Formulating hypotheses in your dissertation

Hypotheses are helpful if your dissertation involves determining whether a specific prediction about the relationship between variables is correct. They often take the place of sub-questions.

Example of a hypothesis

First-year students are more likely to attend lectures than second-year students.

Using hypotheses in your dissertation

If your dissertation includes hypotheses, bear the following tips in mind.

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1. Remember that the main question should not be a hypothesis

The main research question itself is usually a “normal” research question, which hypotheses are then formulated to help answer. Hypotheses therefore take the place of sub-questions.

2. Conduct preliminary research

A hypothesis is a statement about what you believe is true. To make an informed statement, you thus first need to do some research. Focus on the literature that you use for your introduction and problem statement.

3. Create a conceptual framework

Use your research as the basis for creating a conceptual framework in which you illustrate what you expect to find when you conduct the actual investigation.

4. Formulate your hypotheses

You can then derive your hypotheses from what you have presented graphically in your conceptual model. Each hypothesis will eventually be discussed in a separate chapter of your dissertation.

5. Test your hypotheses

The next step is to test your hypotheses to see if your expectations are correct or incorrect. If they are correct, the hypothesis is said to be verified (or confirmed); if not, the hypothesis is said to be falsified (or rejected).

Both null hypotheses (H0) and alternative hypotheses (H1) must be created to facilitate the testing.

Examples of null and alternative hypotheses

H0: There is no relationship between sex and aggression.

H1: There is a relationship between sex and aggression.

H0: Income has no effect on buying behavior.

H1: Income has an effect on buying behavior.

H0: There is no difference in language between older and younger people.

H1: There is a difference in language between older and younger people.

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Bas Swaen

Bas is co-founder of Scribbr. Bas loves to teach and is an experienced thesis writer. He tries to help students with writing clear and easy to comprehend articles about difficult topics.

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