Glossary term: Theory

Description: The term theory in science has a very specific definition, in contrast to how it is used and perceived in daily life, where it is usually used interchangeably with the term hypothesis. However, they are quite different in the context of the scientific ways of building knowledge. Theory in science refers to coherent mathematical constructs that can be used to make predictions, which can then be tested experimentally by independent scientists. Theories provide well-supported explanations of natural phenomena – they provide insights into the "why".

A hypothesis is the initial idea that scientists have which they then set out to explore and find supporting evidence for, in order to build models, theories, and laws, all of which are vital to the process of science and understanding the Universe.

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Term and definition status: This term and its definition have been approved by a research astronomer and a teacher

The OAE Multilingual Glossary is a project of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Education (OAE) in collaboration with the IAU Office of Astronomy Outreach (OAO). The terms and definitions were chosen, written and reviewed by a collective effort from the OAE, the OAE Centers and Nodes, the OAE National Astronomy Education Coordinators (NAECs) and other volunteers. You can find a full list of credits here. All glossary terms and their definitions are released under a Creative Commons CC BY-4.0 license and should be credited to "IAU OAE".