Botany, or any other science, is a body of knowledge accumulated over time by its practioneers using a process called the scientific method. Both the facts and the process used to obtain them are important in understanding botany. The scientific method varies in details and application by its users, but in general consists of the following steps: A problem is defined; information is accumulated; a hypothesis (proposed answer) is formulated and tested experimentally; if the new data contradict the hypothesis, the hypothesis is revised and tested until a conclusion is reached that explains the phenomenon of interest. The final step is to publish the results so other interested scientists will design experiments to validate or refute the work.
Science is an ever‐changing quest; new hypotheses are tested daily, and new information and conclusions are added constantly to the data base. When a sufficiently large number of experiments reach the same conclusions, the hypothesis is incorporated with others and becomes a theory. Theories are the foundations of scientific knowledge and give rise to principles or laws. While theories sometimes are modified or changed as new evidence accumulates, principles are rarely, if ever, altered.