Growth stocks are the beauties of the stock world, plain and simple. They're exciting, they have good stories, and they can make you a lot of money. Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick Sohu.com may have taken a hit with the rest of the market recently, but the expansion of China's Internet-connected population has carried investors to big gains over the past three 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 those 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 more than 115,000 investors. It's 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 an average of 20% or more per year over the past three years. (If you like, run the screen for yourself.) With those criteria set, let's go ahead and meet our contestants.

PotashCorp
Not only is the world population growing, but it's also getting richer. These two trends have led to increased demand for grains, both for direct consumption and as animal feed. Hoping to make the most of their land, farmers depend on the fertilizer components that PotashCorp (NYSE:POT) produces. While PotashCorp does face competition from the likes of Mosaic and Agrium, it is sitting pretty as the world's largest supplier of potash, and it expects to keep prices and profits high by matching its production to world demand.

Hewlett-Packard
Stand down, IBM. Outta the way, Dell (NASDAQ:DELL). Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) is in the house. Though HP may have limped through the Carly Fiorina years, Mark Hurd stepped into the fray in early 2005 and appears to be the breath of fresh air that the company needed. Internal efforts, along with significant acquisitions, have helped HP expand beyond its core printing franchise and both pump up the top line and post higher profitability.

Coach
With consumers struggling mightily, purses and other luxury accessories are on the way out ... aren't they?  Coach's (NYSE:COH) recent results would suggest otherwise. Investors might not be happy with the 14% decline in profits, but a relatively small decline like that, smack dab in the middle of a severe recession, seems to me like a sign of a pretty sticky luxury product. Earnings per share have soared over the past few years, along with rising revenue, and the company has used its copious cash flow to buy back shares. Coach's management is targeting more growth ahead by staking its claim in the burgeoning Chinese luxury retail market.

Thermo Fisher Scientific
Sometimes internal growth puffs up income; at other times, a massive acquisition will do the trick. Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE:TMO) took a big dose of the latter; Thermo Electron's bottom line more than doubled thanks to its merger with Fisher Scientific. But don't count out organic growth at this life sciences equipment giant -- strong recurring sales of laboratory consumables helped the company report 19% growth in adjusted EPS despite the economic headwinds. Looking ahead, the company expects to push onward and upward by continuing to leverage its strong brands and expanding into emerging economies like China.

Comcast
If you watch cable TV or surf the internet in the U.S., there's a chance that you're paying a bill to the largest U.S. cable provider -- Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA). Comcast has benefitted from major acquisition activity over the past few years, most prominently its takeover of a big piece of the operations of the defunct Adelphia. However, it has also been hard at work adding customers and converting its current customers to higher-priced digital TV services, faster internet connections, and "triple-play" communications packages. While adding new customers could be tough for the already huge provider, continuing to upsell current customers could help pad the bottom line.

The envelope please ...
The voting is in, and the CAPS community members have shared their opinions. Comcast is the first stock to get the boot thanks to its two-star rating. Though Comcast has the opportunity to upsell current customers, many CAPS members think that the company is a bit fat and lazy, believing it will suffer from increasing competition from the likes of Verizon (NYSE:VZ).

While the three-star rating on Hewlett-Packard isn't terrible, it's hardly a ringing endorsement on the stock. Bearish CAPS members see the commoditization of PCs and printer ink taking a bite out of HP's profits. Meanwhile, both Coach and PotashCorp weighed in with very respectable four-star ratings. This high rating means that both are well worth checking out, but there are some CAPS members who foresee the economy weighing heavily on both businesses.

In the end, Thermo Fisher Scientific seems to have blinded the CAPS community with science. More than 97% of the members who have weighed in on Thermo Fisher gave the stock a thumbs-up. Among those bulls is one of CAPS' top players, TMFHelical, who gave the stock an outperform rating way back in July of 2007, writing:

Powerhouse in the biotechnology support industry. From lab supply to CRO activities, [Thermo Fisher Scientific] feeds the supply chain of biotech drug development from discovery into the clinic.

Now go vote!
Do you think Thermo Fisher Scientific has what it takes to be America's next top growth stock? Head over to CAPS and let the rest of the community know what you think.

More CAPS Foolishness:

Dell is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Sohu is a Rule Breakers pick. Coach is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, 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.