diet or regular soda (independent variable) on blood sugar levels (dependent variable)? If you change the independent variable (the type of soda you consume), it will change the dependent variable (blood sugar levels)
You should not ignore the importance of the above steps. The validity of your experiment and its results rely on a robust testable hypothesis. Developing a strong testable hypothesis has few advantages, it compels us to think intensely and specifically about the outcomes of a study. Consequently, it enables us to understand the implication of the question and the different variables involved in the study. Furthermore, it helps us to make precise predictions based on prior research. Hence, forming a hypothesis would be of great value to the research. Here are some good examples of testable hypotheses.
More importantly, you need to build a robust testable research hypothesis for your scientific experiments. A testable hypothesis is a hypothesis that can be proved or disproved as a result of experimentation.
Importance of a Testable Hypothesis
To devise and perform an experiment using scientific method, you need to make sure that your hypothesis is testable. To be considered testable, some essential criteria must be met:
- There must be a possibility to prove that the hypothesis is true.
- There must be a possibility to prove that the hypothesis is false.
- The results of the hypothesis must be reproducible.
Without these criteria, the hypothesis and the results will be vague. As a result, the experiment will not prove or disprove anything significant.
What are your experiences with building hypotheses for scientific experiments? What challenges did you face? How did you overcome these challenges? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section.
Frequently Asked Questions
The steps to write a research hypothesis are: 1. Stating the problem: Ensure that the hypothesis defines the research problem 2. Writing a hypothesis as an 'if-then' statement: Include the action and the expected outcome of your study by following a ‘if-then’ structure. 3. Defining the variables: Define the variables as Dependent or Independent based on their dependency to other factors. 4. Scrutinizing the hypothesis: Identify the type of your hypothesis
Hypothesis testing is a statistical tool which is used to make inferences about a population data to draw conclusions for a particular hypothesis.
Hypothesis in statistics is a formal statement about the nature of a population within a structured framework of a statistical model. It is used to test an existing hypothesis by studying a population.
Research hypothesis is a statement that introduces a research question and proposes an expected result. It forms the basis of scientific experiments.
The different types of hypothesis in research are: • Null hypothesis: Null hypothesis is a negative statement to support the researcher’s findings that there is no relationship between two variables. • Alternate hypothesis: Alternate hypothesis predicts the relationship between the two variables of the study. • Directional hypothesis: Directional hypothesis specifies the expected direction to be followed to determine the relationship between variables. • Non-directional hypothesis: Non-directional hypothesis does not predict the exact direction or nature of the relationship between the two variables. • Simple hypothesis: Simple hypothesis predicts the relationship between a single dependent variable and a single independent variable. • Complex hypothesis: Complex hypothesis predicts the relationship between two or more independent and dependent variables. • Associative and casual hypothesis: Associative and casual hypothesis predicts the relationship between two or more independent and dependent variables. • Empirical hypothesis: Empirical hypothesis can be tested via experiments and observation. • Statistical hypothesis: A statistical hypothesis utilizes statistical models to draw conclusions about broader populations.
Wow! You really simplified your explanation that even dummies would find it easy to comprehend. Thank you so much.
Thanks a lot for your valuable guidance.
I enjoy reading the post. Hypotheses are actually an intrinsic part in a study. It bridges the research question and the methodology of the study.
This is awesome.Wow.
It very interesting to read the topic, can you guide me any specific example of hypothesis process establish throw the Demand and supply of the specific product in market
It is really a useful for me Kindly give some examples of hypothesis
It was a well explained content ,can you please give me an example with the null and alternative hypothesis illustrated
clear and concise. thanks.
So Good so Amazing
Good to learn
Thanks a lot for explaining to my level of understanding
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This is the Difference Between a Hypothesis and a Theory
What to Know A hypothesis is an assumption made before any research has been done. It is formed so that it can be tested to see if it might be true. A theory is a principle formed to explain the things already shown in data. Because of the rigors of experiment and control, it is much more likely that a theory will be true than a hypothesis.
As anyone who has worked in a laboratory or out in the field can tell you, science is about process: that of observing, making inferences about those observations, and then performing tests to see if the truth value of those inferences holds up. The scientific method is designed to be a rigorous procedure for acquiring knowledge about the world around us.
In scientific reasoning, a hypothesis is constructed before any applicable research has been done. A theory, on the other hand, is supported by evidence: it's a principle formed as an attempt to explain things that have already been substantiated by data.
Toward that end, science employs a particular vocabulary for describing how ideas are proposed, tested, and supported or disproven. And that's where we see the difference between a hypothesis and a theory .
A hypothesis is an assumption, something proposed for the sake of argument so that it can be tested to see if it might be true.
