Category: 

What Is a Hypothesis?

Some hypotheses can be expressed as a mathematical formula.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
Waking up in the middle of the night is normal for humans.  more...

October 31 ,  1984 :  Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, was assassinated.  more...

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.

Ad

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.

Ad

More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

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.

anon208851
Post 71

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

anon160474
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.

anon152135
Post 63

great, straightforward definition. very useful

anon109347
Post 54

Thanks for the help as stated, clear and direct.

anon99321
Post 52

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

anon92439
Post 49

Good and to the point explanation. Thanks.

anon91647
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.

anon88935
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!

anon81680
Post 40

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

anon77187
Post 39

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

anon73730
Post 37

thanks dudes.

anon68007
Post 33

thanks guys. I really needed this! appreciate it.

anon67878
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

anon67431
Post 31

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

anon64899
Post 27

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

anon63052
Post 25

Very good explanation. Thanks a lot

anon62548
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.

anon61339
Post 21

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

anon60569
Post 20

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

anon55499
Post 19

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

anon51856
Post 18

Thanks, it helps me a lot.

anon51310
Post 17

thanks i needed this info for a science project.

anon49208
Post 16

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

anon48955
Post 14

very helpful. cheers. x :)

anon46152
Post 13

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

anon45552
Post 10

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

anon45532
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.

anon39780
Post 6

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

anon38588
Post 5

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

anon33975
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.

anon25057
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.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email