What is a research hypothesis? A research hypothesis is a predicted answer; an educated guess. It is a statement of the outcome that a researcher expects to find in an experimental study.
Why care? Because it tells you precisely the problem that the research study is about! Either the researcher’s prediction turns out to be true (supported by data) or not!
A hypothesis includes 3 key elements: 1) the population of interest, 2) the experimental treatment, & 3) the outcome expected. It is a statement of cause and effect. The experimental treatment that the researcher manipulates is called the independent or cause variable. The result of the study is an outcome that is called the dependent variable because it depends on the independent/cause variable.
For example, let’s take the hypothesis “Heart failure patients who receive experimental drug X will have better cardiac function than will heart failure patients who receive standard drug Y.” You can see that the researcher is manipulating the drug (independent variable) that patients will receive. And patient cardiac outcomes are expected to vary—in fact cardiac function is expected to be better—for patients who receive the experimental drug X.
Ideally that researcher will randomly assign subjects to an experimental group that receives drug X and a control group that receives standard therapy drug Y. Outcome cardiac function data will be collected and analyzed to see if the researcher’s predicted answer (AKA hypothesis) is true.
In a research article, the hypothesis is usually stated right at the end of the introduction or background section.
If you see a hypothesis, how can you tell what is the independent/cause variable and the dependent/effect/outcome variable? 1st – Identify the population in the hypothesis—the population does not vary (& so, it is not a variable). 2nd – Identify the independent variable–This will be the one that is the cause & it will vary. 3rd – Identify the dependent variable–This will be the one that is the outcome & its variation depends on changes/variation in the independent variable.
PRACTICE: What are the population, independent variable(s) & dependent variable(s) in these actual research study titles that reflect the research hypotheses:
- Mei, et al. (2015). Effectiveness of Chinese Hand Massage on Anxiety Among Patients Awaiting Coronary Angiography: A Randomized Controlled Trial.
- Huang & Zhang (2015). A home-based, nurse-led health program for postoperative patients with early-stage cervical cancer: A randomized controlled trial.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: See SlideShare by Domocmat (n.d.) Formulating hypothesis at http://www.slideshare.net/kharr/formulating-hypothesis-cld-handout