What is a hypothesis?


Flow Chart - Hypothesis


A hypothesis is a tentative explanation (i.e. an educated guess) for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation. Some people prefer to use an “if...then” statement for a hypothesis, posing the question to be confirmed in the “if” section, and the hypothesis to be tested in the “then” part.  For example, “if studying course texts improves the understanding of course material, then increasing time spent reading textbooks by 5% each week should result in improved grades.”

Not all hypotheses need to be placed in these types of statements, but there are specific elements which every hypothesis should have. 

  • It should be logically consistent.  Whatever you are proposing to test, it should relate directly to the phenomenon being investigated.
  • It should offer an explanation.  This is what separates hypothesis driven research from a parametric study.  A hypothesis must provide a rationalization for some occurrence.
  • It needs to contribute to existing knowledge.  Research is essentially about taking some piece of knowledge about the universe, and improving our understanding about it.
  • It should suggest outcomes that are measurable (i.e. measurable consequences of the hypothesis).

As part of a hypothesis, there must be alternative outcomes from which one result is clearly obtainable.  There is always a null hypothesis, which is the hypothesis you are testing.  When the null hypothesis is shown to be incorrect, you will need one or more alternatives hypotheses.

ASSIGNMENT: In your research project, find out what hypothesis you are testing.  If you are working on a parametric study, what are some potential hypotheses you hope to create?

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