Have you ever wondered what the difference between a scientific theory and a scientific hypothesis is? While both are important concepts in the scientific community, they have distinct differences. Let’s take a closer look at each and explore their unique characteristics.

The Definition of Scientific Hypothesis

A scientific hypothesis is an educated guess or prediction about how things work in the natural world. It’s an attempt to explain a phenomenon or answer a question based on previous observations and experiments. Hypotheses are usually formulated before any experiments are conducted.


Hypothesis: If plants are given more sunlight, then they will grow taller.
Experiment: Two groups of plants are grown under identical conditions, except for the amount of sunlight they receive.

Group A receives 8 hours of sunlight per day, while Group B receives 12 hours of sunlight per day. After four weeks, the height of each plant is measured.

If Group B’s plants grow taller than Group A’s plants, then the hypothesis is supported. If there is no significant difference in height between the two groups, then the hypothesis is not supported.

The Definition of Scientific Theory

A scientific theory is an explanation for how or why something happens that has been extensively tested and supported by multiple lines of evidence. It’s a well-established principle that has stood up to rigorous testing over time.


Theory: The theory of evolution by natural selection.

Evidence: Fossil records, comparative anatomy, molecular biology, etc.

The theory of evolution by natural selection has been extensively tested and supported by multiple lines of evidence from various fields of science. It explains how species change over time through mechanisms such as genetic variation and natural selection.

The Differences Between Scientific Hypothesis and Scientific Theory

One key difference between a scientific hypothesis and a scientific theory is the level of support they have from the scientific community. A hypothesis is typically an initial idea that has yet to be tested extensively, while a theory has been tested and supported by multiple lines of evidence.

Another difference is the scope of each concept. Hypotheses are often narrow in focus, attempting to explain a specific phenomenon or answer a particular question. Theories, on the other hand, are broad in scope and attempt to explain larger concepts or principles.


In summary, both scientific hypotheses and scientific theories play important roles in the scientific process. Hypotheses are initial guesses or predictions based on observations, while theories are well-established explanations that have been extensively tested and supported by multiple lines of evidence. Understanding the differences between these concepts is crucial for anyone interested in science or conducting research.