I’ve noticed quite a lot of people searching for information on hypothesis statements, so I wanted to offer some additional hints for writing your hypothesis statements for your dissertation.

This is a follow up to my original post on Creating Strong Hypothesis Statements

When you are trying to build your hypothesis statement, I always suggest that you try to state it in simple, 8th grade English first. Why? Because it’s my belief that if you can’t state it simply, you won’t be able to understand it when it becomes more complex.

Let me walk you through part of the process I used with my dissertation coaching clients to help them get clear on their hypothesis statements.

First, I have them tell me, in plain and simple words, what is the outcome they are looking to study. What do they want to know from the data? I have them write down as many results as they can think of.

Second, I have them group any similar outcomes together. Very often, most of the specific questions can be answered by one more general hypothesis statement.

When you have developed a sense of what your research outcomes might be, then it’s time to work backwards and ask the question which will get you there.

When you have determined this, you can, very often, build your research question and then create your hypothesis statements.

Let me clarify- your research questions are separate from your hypothesis statements. Your research questions represent the broad areas of what you are going to be researching, analyzing, or studying. They will be written in terms of your main variables- and you should be able to identify your independent and dependent variables. Remember that independent variables are the ones which will be manipulated or changed, and the outcomes will be noted in the dependent variables.

So, for instance, if I was studying the impact of sleep on academic performance, sleep would be my independent variable, and academic performance would be my dependent one. If I asked that the other way: The impact of academic performance on sleep, academic performance would be the independent variable, and sleep would be dependent. So, yes, order does matter.

Once you have determined your research questions, and identified the variables, you’re ready to start constructing your hypothesis statements. Now, remember in your basic research methods and design class, you learned about the null hypothesis? The null hypothesis refers to the situation where the independent variable has no impact on the dependent variable. It is written often at H0 and termed as “there is no effect”- so, from my example above, the null hypothesis would be “there is no link between sleep and academic performance.”

For the H1 hypothesis, which is meant to show there is some impact or relationship between the variables, you need to state what you think the impact will be. So, for example, “Adequate sleep will improve academic performance.”- and this would be one of your hypothesis statements. It’s important to take a stand in your hypothesis- you have to have an idea you’re “standing up for” or “stepping up to study”- without a clear position, you do not have an hypothesis statement.

So, in summary, to create strong hypothesis statements, you must:

a) Identify what result or outcome you are looking to study

b) Group similar outcomes together

c) Generate your research questions

d) Define clearly your variables

e) State the null hypothesis (H0)

f) Identify your hypothesis statement (H1)

One other tip: most people think they need many more hypothesis statements than they actually do. Generally, you will have no more than 2 or 3 for a usual dissertation project. If you have many more than this, you’re likely repeating yourself, or making hypotheses about questions you can’t answer or aren’t studying.

Remember, too, that hypothesis statements need to flow logically from your study design. Ask yourself if your hypothesis statements make sense, and if they are the “next logical step” in terms of your stated research design. If not, or you aren’t sure that you’re collecting the data to answer your hypotheses, you’ve likely made the hypothesis statements too large, or somehow unrelated to your study.

This is a complex topic in dissertation research design, but once you clarify this, it makes your whole research process clearer and more understandable.