We have already seen that propositions are statements about variables considered to be true or false. If the phenomenon under consideration happens to be observable reality then the said statement could be empirically tested. A proposition that can be verified to determine its reality is a hypothesis. Therefore one can say that a hypothesis is a verifiable counterpart of a proposition. A hypothesis may be defined as a logically conjectured relationship between two or more variables, expressed in the form of a testable statement. Relationship is proposed by using a strong logical argumentation. This logical relationship may be part of theoretical framework of the study.

Let us look at some of the hypotheses:

1.  Officers in my organization have higher than average level of commitment (variable).

2.  Level of job commitment of the officers is associated with their level of efficiency.

3.  Level of job commitment of the officers is positively associated with their level of efficiency.

4.  The higher the level of job commitment of the officers the lower their level of absenteeism.

These are testable propositions. First hypothesis contains only one variable. The second one has two variables which have been shown to be associated with each other but the nature of association has not been specified (non-directional relationship). In the third hypothesis we have gone a step further where in addition to the relationship between the two variables, the direction of relationship (positive) has also been given. In the fourth hypothesis level of efficiency has been replaced with level of absenteeism, the direction of relationship between the two variables has been specified (which is negative). In the following discussion you will find these hypotheses being quoted as part of the examples.

Types of Hypotheses

i. Descriptive Hypothesis

Descriptive hypothesis contains only one variable thereby it is also called as univariate hypothesis. Descriptive hypotheses typically state the existence, size, form, or distribution of some variable. The first hypothesis contains only one variable. It only shows the distribution of the level of commitment among the officers of the organization which is higher than average. Such a hypothesis is an example of a Descriptive Hypothesis. Researchers usually use research questions rather than descriptive hypothesis. For example a question can be: What is the level of commitment of the officers in your organization?

ii. Relational Hypothesis

These are the propositions that describe a relationship between two variables. The relationship could be non-directional or directional, positive or negative, causal or simply correlational. While stating the relationship between the two variables, if the terms of positive, negative, more than, or less than are used then such hypotheses are directional because the direction of the relationship between the variables (positive/negative) has been indicated (see hypotheses 3 and 4). These hypotheses are relational as well as directional. The directional hypothesis is the one in which the direction of the relationship has been specified. Non-directional hypothesis is the one in which the direction of the association has not been specified. The relationship may be very strong but whether it is positive or negative has not been postulated (see hypothesis 2).

Correlational hypotheses

State merely that the variables occur together in some specified manner without implying that one causes the other. Such weak claims are often made when we believe that there are more basic causal forces that affect both variables. For example:

Level of job commitment of the officers is positively associated with their level of efficiency.

Here we do not make any claim that one variable causes the other to change. That will be possible only if we have control on all other factors that could influence our dependent variable.

Explanatory (causal) hypotheses

Imply the existence of, or a change in, one variable causes or leads to a change in the other variable. This brings in the notions of independent and the dependent variables. Cause means to “help make happen.” So the independent variable may not be the sole reason for the existence of, or change in the dependent variable. The researcher may have to identify the other possible causes, and control their effect in case the causal effect of independent variable has to be determined on the dependent variable. This may be possible in an experimental design of research.

Different ways to state hypotheses

  • Hi motivation causes hi efficiency.
  • Hi motivation leads to hi efficiency.
  • Hi motivation is related to hi efficiency.
  • Hi motivation influences hi efficiency.
  • Hi motivation is associated with hi efficiency.
  • Hi motivation produces hi efficiency.
  • Hi motivation results in hi efficiency.
  • If hi motivation then hi efficiency.
  • The higher the motivation, the higher the efficiency

iii. Null Hypothesis

It is used for testing the hypothesis formulated by the researcher. Researchers treat evidence that supports a hypothesis differently from the evidence that opposes it. They give negative evidence more importance than to the positive one. It is because the negative evidence tarnishes the hypothesis. It shows that the predictions made by the hypothesis are wrong. The null hypothesis simply states that there is no relationship between the variables or the relationship between the variables is “zero.” That is how symbolically null hypothesis is denoted as “H0”. For example: H0 = There is no relationship between the level of job commitment and the level of efficiency. Or H0 = The relationship between level of job commitment and the level of efficiency is zero. Or

