Difference Between Hypothesis and Theory (With Table)

In the scientific world, both the terms ‘hypothesis’ as well as a ‘theory’ holds ample importance. They are both a step in the process of developing law. But outside science, both the terms theory and hypothesis have come to mean the same thing and are often used interchangeably. Yet, there is a crucial difference between both terms.

Hypothesis vs Theory

The difference between hypothesis and theory is that a hypothesis is an assumption made by the researcher that can be later proved by checking the causal and correlation relations between two or more phenomena. The theory, on the other hand, is a proven explanation of a phenomenon.

The hypothesis is made at the beginning of the research, whereas a theory is developed at the end of the study. A hypothesis can be proved to be a theory with tests.

All theories were mere hypotheses in the beginning, but not all hypotheses can be proved to be a theory. Although, no theory can be tested without forming a prior hypothesis and no hypothesis can be valid without verifying it as a theory.


Comparison Table Between Hypothesis and Theory (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of comparisonHypothesisTheory
DefinitionA hypothesis is a guess or a statement made before testing and research.A theory is an explanation of phenomena derived by reliable data and evidence.
Role in the theoryAt the beginning of the research.Derived in the end after all the testing is carried out.
Testing methodsObservation and inspiration.Data is collected by various research methods like surveys, testing, etc.
ValidityNot very valid.Absolutely valid.
DataLittle to no data.Based on varied, reliable data.
PurposeTo find out the answer to the question ‘why’ as well as answers the problems of past events.To test the validity of the present data.
TestingCan be tested.Cannot be tested until observed in real life.


What is Hypothesis?

A hypothesis is a guess or a statement made before the research. A hypothesis is tested to be proved or disproved as a theory. The hypothesis is thought of through observation and inspiration.

Hypothesis, unlike theory, can be considered at anywhere and at any time. It doesn’t need any testing to form a hypothesis. The purpose of the hypothesis is to test the causal and correlation relationships between two or more phenomena and developing it into a theory.

A hypothesis is neither valid nor reliable. This is because it isn’t a proven fact, rather a mere observation that can be subjected to biases and limitations of an observer.

No data is required to develop a hypothesis.

The primary purpose of a hypothesis is to answer ‘why did something happen?’ the hypothesis can answer questions about events that have originated in the past or regarding the beginning of the universe.

The hypothesis can be tested and proved or disproved. Later, it can be developed as a theory.


What is Theory?

A theory is a proven hypothesis. The theory is a phenomenon that has been established by checking the causal and correlation relation between two or multiple phenomenons. Various research methodologies test the theory. It explains a phenomenon and its causes and effects.

The theory is made by collecting a vast number of data from varied sources and tested individually and together to bring forth as many facts as possible.

The theory is always derived in the end after all the tests are done, and the research comes to one final conclusion. The validity and reliability of a theory is solid, as it is backed by evidence of the proof that has been acquired through extensive research.

A theory is developed through the facts present in the present situation. It doesn’t answer the question of past events rather merely states the facts of the current scenario and data. It is developed but cannot be tested until the phenomenon occurs in the present time.

All theories were hypothesis at the beginning of the research.

Main Differences Between Hypothesis and Theory

  1. The hypothesis is a guess made by an observer, whereas a theory is a tested fact developed by the researcher.
  2. A hypothesis can predict the causal and correlation relationship between two or more phenomena, and the theory is an explanation of the phenomenon.
  3. A hypothesis is developed at the beginning of the research, but on the other hand, the theory is developed at the end.
  4. A hypothesis needs no data, and neither does it use any data, but a theory is developed through testing varied data to conclude.
  5. A hypothesis can be developed by mere observation or can be inspired anywhere at any time, but a theory is tested by a researcher with proper steps and testing, including analyzing the data.
  6. The validity and reliability of a hypothesis aren’t very accurate, whereas a theory is a solid statement that has ample validation and reliability.
  7. A theory tests the present facts, whereas a hypothesis answers the question ‘why’ and can be used to answer questions of past events.
  8. A hypothesis can be tested, whereas a theory cannot be tested unless the phenomenon occurs in real life.



In our colloquial language, we are used to saying and similarly using theory and hypothesis. The difference of the term, though, can be explained in a scientific field.

All hypotheses can be either disproved or proved as a theory, but all theories were hypothesis.

We can never get a theory if we never develop the hypothesis. Through testing of hypothesis, we can achieve a set of facts. Both processes are crucial in the development of a scientific fact.

The theory, as well as the hypothesis, has its role and purpose, but one cannot occur without the other.

A hypothesis is needed to conclude a theory, and a theory is needed to check the validity of a hypothesis.

I hope now all your doubts regarding hypothesis and theory are clear.



  1. http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/20/1/248.abstract
  2. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1988-18821-001
  3. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1228142
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