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Understanding different research perspectives
Understanding different research perspectives

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10 Research hypotheses

For quantitative studies a research question can be further focused into a hypothesis. This is not universally the case – especially in exploratory research when little is known and so it is difficult to develop hypotheses – however it is generally the case in explanatory projects. A hypothesis usually makes a short statement concerning the relationship between two or more aspects or variables; the research thus aims to verify the hypothesis through investigation. According to Verma and Beard (1981, p. 184) ‘in many cases hypotheses are hunches that the researcher has about the existence of relationships between variables’. A hypothesis differs from a research question in several ways. The main difference is that a question is specific and asks about the relationship between different aspects of a problem or issue, whereas a hypothesis suggests a possible answer to the problem, which can then be tested empirically. You will now see how a research question (RQ) may be formulated as a research hypothesis (RH).

  • RQ: Does motivation affect employees’ performance?

This is a well-defined research question; it explores the contribution of motivation to the work performance of employees. The question omits other possible causes, such as organisational resources and market conditions. This question could be turned into a research hypothesis by simply changing the emphasis:

  • RH: Work motivation is positively related to employees’ performance.

The key elements of a hypothesis are:

  • The variables used in a hypothesis must all be empirically measurable (e.g. you need to be able to measure motivation and performance objectively).
  • A hypothesis should provide an answer (albeit tentatively) to the question raised by the problem statement.
  • A hypothesis should be as simple as possible.

If you are planning to do an explanatory quantitative study, you will need to develop hypotheses. You will develop your hypotheses once you have read and reviewed the literature and have become familiar with previous knowledge about the topic.