Printer Friendly

Practices of Science: The Language of Science - Hypothesis & Prediction

Scientific language has specific meanings that help researchers and students communicate ideas. Some words used in scientific language have different definitions in science than in day-to-day conversation. It is helpful to define the scientific meaning of a word to distinguish it from everyday use of the same word. Two words that are often used in everyday speech, but have specific meanings in science are “hypothesis” and “prediction.

A scientific hypothesis is based on observed evidence and describes a suggested solution to a problem or a suggested explanation to a phenomenon. A scientific hypothesis is also testable. Oftentimes several hypotheses will be tested and rejected before a researcher finds a solution to a problem that seems to fit. Once a hypothesis has been tested many times and seems to provide a reasonable solution or explanation, the hypothesis is considered supported, and is called a working hypothesis.

A scientific prediction is a statement that specifies what will happen, or how often a certain event might happen, under a set of conditions. Scientific predictions are based on accumulated knowledge and are often quantifiable. A working hypothesis might be used to make a series of predictions about a particular event or a series of events.

For example: As different types of fish were identified over time, scientists observed that these organisms all had gills. Gills are used to remove oxygen from the water for respiration. Based on this observation, scientists hypothesized that all fish have gills. Over time, this hypothesis was well supported and became a working hypothesis. This working hypothesis forms the basis of the modern definition of fish. Based on this working hypothesis, a student of science may predict that any newly discovered fish will have gills.

Special Feature Type:

Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.