What is a Hypothesis?

Some hypotheses can be expressed as a mathematical formula.
A hypothesis that turns out to be wrong is still considered positive, as it furthers the cause of science.
Hypotheses are often tested in laboratory conditions.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2015
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A hypothesis is an explanation for a phenomenon that can be tested in some way that ideally either proves or disproves it. For the duration of testing, the hypothesis is taken to be true, and the goal of the researcher is to rigorously test its terms. The concept is a very important part of the scientific method, and it also holds true in other disciplines as well. For example, some historians have put forward the hypothesis that the Salem Witch Trials were brought about by the consumption of grains contaminated with ergot, resulting in a mass hysteria.

When someone formulates a hypothesis, he or she does so with the intention of testing it, and he or she should not know the outcome of potential tests before the hypothesis is made. When formulating a hypothesis, the ideals of the scientific method are often kept in mind, so it is designed to be testable in a way that could be replicated by other people. It is also kept clear and simple, and the hypothesis relies on known information and reasoning.


A hypothesis does not have to be right or wrong, but the person formulating it does have to be prepared to test the theory to its limits. If someone hypothesizes that exposure to X causes Y in lab rats, for example, he or she must see if exposure to other things also causes Y. When scientists publish results which support a hypothesis, they often detail the steps they took to try to disprove it as well as the steps that confirmed it, to make the case that much stronger.

In some instances, a hypothesis turns out to be wrong, and this is considered perfectly acceptable, because it still furthers the cause of science. In the example above, for instance, by showing that exposure to X does not cause Y, a scientist can illustrate that further research on Y is needed. In this example, the fact that the hypothesis is wrong does not necessarily mean that substance X is safe, because substance X could still cause something else.

It is also possible for a hypothesis to turn out to be inconclusive after testing. This can be because a scientist lacks the necessary tools for the testing, suggesting that advanced scientific techniques could be used in the future to test the idea. It can also be the result of not having enough information, or a hypothesis that is simply poorly formed and hard to test.


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Discuss this Article

Munirahmadmughal Mughal
Post 72

The article is informative, lucid and easy to understand. I have quoted it in my own lecture while explaining theories of arrest and detention.

Post 71

I need the hypothesis of the influence of mother tongue on academics performance urgently.

Post 68

thanks but not very clear and should also be a little in-depth. In an academic writing or a long essay, how does a hypothesis come?

Very good piece but i think should include examples.

Post 63

great, straightforward definition. very useful

Post 54

Thanks for the help as stated, clear and direct.

Post 52

thank you for telling me what a hypothesis is. Thanks again.

Post 49

Good and to the point explanation. Thanks.

Post 48

I did not get about the name of the technique involving the testing of a hypothesis but the information given is very useful.

Post 47

gosh that really helped. I am doing a really hard science test review and I'm really anxious so thanks so much. i cannot fully express my appreciation!

Post 40

Thank you for telling me what a hypothesis is. i got much knowledge about it.

Post 39

Thanks for helping me. it's related to my thesis.

Post 37

thanks dudes.

Post 33

thanks guys. I really needed this! appreciate it.

Post 32

thanks guys. I'm doing a science project that's due this monday and i had no clue what hypothesis meant. I appreciate it! much love XD

Post 31

I'm doing a science fair project. Could you tell me where the hypothesis goes, like before or after the ingredients?

Post 27

Thank you for telling me what a hypothesis is. Great!

Post 25

Very good explanation. Thanks a lot

Post 24

Thanks for posting this. I really need it for my ICT homework. I don't have a clue why it's used in ICT though. I suppose I'll have to wait and see. I'm only in Year 7, that's probably why I don't know yet. Thanks again.

Post 21

Thanks for your help. I was too lazy to go read through my notes.

Post 20

thanks. I am doing a project and i need this meaning.

Post 19

thank you for this. english is my second language so every time, i forget what hypothesis means.

Post 18

Thanks, it helps me a lot.

Post 17

thanks i needed this info for a science project.

Post 16

thank you, very clear and easy to comprehend. :)

Post 14

very helpful. cheers. x :)

Post 13

Thanky ou for explaining that to me. I am at school and needed help for a big test tomorrow so thanks. =]

Post 10

why are people afraid of doing experiments? you learn about everything. i don't know why people are so upright sometimes.

Post 7

thanks for telling that. i'm only 10 and i needed help for science class. i have to do a report on a running experiment.

Post 6

Very clear and simple explanation of what "hypothesis" means. Thanks.

Post 5

I am studying nvq level 3 from home in psychology and this helped a huge amount. thank you x

Post 4

This is a very good and illustrative article, I think that it contains the proper words to make the point clear. Very useful to me. Congratulations and thanks to the author.

Post 1

thank you for telling me what a hypothesis is cause i'm only 10 and i needed this help for my science fair so thx again.

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