Constructing Hypotheses in Quantitative Research

Posted October 11, 2017

Hypotheses are the testable statements linked to your research question. Hypotheses bridge the gap from the general question you intend to investigate (i.e., the research question) to concise statements of what you hypothesize the connection between your variables to be. For example, if we were studying the influence of mentoring relationships on first-generation students’ intention to remain at their university, we might have the following research question:

“Does the presence of a mentoring relationship influence first-generation students’ intentions to remain at their university?”

Although this statement clearly articulates the construct and specific variables we intend to study, we still have not identified exactly what we are testing. We use the hypotheses to make this clear. Specifically, we create null and alternate hypotheses to indicate exactly what we intend to test. In general, the null hypothesis states that there is no observable difference or relationship, and the alternate hypothesis states that there is an observable difference or relationship. In the example above, our hypotheses would be as follows:

Null hypothesis: The presence of a mentoring relationship does not influence first-generation students’ intention to remain at their university.

Alternate hypothesis: The presence of a mentoring relationship influences first-generation students’ intention to remain at their university.

Hypotheses may be worded with or without a direction. As written above, the hypotheses do not have a direction. To give them direction, we would consult previous literature to determine how a mentoring relationship is likely to influence intention to remain in school. If the research indicates that the presence of a mentoring relationship should increase students’ connections to the university and their willingness to remain, our alternate hypothesis would state:

“The presence of a mentoring relationship increases first-generation students’ intention to remain at their university.”

If the research indicates that the presence of a mentoring relationship minimizes students’ desire to make additional connections to the university and in turn decreases their willingness to remain, our alternate hypothesis would state:

“The presence of a mentoring relationship decreases first-generation students’ intention to remain at their university.”

Once you conduct your statistical analysis you will determine if the null hypothesis should be rejected in favor of the alternate hypothesis.

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