Science Processes

Scientific reasoning

Definitions of scientific theory on the Web
A scientific theory is an established and experimentally verified fact or collection of facts about the world. Unlike the everyday use of the word theory, it is not an unproved idea, or just some theoretical speculation. The latter meaning of a ‘theory’ in science is called a hypothesis.
A hypothesis that is widely accepted by the scientific community.
An explanation of why and how a specific natural phenomenon occurs. A lot of hypotheses are based on theories. In turn, theories may be redefined as new hypotheses are tested. …
A possible explanation for repeatedly observed patterns in nature supported by observations and results from many investigations
·a theory that explains scientific observations; “scientific theories must be falsifiable”

Science Definitions
Miller, T.M. Living in the Environment: Principles, Connections, and Solutions (2005), Thomson Brooks/Cole Companion Website. Retrieved August 22, 2007 from

Video: Scientific Processes and the Scientific Method
This interactive activity adapted from NOVA provides you a way to gain a more accurate understanding of how science is done. Two videos, which feature the work of renowned scientists Percy Julian and Judah Folkman, demonstrate that while scientists may use an orderly approach to learn new information and solve problems, they proceed along different paths in their quests. Instead of referring to a delineated set of steps, the term “scientific process” encompasses the true nature of scientific inquiry. Procedures are often refined as data are collected, and initial hypotheses can be modified or replaced in light of new evidence.

How do birds know where to go?
Fact, Hypothesis, and Theory
A theory has to have a basis, in fact, it must have a very strong basis. A theory is a scientifically acceptable principle that is offered to explain a vast body of facts, and is supported by an overwhelming body of evidence. You can’t have a theory before you have the evidence. Science starts out with observations – facts that are not generally disputed. For example, the sky is blue; grass is green; birds migrate south for the winter and find their way to specific locations; the high temperature at the airport yesterday was 52 degrees. Accumulate enough facts and you can ask and perhaps answer a general question (why is the sky blue, or the grass green? How do birds know where to go? What makes the weather change?).

consensus science

See sound science.

deductive reasoning

Using logic to arrive at a specific conclusion based on a generalization or premise. It goes from the general to the specific. Compare inductive reasoning.


Procedure a scientist uses to study some phenomenon under known conditions. Scientists conduct some experiments in the laboratory and others in nature. The resulting scientific data or facts must be verified or confirmed by repeated observations and measurements, ideally by several different investigators.

frontier science

Preliminary scientific data, hypotheses, and models that have not been widely tested and accepted. Compare junk science, sound science.

inductive reasoning

Using observations and facts to arrive at generalizations or hypotheses. It goes from the specific to the general and is widely used in science. Compare deductive reasoning.

junk science

Scientific results or hypotheses presented as sound science but not having undergone the rigors of the peer review process. Compare frontier science, sound science.


Attempts to discover order in nature and use that knowledge to make predictions about what should happen in nature. See frontier science, scientific data, scientific hypothesis, scientific law, scientific methods, scientific model, scientific theory, sound science.

scientific data

Facts obtained by making observations and measurements. Compare scientific hypothesis, scientific law, scientific methods, scientific model, scientific theory.

scientific hypothesis

An educated guess that attempts to explain a scientific law or certain scientific observations. Compare scientific data, scientific law, scientific methods, scientific model, scientific theory.

scientific law

Description of what scientists find happening in nature repeatedly in the same way, without known exception. See first law of thermodynamics, law of conservation of matter, second law of thermodynamics. Compare scientific data, scientific hypothesis, scientific methods, scientific model, scientific theory.

scientific methods

The ways scientists gather data and formulate and test scientific hypotheses, models, theories, and laws. See scientific data, scientific hypothesis, scientific law, scientific model, scientific theory.

scientific model

A simulation of complex processes and systems. Many are mathematical models that are run and tested using computers.

scientific theory

A well-tested and widely accepted scientific hypothesis. Comparescientific data, scientific hypothesis, scientific law, scientific methods, scientific model.

sound science

Scientific data, models, theories, and laws that are widely accepted by scientists considered experts in the area of study. Science utilizing the principles of logic (Sound arguments). These results of science are very reliable. Compare frontier science, junk science.


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