The Vocabulary of Science: First Steps to Science Literacy

Learn to think more critically about science by mastering the language we use to talk about science
Free tutorial
Rating: 4.9 out of 5 (168 ratings)
8,662 students
4hr 12min of on-demand video
English [Auto]

Master the different ways that scientists use key terms like “theory”, “fact”, “law”, “hypothesis”, and “model”
Analyze arguments and fallacies about science that turn on the meaning of these concepts
Build a foundation for understanding science and debates about science
Recognize the most common confusions that people who write about science are prone to make


  • No previous knowledge or training is required. Only a sincere interest in learning more about the nature of science and scientific reasoning.



Is evolution a theory, a fact, or both? This question has been debated by critics and defenders of evolution for many years.

Some claim that evolution is a theory, not a fact. Others claim that evolution is a fact, not a theory. And still others say that evolution is both a theory and a fact.

What exactly is going on here?

One reason why the debate persists is that people disagree not only on the strength of the evidence for evolution, but also on the meanings of the key terms, “theory” and “fact”.

This course is designed to help you understand and think critically about debates like these, debates about the nature of science that turn on the meanings of scientific terms like “theory”, “fact”, “law”, “hypothesis” and “model”.


I have 20 years of experience teaching the history and philosophy of science at the university level, but now I work as independent online educator. I have given lectures on the topic of science literacy to national and international audiences.

I have over 30,000 students on Udemy, where I also offer courses on critical thinking and argumentative essay writing.


This course is for anyone interested in learning more about how a philosopher of science thinks about science and scientific reasoning.

It will be of special interest to science students, science educators of all kinds, and people interested in debates about the nature of science.

In this course you’ll learn the various meanings of the key terms, “theory”, “fact”, “law”, “hypothesis” and “model”, as they're used both within and outside science.

You'll learn the most common confusions made by people who write about science.

And you'll have an opportunity to test your understanding through quizzes and a video critique assignment.

Who this course is for:

  • Science science educators and science enthusiasts of all types
  • Anyone interested in learning how to better communicate with others about scientific issues, and engage constructively in scientific debates
  • Anyone interested in understanding how science really works
  • Anyone interested in the history and philosophy of science


PhD, Philosopher, Founder of the Critical Thinker Academy
Kevin deLaplante
  • 4.5 Instructor Rating
  • 19,569 Reviews
  • 101,977 Students
  • 4 Courses

I'm a philosopher of science by training, and I've taught philosophy and critical thinking at the university level for twenty years. 

From 2009-2013 I was Chair of the Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Iowa State University. 

In 2015 I left my tenured academic job to pursue a career as an independent online educator. I produce video tutorial courses on topics in science, philosophy, critical thinking and communication skills.

I also do consulting and coaching, and run a membership community dedicated to improving our "Argument Ninja" skills!

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