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9
Hypothesis

Assistant professor of Genetics and Developmental Biology Stormy Chamberlain looks at stem cells at the University of Connecticut`s Stem Cell Institute.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

If you've ever completed -- or helped your kids with -- a science fair project, you probably remember learning that your hypothesis should be a testable statement that can be supported or refuted through experimentation. But in everyday speech, we often use the word hypothesis to describe an educated guess. The two aren't entirely unrelated: Like an educated guess, a hypothesis is based on logic, observation and maybe even intuition, but the most important characteristic of a hypothesis is that it can be tested and the test, in turn, can be replicated.

A hypothesis is a scientist's attempt to provide a solution or explanation for a phenomenon that has not yet been explained [source: Zimmerman]. Of course, after reading the first scientific term on our list, you know that in science, a hypothesis is never "proved" to be correct; it's simply supported or refuted through repeated experimentation and observation – sometimes several decades' worth.

In the scientific method, a hypothesis is just the very first baby step toward formulating the next term on our list.

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