Difference Between Paradigm and Theory (with Table)

Science is a large field and has various terms and ideologies being incorporated, not only into their facts and explanations but also into our daily life. Two such terms are paradigm and theory.

Paradigm and theory are the two terms that are inter-dependent. Like in the case of analyzing and evaluating, one must have a paradigm before writing a theory. But for this, we would have to learn to differentiate them.

Paradigm vs Theory

The difference between Paradigm and Theory is that while a paradigm is only a reference point or framework for reference for showing perspectives of reality, a theory is a statement that verifies hypothesis with scientifically proven data.

Paradigm is the reference point for a theory. It is a framework or structure that embodies a lot of theories with a generic explanation for the intellectually disciplined crowd. They have a more general approach as they are philosophical.

The theory is verified hypothesis with various scientifically proven results for support. Thy is considered to be the creation of new knowledge as they help in the explanation of the existing phenomenon and also helps in predicting natural phenomenon.

Comparison Table between Paradigm and Theory

Parameters of ComparisonParadigmTheory
MeaningThe reference point for the theoryVerified hypothesis
Considered to beFramework for referenceCreation of new knowledge
UsesShowing a perspective of reality and explanation to the peopleFor predicting natural phenomenon or explaining an existing phenomenon
ChangeWorks as an embodiment of theories so not as accurate as theory.Can be tested and falsified
ContentExperimental or research theoriesScientifically proven results
NaturePhilosophical in natureIdeological in nature
ApproachHas a more general approachSpecific to the topic

What is Paradigm?

The word ‘paradigm’ has a Greek origin from the word ‘paradeigma’ that means example, sample or pattern. So paradigm can be described as a set of ideas, research material, postulates etc. for a theory.

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Paradigm is philosophical and has a general approach to it since it does not have any proof of existence. Therefore, it can also be considered as a framework or structure for developing a theory.

A paradigm can be considered to be in philosophical as well as scientific sense. It shows the reality in different perspectives for the intellectually disciplined crowd. This provides a sense of understanding of various aspects of nature.

Two paradigms can be correlated. In science, we have absolute truth and during such cases, two paradigms cannot stand together and this phenomenon is called a paradigm shift.

What is Theory?

Theory can be said as a verified hypothesis or statement that has many scientifically proven results for proof of its existence. It involves more rational thinking and analyzing a phenomenon or a set paradigm.

It is ideological and also has a more specific approach. This is because the final statement of a theory cannot be changed unless the theory is proved wrong. Unlike paradigm, a theory can be proven wrong since it is more specific.

Theory can also be classified according to the field they are being used in but the most known type is the scientific theory. This includes all the statements, hypothesis and postulates that are proven from the paradigm.

Theories are usually used for explaining the existing phenomenon. It is also used for predicting natural phenomenon. Scientifically, it is said to be statements or explanations of a recurring phenomenon that has been proved repeatedly through scientific calculations, research and hypothesis.

Main Differences Between Paradigm and Theory

  1. The paradigm means a reference point to develop a theory whereas the theory is considered to be a verified hypothesis. It is a defined statement to prove a hypothesis.
  2. Paradigm cannot be given as a statement but only be used as a framework of reference for developing a theory. A theory is considered to be the creation of new knowledge as each theory gives a different ideology.
  3. The utility of the two is also different. While the paradigm is used to provide a general explanation or showing perspective reality to the intellectually disciplined, a theory is used to define and explain an existing phenomenon and also helps in predicting natural phenomenon.
  4. A paradigm cannot be changed because it is an embodiment of many theories even though it is not accurate. But a theory, on the other hand, can be tested and falsified bringing more knowledge and ability to create it.
  5. A paradigm usually contains experimental, observational and research theories to support its framework. Once the framework is done, it is required to be scientifically proven to be a theory. So it includes scientifically proven result.
  6. The theory is ideological because we are taking one particular topic or idea from the paradigm while paradigm is philosophical as it involves a basic structure with no proven thesis or statement.
  7. Since paradigm is only a framework or structure, the approach is general. It does not involve intense research as in the case of theory. But theory is more generic, or specific to a topic.
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Even though paradigm and theory involve structuring and forming new statements and proofs with a hypothesis for support, they are not the same. They are inter-dependent like in the case of analyzing and evaluating.

Paradigm is the structure or framework for a theory to develop from it. They are also considered to be an embodiment of various theories and ideologies for them. Most of the theories are developed from the initial paradigm.

The theory is the properly researched and proven statement that is supported by a hypothesis. But in the case of a theory, they can be tested and proven wrong. The theory is also considered to be the creation of new knowledge that can be developed further with more research.

The difference between paradigm and theory is that while paradigm has a more general approach because it is not backed by any research materials, a theory is specific with a statement and research materials for proof.


  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1987-98365-000
  2. http://biblioteca.cejamericas.org/handle/2015/2163