Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

When writing a scientific or engineering paper, how do we choose between hypothesize and postulate?

share|improve this question
    
That question seems like it would be best asked of a more local scientifically oriented site, with its own cultural preferences. You should probably rewrite your question so that it is purely about hypothesize/postulate. –  Mitch Jan 5 '12 at 14:08
1  
@Mitch But postulation outside of a scientific paper sounds a bit pretentious. –  z7sg Ѫ Jan 5 '12 at 14:38
1  
@z7sgѪ If you mean postulate, you should say postulate. If someone wants to think you're pretentious, so be it. There isn't really an exact synonym. I mean, you could use assume, but it would be imprecise. –  slim Jan 5 '12 at 15:10

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

When you postulate, you're saying "let's all agree for the purposes of this discussion that (something) is true."

When you hypothesise, you're saying "Let's speculate about what would happen if (something) was true".

A hypothesis has some extra status in scientific discourse, in that scientists frequently put forward hypotheses they consider to be plausible, and perform tests to see whether they stand up to them.

share|improve this answer
1  
to hypothesize something (and this is generally how the word is used in academic papers) means roughly the same as to postulate something. At least as far as I can see it does. Perhaps though there is some difference between the two? –  z7sg Ѫ Jan 5 '12 at 16:02
1  
@z7sgѪ No, as my answer says, hypothesising says "what if this were true?"; postulating says "let's take this as true". –  slim Jan 5 '12 at 16:07
    
I mean that in papers it's mostly stuff like: "we hypothesize that beaver dams increase the complexity of storm response..." I did think initially that you test a hypothesis and assume a postulate but looking at actual usage I'm not sure (otherwise I would have answered the question). –  z7sg Ѫ Jan 5 '12 at 16:14
    
@z7sgѪ Yep, that's the use described in my third paragraph. If they said "We postulate that beaver dams...", that would mean "we think that's an uncontroversial claim that every reader can agree on without further discussion". –  slim Jan 5 '12 at 16:16

Hypothesis is a theory which can after testing be accepted or rejected. A postulate is something that is assumed to be true without proof. Sometimes postulates are also called axioms.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.