How to Write a Hypothesis for a Dissertation

Types of Hypotheses

When writing a dissertation, it is common practice to develop a hypothesis based on the research a writer has undertaken. A hypothesis often predicts some type of relationship and it usually takes the form of a “research” or an “alternative” hypothesis. For the purpose of balancing the findings of a piece of research work, it is also necessary to create another type of hypothesis – a “null” one. This latter type serves the purpose of claiming the non-existence of a predicted relationship in a “research” hypothesis. Experts say that, when directly tested, the null hypothesis does not predict any effect, and the “alternative” hypothesis contradicts the former by predicting an effect. Additionally, the “research” type of hypothesis can take different forms. A knowledge base entitled Research Methods indicates there are “one-tailed” and “two-tailed” research hypotheses where, respectively, the first type specifies a particular direction (e.g., an increasing direction or a decreasing direction) and the second type specifies a change only rather than a direction. 

Writing a Hypothesis

A hypothesis should be written before data is collected and analyzed. An effective hypothesis should be capable of being tested and should include a variable of the independent variety, which the writer controls. It should also have a variable of the dependent variety, which is measured or observed against the independent type. Say, for instance, you take as your independent variable the way the media reports on violence and the dependent variable as aggression. In this case, your “null” hypothesis might state that, “the way the media reports on violence does not affect aggression.” Therefore, your “alternative” hypothesis might state that, “the way the media reports on violence does affect aggression.” Likewise, to develop a “one-tailed” hypothesis, you may well state that, “the way the media reports on violence leads to an increase in aggression.” However, in all cases, it is important to ensure statements are short and to-the point. Additionally, you should keep the results that will be measured later on in your project in mind.


Hypothesis Testing

Dissertation experts say that both the null and research types of hypotheses should be tested against all possible outcomes so that only one is acceptable at the end of the process. This would mean rejecting the other. When all data is analyzed, you should be able to decide whether to accept the “alternative” hypothesis and reject (or not) the “null” hypothesis.

Finding Example Hypotheses

It is usual practice to test a number of different hypotheses in the course of completing a dissertation project. Much depends on the topic and discipline and the writer’s focus. One student, for instance, gave her dissertation the same title as her hypothesis, e.g., “Do Leadership Styles Differ at National, State, and Local Level among Those who Advocate on Behalf of Disabled People.” The independent variable in the student’s hypothesis concerned leadership and the dependent variable was those who advocate on behalf of disabled people. If you just look through a number of the dissertation titles published in any given year by a university or college, you should find plenty examples of different hypotheses and get ideas on ways to present these.

Get to know how it works