In the scientific method, the hypothesis is constructed before any applicable research has been done, apart from a basic background review. You ask a question, read up on what has been studied before, and then form a hypothesis.
What is a Hypothesis?
A hypothesis is usually tentative, an assumption or suggestion made strictly for the objective of being tested.
When a character which has been lost in a breed, reappears after a great number of generations, the most probable hypothesis is, not that the offspring suddenly takes after an ancestor some hundred generations distant, but that in each successive generation there has been a tendency to reproduce the character in question, which at last, under unknown favourable conditions, gains an ascendancy. Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species , 1859 According to one widely reported hypothesis , cell-phone transmissions were disrupting the bees' navigational abilities. (Few experts took the cell-phone conjecture seriously; as one scientist said to me, "If that were the case, Dave Hackenberg's hives would have been dead a long time ago.") Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker , 6 Aug. 2007
What is a Theory?
A theory , in contrast, is a principle that has been formed as an attempt to explain things that have already been substantiated by data. It is used in the names of a number of principles accepted in the scientific community, such as the Big Bang Theory . Because of the rigors of experimentation and control, its likelihood as truth is much higher than that of a hypothesis.
It is evident, on our theory , that coasts merely fringed by reefs cannot have subsided to any perceptible amount; and therefore they must, since the growth of their corals, either have remained stationary or have been upheaved. Now, it is remarkable how generally it can be shown, by the presence of upraised organic remains, that the fringed islands have been elevated: and so far, this is indirect evidence in favour of our theory . Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle , 1839 An example of a fundamental principle in physics, first proposed by Galileo in 1632 and extended by Einstein in 1905, is the following: All observers traveling at constant velocity relative to one another, should witness identical laws of nature. From this principle, Einstein derived his theory of special relativity. Alan Lightman, Harper's , December 2011
In non-scientific use, however, hypothesis and theory are often used interchangeably to mean simply an idea, speculation, or hunch (though theory is more common in this regard):
The theory of the teacher with all these immigrant kids was that if you spoke English loudly enough they would eventually understand. E. L. Doctorow, Loon Lake , 1979 Chicago is famous for asking questions for which there can be no boilerplate answers. Example: given the probability that the federal tax code, nondairy creamer, Dennis Rodman and the art of mime all came from outer space, name something else that has extraterrestrial origins and defend your hypothesis . John McCormick, Newsweek , 5 Apr. 1999 In his mind's eye, Miller saw his case suddenly taking form: Richard Bailey had Helen Brach killed because she was threatening to sue him over the horses she had purchased. It was, he realized, only a theory , but it was one he felt certain he could, in time, prove. Full of urgency, a man with a mission now that he had a hypothesis to guide him, he issued new orders to his troops: Find out everything you can about Richard Bailey and his crowd. Howard Blum, Vanity Fair , January 1995
And sometimes one term is used as a genus, or a means for defining the other:
Laplace's popular version of his astronomy, the Système du monde , was famous for introducing what came to be known as the nebular hypothesis , the theory that the solar system was formed by the condensation, through gradual cooling, of the gaseous atmosphere (the nebulae) surrounding the sun. Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club , 2001 Researchers use this information to support the gateway drug theory — the hypothesis that using one intoxicating substance leads to future use of another. Jordy Byrd, The Pacific Northwest Inlander , 6 May 2015 Fox, the business and economics columnist for Time magazine, tells the story of the professors who enabled those abuses under the banner of the financial theory known as the efficient market hypothesis . Paul Krugman, The New York Times Book Review , 9 Aug. 2009
Incorrect Interpretations of "Theory"
Since this casual use does away with the distinctions upheld by the scientific community, hypothesis and theory are prone to being wrongly interpreted even when they are encountered in scientific contexts—or at least, contexts that allude to scientific study without making the critical distinction that scientists employ when weighing hypotheses and theories.
The most common occurrence is when theory is interpreted—and sometimes even gleefully seized upon—to mean something having less truth value than other scientific principles. (The word law applies to principles so firmly established that they are almost never questioned, such as the law of gravity.)
This mistake is one of projection: since we use theory in general use to mean something lightly speculated, then it's implied that scientists must be talking about the same level of uncertainty when they use theory to refer to their well-tested and reasoned principles.
The distinction has come to the forefront particularly on occasions when the content of science curricula in schools has been challenged—notably, when a school board in Georgia put stickers on textbooks stating that evolution was "a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things." As Kenneth R. Miller, a cell biologist at Brown University, has said , a theory "doesn’t mean a hunch or a guess. A theory is a system of explanations that ties together a whole bunch of facts. It not only explains those facts, but predicts what you ought to find from other observations and experiments.”
While theories are never completely infallible, they form the basis of scientific reasoning because, as Miller said "to the best of our ability, we’ve tested them, and they’ve held up."
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