what are the basic differences between a theory and hypothesis?

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stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In simplest terms, a hypothesis comes before a theory.

A hypothesis is an idea, a possible explanation of how or why something happens. When someone makes an assumption regarding the reason for an event, that assumption could also be called an hypothesis.

A scientific hypothesis has been developed into a statement that can be objectively tested. Applying the scientific method and collecting data from experiments may support or invalidate the hypothesis.

If, over a period of time, evidence accumulates from a variety of experiments that all support a particular scientific hypothesis, it will become a theory - a generally accepted explanation of the phenomenon under examination. A theory may change if new evidence is found to disprove the conclusion it supports, but the theory has more acceptance based on collected information and evidence than does a hypothesis.

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