What Is the Difference Between a Hypothesis or Prediction and a Scientific Theory?


Vincent White

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a hypothesis or prediction and a scientific theory? While they may seem similar, there are distinct differences between these two concepts. In this article, we will explore what sets a hypothesis or prediction apart from a scientific theory.

What Is a Hypothesis or Prediction?

A hypothesis is an educated guess based on observation and prior knowledge. It is an explanation for a phenomenon that can be tested through further investigation. For example, if you notice that plants in direct sunlight grow taller than those in shaded areas, you might form the hypothesis that sunlight promotes plant growth.

A prediction, on the other hand, is a specific statement about what will happen if the hypothesis is true. Using our previous example, your prediction might be that if you expose one group of plants to sunlight and another group to shade, the plants in sunlight will grow taller than those in shade.

What Is a Scientific Theory?

A scientific theory, on the other hand, goes beyond a single hypothesis or prediction. It is a well-supported explanation for a broad range of phenomena based on extensive research and experimentation. A scientific theory has been repeatedly tested and confirmed through various methods by multiple researchers.

For instance, the theory of evolution explains how species change over time through natural selection. This theory has been supported by countless studies across different fields of science like genetics, geology, and paleontology.

The Key Differences Between Them

One key difference between hypotheses/predictions and scientific theories lies in their scope. Hypotheses and predictions are specific explanations for particular observations or experiments, while scientific theories are broad explanations for entire bodies of knowledge across multiple disciplines.

Additionally, hypotheses and predictions are tentative explanations that require further testing to either confirm or reject them. In contrast, scientific theories are well-established explanations that have been confirmed through extensive research and experimentation.


In summary, a hypothesis or prediction is a tentative explanation for a specific observation or experiment that requires further testing. A scientific theory, on the other hand, is a well-supported explanation for a broad range of phenomena across multiple disciplines that has been repeatedly tested and confirmed through various methods. Understanding the differences between these concepts is crucial for developing and evaluating scientific knowledge.