How to formulate
a hypothesis

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How to formulate the research question of your scientific paper

The term “hypothesis” is a targeted scientific assertion. It is normally based on a general assumption concerning the research subject that outlines the research interest.

This is first put into a thesis, which conveys a more specific but still general statement, and is linked to the strategic goal of the research.

In the next step, the hypothesis serves as the basis of research on an operative level. The goal of the research is, therefore, to either verify or falsify the hypothesis which then leads to a common insight about the research subject.

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Example

  • Assumption:

    The usage of modern communication technology (i.e. smartphones, tablets, etc.) impacts the relationships among their users.

  • Thesis:

    The dominance of media-based communication over face-to-face communication reduces the ability to feel empathy.

  • Hypothesis:

    The more people are communicating via electronic media, the less interested they are in dealing with the perceptions of others. The longer and the more extensive the virtual communication between.

So creating hypotheses is an important part of scientific work (e.g. writing a research paper) which evolves from the general to the specific and leads from theory to practical research. This principle applies to all subjects which use this form of knowledge creation.

Hypotheses focus the research interest on the most important questions and thus generate a structure which then leads to the decision of which empiric tools to choose for research… which means that creating hypotheses precede research.

The main difference between theses and hypotheses is that theses are one-dimensional, whereas hypotheses link different characteristics and relate them to one another.

In the example above, the thesis refers to the communication of a certain group of people, whereas the hypothesis forms a connection between their habits and their behavior.

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If you create a hypothesis make sure that:

  • the reader can understand your thought processes
  • it is universal
  • it is logical and lacks any contradictions
  • it is operational, so it can be turned into an empiric design which will show if it can be verified
  • it can be falsified: there must be a counterposition (H0) to every hypothesis (H1) that also can be verified or falsified by empiric means
  • it is worded in the simplest way possible, in a concise sentence which shows cause and effect of the presumed relation between the different variables (either in the form “if…then” or “the more… the…”).

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