Growth stocks are the supermodels of the stock world, plain and simple. They're exciting, they have good stories, and they can make you a lot of money. Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock may have recently taken a hit with the rest of the market, but its iPod-fueled profit growth has left investors with huge gains over the past five years.

But for all their beauty, growth stocks are also the prima donnas of the market. They can be erratic, they don't always live up to their billing, and they tend to attract a shareholder base that's ready and willing to run at the first signs of slowdown. For these reasons, caution is certainly in order when you enter the world of growth investing.

Fortunately, The Motley Fool's CAPS service brings us the collective intelligence of a community of over 125,000 investors and is a great resource for separating the Jessica Albas from the Jabba the Hutts. Each of the stocks competing for this week's top spot has a market cap of at least $100 million, and each grew its net profit per share by at least 20% over the past three years. (Run the screen for yourself, if you like.)

Let's meet our contestants:

If the name Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) doesn't ring any bells for you, think of it as the Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) of China. Like its cousin in Mountain view, Baidu lets users search the web as a whole, or zero in on more specific areas such as news or images. Also like Big Goo, it earns its keep by allowing advertisers to target ads to certain search terms. Unlike Google, of course, it's tailor-made for the billion-plus citizens of China. Baidu's third-quarter results showed revenue up 85% from the prior year, and net income up 91%, suggesting that its growth hasn't gone anywhere.

In the world of software, Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) isn't just another database company, it's the database company. While the investment community certainly appreciates the company's leadership position in database software, the company may be better known for the daring acquisitions accomplished by CEO Larry Ellison, including PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems. Though the economic slowdown has drastically curtailed Oracle's growth in recent months, the 12 months ending in November saw the company's earnings per share jump slightly more than 20%.

Research In Motion
Sure, Apple's iPhone is great, but is it CrackBerry great? Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) iconic device is apparently so addictive that President Obama argued against his security advisors in a successful bid to keep his personal BlackBerry. Quite an endorsement, eh? Despite a slowing economy and competition from Apple, Research In Motion's third quarter finished with a stunning 66% year-over-year increase in revenue -- even if costs heavily constrained profit growth.

Satyam Computer Services
As one of the largest IT and business process outsourcing (BPO) providers, India's Satyam (NYSE:SAY) has grown as companies around the world find that the most cost-effective solution can't always be found in-house. As the global economic downturn grinds on, it's possible that outsourcers such as Satyam and competitor Cognizant Technology Solutions will attract new clients looking to save some green. Screener beware: The massive fraud allegedly perpetrated by the company's chairman means that this stock probably isn't fit for any portfolio. Still, Satyam may be able to salvage itself as a going concern and eventually get back on the right track.

The oil industry just ain't what it used to be ... six months ago. Oil prices are way down, and the bullish fervor with which investors pursued energy stocks is gone. Drilling powerhouse Transocean (NYSE:RIG) has even seen fit to cancel one of the contracts in its backlog -- something almost unheard of in the drilling world. Fortunately for Transocean, most of its clients are more along the lines of ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco than the small Burgundy Global Exploration, which is kicking up the hubbub. In its most recent quarter, revenue kept ratcheting upward. Investors will see whether that can continue when the company announces fourth-quarter earnings in mid-February.

The envelope, please...
Let's yank Satyam from consideration right off the bat. If nothing else, the company teaches investors the virtues of careful due diligence, rather than simply piling on the bandwagon.

Many CAPS members think the 60%-plus drop in Research In Motion's stock is overdone, but enough of them are nonetheless worried about Apple's iPhone and softening corporate demand to saddle RIM with a three-star rating on CAPS. Baidu also has a three-star rating, as concerns over the stock's valuation and China's economy keep this one out of prime time for now.

Is enterprise software really one of the last cuts to be made in the recession? CAPS members seem to think so. They've kept Oracle's stock at four stars -- a rating that definitely makes the stock worth a hard look. However, Oracle's database and dealmaking prowess can't quite give it the edge over five-star rated Transocean. Despite the nasty climate for oil, CAPS members still think Transocean's stock will top the S&P.

Earlier this month, CAPS All-Star rdpatton shared some thoughts on why Transocean should outperform the market going forward:

My assumption is that current oil fields will continue to deplete at a high rate thus driving the need to replace those reserves. I think off-shore drilling is the next lowest cost way to gain large oil reserves and thus [Transocean] and other off-shore drillers will continue to be in demand. Also, new builds will come on-line slower due to credit crunch and current low price of oil thus keeping day-rates high.

Now go vote!
Do you think Transocean has what it takes to be America's next top growth stock? Head over to CAPS and share your opinion with the rest of the community.

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Google and Baidu are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Apple is a Stock Advisor pick, while Satyam is a former rec. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool’s disclosure policy would surely win America's Next Top Disclosure Policy, but for some reason, there's no such contest.