What Are the Six Criteria of Useful Scientific Theory?


Vincent White

When it comes to science, theories are essential for understanding and explaining the natural world. However, not all theories are created equal – some are more useful than others.

So, what makes a scientific theory useful? In this article, we will explore the six criteria that determine the usefulness of a scientific theory.

Criteria 1: Testability

A useful scientific theory should be testable. This means that it can be subjected to experiments or observations that can either support or refute it.

If a theory cannot be tested, then it is not really a scientific theory at all. The ability to test a theory is what separates science from pseudoscience.

Criteria 2: Parsimony

Parsimony refers to the idea that the simplest explanation is often the best one. A useful scientific theory should be as simple as possible while still explaining all of the available evidence. This principle is also known as Occam’s razor.

Criteria 3: Scope

The scope of a scientific theory refers to its ability to explain a wide range of phenomena. A useful theory should be able to explain not just one specific phenomenon but many different ones. The broader its scope, the more useful the theory.

Criteria 4: Fruitfulness

A useful scientific theory should lead to new discoveries and insights. It should generate new hypotheses that can be tested and verified through further experimentation or observation.

Criteria 5: Consistency with existing knowledge

A good scientific theory should be consistent with existing knowledge and should not contradict well-established facts or principles. If a theory contradicts existing knowledge, then there must be compelling evidence to support it before it can be considered useful.

Criteria 6: Predictive power

Finally, a useful scientific theory should have predictive power – the ability to make accurate predictions about future events or observations. If a theory can accurately predict what will happen under certain conditions, then it is more likely to be useful.

  • Testability
  • Parsimony
  • Scope
  • Fruitfulness
  • Consistency with existing knowledge
  • Predictive power


In summary, a useful scientific theory must be testable, parsimonious, have a broad scope, lead to new discoveries, be consistent with existing knowledge and have predictive power. By using these six criteria, scientists can evaluate the usefulness of different theories and decide which ones are most worthy of further investigation.