Hypotheses help researchers discover and make predictions about the relationship between two factors. For example, researchers may want to explore the relationship between number of hours spent on social media and mental health. As such, a hypothesis is a predicted answer to a research question which can be tested by a research study.

Here are some example research questions and hypotheses:

  • Question: Is there an association between number of hours spent on social media per day and mental health?
    Hypothesis: There is a negative association between number of hours spent on social media per day and mental health.
  • Question: Is there a relationship between student hair colour and standardised test scores?
    Hypothesis: There is no association between student hair colour and standardised test scores.
  • Question: Does eating one serving of vegetables a day improve mental health?
    Hypothesis: Eating one serving of vegetables a day improves mental health

Hypotheses typically describe the expected relationship between two variables. This hypothesised relationship is then tested using quantitative research and statistical methods. An effective hypothesis should be:

  • a predicted answer to the research question
  • written clearly and concisely
  • able to be observed and tested

There are six key steps to developing hypotheses:

  • ask a question which interests you
  • do some preliminary research about the topic
  • describe what you expect to find in the form of a hypothesis
  • refine the hypothesis to make sure it is specific and testable
  • phrase your hypothesis to reflect the expected relationship between the two variables
  • write a null hypothesis if your research involves statistical testing (Scribbr, 2022).

In quantitative research, hypotheses are often tested using statistical inference techniques. This is described further on the Statistical Inference content page.

(Author: Madison Wempe)

What is it?

Websites:

Ch 3: Setting up the research study: Help and review by Study.Com (2021)

Lesson Four of this online course describes how to formulate a hypothesis and a null hypothesis.

(Academic reference: Study.com. (n.d.) Ch 3: Setting up the research study: help and review. Study.com. https://study.com/academy/topic/setting-up-the-research-study-help-and-review.html)

Manuals & Guides:

What is and how to write a good hypothesis in research? by Elsevier (n.d.)

This how-to guide introduces hypotheses and hypothesis writing for authors of scientific research articles.

(Academic reference: Elsevier. (n.d.). What is and how to write a good hypothesis in research. Elsevier. https://scientific-publishing.webshop.elsevier.com/manuscript-preparation/what-how-write-good-hypothesis-research/)

Books:

Research methods in psychology by Paul C. Price, Rajiv Jhangiani, I-Chant A. Chiang, Dana C. Leighton, and Carrie Cuttler (2017)

Section 2.4 of this open-access book explains what theory and hypotheses are. It introduces three general characteristics of a good hypothesis. The section ends with a summary section of key takeaways and an exercise.

(Academic reference: Price, P. C., Jhangiani, R. S., Chiang, I. A., Leighton, D., & Cuttler, C. (2017). Research methods in psychology (3rd ed.). Washington State University Academic Outreach and Innovation. https://opentext.wsu.edu/carriecuttler/)

How is it done?

Manuals & Guides:

How to write a strong hypothesis | Guide & examples by Scribbr (2022)

This video describes a six-step process for writing a strong research hypothesis. It uses an example to illustrate each step.

(Academic reference: Scribbr. (2022, May 6). How to write a strong hypothesis | Guide & examples [Video]. Scribbr. https://www.scribbr.co.uk/research-methods/hypothesis-writing/)

Websites:

How to write a great hypothesis: Hypothesis format, examples, and tips by Kendra Cherry (2023) 

On this website, you can learn what a hypothesis is and how to create one. It shows you how to write and format a hypothesis, with practical actions and self-assessment tasks. The site also displays different types of hypotheses with examples. 

(Academic reference: Cherry, K. (2023). How to write a great hypothesis: Hypothesis format, examples, and tips. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-hypothesis-2795239) 

Videos:

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Hypothesis testing: step-by-step, p-value, t-test for difference of two means by Dr Nic’s Maths and Stats (2011) 

This video is a step-by-step guide for a hypothesis test, using an example. It explains how to use hypotheses, significance levels, samples, and p-values. 

(Academic reference: Dr Nic’s Maths and Stats (2011, December 6). Hypothesis testing: step-by-step, p-value, t-test for difference of two means – Statistics Help [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zZYBALbZgg) 

Books:

Chapter 8: Using P-values and confidence intervals to interpret the results of statistical analyses by Betty R. Kirkwood and Jonathan A. C. Sterne (2003)

In chapter 8, section 8.2 of the book, the authors show you how to test a hypothesis. They talk about the null hypothesis and give examples. The section also introduces p-values and significance levels. 

(Academic reference: Kirkwood, B. R. & Sterne, J. A. C. (2003). Chapter 8: Using P-values and confidence intervals to interpret the results of statistical analyses.  Essential medical statistics (2nd ed.) (pp. 71-73). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.) 

Method in action

Articles:

The anxiety-buffer hypothesis in the time of COVID-10: When self-esteem protects from the impact of loneliness and fear on anxiety and depression by Alexandra Rossi, Anna Panzeri, Giada Pietrabissa, Gian Mauro Manzoni, Gianluca Castelnuovo, and Stefania Mannarini

This article presents findings from a research study which investigated the hypothesis that high self-esteem protects from the impact of loneliness and fear on anxiety and depression. Researchers were interested in understanding whether high-self esteem remained protective during COVID-19.

(Academic reference: Rossi, A., Panzeri, A., Pietrabissa, G., Manzoni, G. M., Castelnuovo, G., & Mannarini, S. (2020). The anxiety-buffer hypothesis in the time of COVID-19: when self-esteem protects from the impact of loneliness and fear on anxiety and depression. Frontiers in Psychology, 11(2177). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02177)

More treatment, but not less anxiety and mood disorders: Why? Seven hypotheses and their evaluation by Johan Ormel and Paul M.G. Emmelkamp (2023) 

This article looks at seven hypotheses to explain a paradox. Why has the prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders not gone down while their treatment rates have gone up? It explores each hypothesis in depth and with examples. It’s a valuable resource to explore different approaches to hypotheses in research.  

(Academic reference: Ormel, J. & Emmelkamp, P. M. G. (2023). More treatment, but not less anxiety and mood disorders: Why? Seven hypotheses and their evaluation. Psychotherapy & Psychosomatics, 92(2), 73-80. https://doi.org/10.1159/000528544)