The steps to achieving a satisfactory conclusion for a dissertation are arguably one of the most important actions that should be undertaken. At B.Sc. level, especially in our part of the world, there is an easy false impression that the final year “project” is merely an activity, hence certain inputs, such as formulating hypotheses, are overlooked – in fact in my undergraduate days, I really thought I could do away with it and so did many of my colleagues.
While there are considerations for the technicalities of the type of research being embarked on, the chief consideration to coming up with hypothesis should be providing answers to the following questions:
- What are you interested in?
- What are you curious about?
This is necessary because your interest should raise questions that your research should provide answers to. Once you can frame questions from your identified interest areas, you’re one step closer to your research hypotheses.
There are very many definitions that could help the understanding of what a hypothesis is; the phrase that stayed stuck in my subconscious from my undergraduate days is that “a hypothesis is your guess about the research outcome”. Matter-of-factly, this paraphrase isn’t far from the truth because the statement of the hypothesis comes from a place of observation for which the researcher has envisioned a possible outcome – which is why researchers are trained to prepare for two hypothetical outcomes known as;
- The Null hypothesis; which is denoted as H0 or HN, they represent a theory that has been put forward, either because it is believed to be true or because it is to be used as a basis for argument, but has not been proved and would have serious out comes if the wrong decisions are made.
- The Alternative Hypothesis: denoted by H1 or HA, this is a statement of what a hypothesis test is set up to establish, hence are the opposite of Null Hypothesis and are only reached if the Null Hypothesis is rejected – they are the desired conclusion of the researcher.
For example: if the aim of a research is to determine whether there is a relationship between people’s exposure to screen (television, telephone etc.) light and their inability for sound sleep at night, the NULL HYPOTHESIS might be that screen time exposure affects quality of sleep, which could be written like;
H0: there is a relationship between exposure to screen light and sound sleep
The Alternative Hypothesis would usually say otherwise, it would be written as;
H1: Screen light exposure does not affect the quality of sleep
H2: there is no relationship between exposure to screen light and sleep quality
To conclude, it is important to narrow a question down to one that can reasonably be studied in a research project, which is why attention is paid the NULL Hypothesis as it serves as theory with which the statement of your research problem can be tested. So what started out as your guess can be proven as a theory or serve as basis for further studies. Hence your hypotheses must be clear, testable, measureable and straight to the point.