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  A provisional statement which guides empirical work in several scientific epistemologies: more informally, the term is widely used to embrace a set of guiding ideas about processes and outcomes.

Within positivism, a hypothesis is an empirical statement not yet accepted as true: the purpose of the positivist methodology is to test its veracity, establishing the statement\'s truth through empirical investigation. The hypothesis, derived from a body of theory, should be general in its application and not refer to a specific place or event. Hypotheses are therefore the core elements of structured empirical research programmes within this philosophy, which was strongly promoted during geography\'s quantitative revolution.

Whereas in positivism hypotheses are devised to be verified — i.e. proven — in critical rationalism they are designed to be refuted — or falsified — rather than validated: science advances, it is argued, not by accumulating evidence of verified hypotheses (because any verification can only be provisional) but by discarding false hypotheses. In pragmatism, too, they are provisional statements which guide action until a superior hypothesis is derived. (RJJ)

Suggested Reading Harvey, D. 1969: Explanation in geography. London: Edward Arnold. Newman, J.L. 1973: The use of the term \'hypothesis\' in geography. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 63: 22-7. Sayer, A. 1992: Method in social science: a realist approach. London and New York: Routledge.



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