The Importance of a clear hypothesis
In hypothesis-testing studies, a good research question leads directly to a study hypothesis. This is basically the question: “What kind of results and outcomes do I expect from this investigation?”
Your study hypothesis provides the basis for your specific study aims. These aims are the steps you will take to test your hypothesis within your available time. Your time is usually limited by the duration of your degree or grant period.
Here is an example hypothesis. Among participants who drank a certain amount of alcohol, taking a single dose of an antipsychotic drug might worsen memory test results compared with taking a placebo. (A placebo is a substance with no therapeutic effect. It is used as a “control”.)
Caution! Avoid ‘fishing expeditions’
Although you may be tempted to redefine your hypothesis after obtaining your data, please be aware that this may affect your future funding. When you apply for a grant, you state clear objectives. If the funding agency sees that the published research does not follow those objectives, the mismatch will reflect poorly on your credibility as a good researcher. It suggests that you are unable to properly formulate a sound and well-founded hypothesis to address an important question in the field.
Some changes will be inevitable, because research is unpredictable. But be careful not to change your focus dramatically. If you do so, you may find it difficult to obtain grants from that funding agency again in the future.
In summary, research is about verifying or contradicting your hypothesis to contribute to the greater body of knowledge. A strong hypothesis lays the groundwork for a specific research question.