The two variables are independent of each other. It does not take into consideration the direction of association (i.e. H0 is non directional), which may be a second step in testing the hypothesis. First we look whether or not there is an association then we go for the direction of association and the strength of association. Experts recommend that we test our hypothesis indirectly by testing the null hypothesis. In case we have any credibility in our hypothesis then the research data should reject the null hypothesis. Rejection of the null hypothesis leads to the acceptance of the alternative hypothesis.

iv. Alternative Hypothesis

The alternative (to the null) hypothesis simply states that there is a relationship between the variables under study. In our example it could be: there is a relationship between the level of job commitment and the level of efficiency. Not only there is an association between the two variables under study but also

the relationship is perfect which is indicated by the number “1”. Thereby the alternative hypothesis is symbolically denoted as “H1”. It can be written like this: H1: There is a relationship between the level of job commitment of the officers and their level of efficiency.

v. Research Hypothesis

Research hypothesis is the actual hypothesis formulated by the researcher which may also suggest the nature of relationship i.e. the direction of relationship. In our example it could be: Level of job commitment of the officers is positively associated with their level of efficiency.

The Role of the Hypothesis

In research, a hypothesis serves several important functions:

1.  It guides the direction of the study:

Quite frequently one comes across a situation when the researcher tries to collect all possible information on which he could lay his hands on. Later on he may find that only part of it he could utilize. Hence there was an unnecessary use of resources on trivial concerns. In such a situation, hypothesis limits what shall be studied and what shall not be.

2.  It identifies facts that are relevant and those that are not:

Who shall be studied (married couples), in what context they shall be studied (their consumer decision making), and what shall be studied (their individual perceptions of their roles).

3.  It suggests which form of research design is likely to be the most appropriate:

Depending upon the type of hypothesis a decision is made about the relative appropriateness of different research designs for the study under consideration. The design could be a survey design, experimental design, content analysis, case study, participation observation study, and/or Focus Group Discussions.

4.  It provides a framework for organizing the conclusions of the findings:

The Characteristics of a Testable Hypothesis

  • Hypothesis must be conceptually clear. The concepts used in the hypothesis should be clearly defined, operationally if possible. Such definitions should be commonly accepted and easily communicable among the research scholars.
  • Hypothesis should have empirical referents. The variables contained in the hypothesis should be empirical realities. In case these are not empirical realities then it will not be possible to make the observations. Being handicapped by the data collection, it may not be possible to test the hypothesis. Watch for words like ought, should, bad.
  • Hypothesis must be specific. The hypothesis should not only be specific to a place and situation but also these should be narrowed down with respect to its operation. Let there be no global use of concepts whereby the researcher is using such a broad concept which may all inclusive and may not be able to tell anything. For example somebody may try to propose the relationship between urbanization and family size. Yes urbanization influences in declining the size of families. But urbanization is such comprehensive variable which hide the operation of so many other factor which emerge as part of the urbanization process. These factors could be the rise in education levels, women’s levels of education, women empowerment, emergence of dual earner families, decline in patriarchy, accessibility to health services, role of mass media, and could be more. Therefore the global use of the word ‘urbanization’ may not tell much. Hence it is suggested to that the hypothesis should be specific.
  • Hypothesis should be related to available techniques of research. Hypothesis may have empirical reality; still we are looking for tools and techniques that could be used for the collection of data. If the techniques are not there then the researcher is handicapped. Therefore, either the techniques are already available or the researcher is in a position to develop suitable techniques for the study.
  • Hypothesis should be related to a body of theory. Hypothesis has to be supported by theoretical argumentation. For this purpose the research may develop his/her theoretical framework which could help in the generation of relevant hypothesis. For the development of a framework the researcher shall depend on the existing body of knowledge. In such an effort a connection between the study in hand and the existing body of knowledge can be established. That is how the study could benefit from the existing knowledge and later on through testing the hypothesis could contribute to the reservoir of knowledge.
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