How to write a hypothesis in 5 steps (with examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 17 June 2022 | Published 3 January 2022

Updated 17 June 2022

Published 3 January 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A hypothesis is an essential research and real-life element that allows you to make a prediction about an observation. To form a hypothesis, you typically observe a certain event or pattern and draw a conclusion from your observations. Learning how to write a hypothesis can help you improve your research skills and gain knowledge that you can apply to real-life situations. In this article, we define a hypothesis, show you how to write a hypothesis in five steps and list key elements of an effective hypothesis.

What's a hypothesis?

A hypothesis is an educated guess that you can make using observations from an event or phenomena that you witnessed. One of the critical factors that defines a hypothesis is that it's a statement that you can test with scientific research. Typically, you'd include a hypothesis at the beginning of your research paper. Most scientists and researchers form a hypothesis before conducting experiments or collecting data.

In some cases, it may even make sense to form several hypotheses that address different aspects of the same research problem or question. Although forming a hypothesis happens before the practical part of research begins, it's important to remember that it's necessary for all hypotheses to reflect existing theories and knowledge. This means that a hypothesis isn't just a guess. You can support your hypothesis by using different research methods, including surveys, experiments or statistical analysis.

Related: A brief guide on how to become a research scientist

How to write a hypothesis

Knowing how to write a hypothesis is essential to pursuing a career as a research scientist. It's also useful in real-life situations, for example, when you want to decide which job to apply for. Even if you intend to conduct multiple research projects in different fields, the steps to forming a hypothesis are the same. Here are the key steps you can take:

1. Make an observation

The first step to forming a useful hypothesis that you can use to conduct research involves observing an event or a phenomenon. Spending some time making an observation allows you to notice certain patterns that may help you develop your research question. For example, if you notice that you find it harder to complete your workout when it's raining outside, you might predict that your body's performance improves as the humidity decreases.

2. Ask a question

After identifying and observing a certain pattern and the subject of your hypothesis, the next step you can take is developing a strong research question that can lead your research process. It's important that your question is specific enough so that the hypothesis you make can answer it. Formulating a detailed question also makes it easier for you to test it and obtain more accurate results. For example, you might ask why more people take breaks earlier in the day than later after noticing a trend at the office.

3. Conduct some initial research

After forming your research question, you may consider doing some preliminary research. Consider reviewing papers and studies that other researchers completed on the subject or related topics. This way, you can form educated assumptions about your own research and avoid making assumptions that earlier experiments have already disproved. During this step, you essentially make sure that the hypothesis you're about to develop is original.

Related: Research skills: definition and examples

4. Formulate your hypothesis

Once you know what you expect to find, you can proceed to the most important step in the process, which is formulating your hypothesis. To do this, take your research question and write an answer to that question. It's important that you answer using a clear and concise declarative sentence or an 'if/then' statement, for example:

  • Declarative statement: Higher air humidity leads to lower performance of the human body during exercise.

  • If/then statement: If the air humidity is high, then the human body underperforms during exercise.

5. Write a null hypothesis

The final step to forming a hypothesis is writing a null hypothesis. This step is essential if your research project involves statistical hypothesis testing because it's an additional prediction that says there's no relationship between the two variables that you want to test. Here's an example of a null hypothesis:

Humidity doesn't impact how the human body performs during exercise.

Key elements of a hypothesis

Although an effective hypothesis is usually one concise sentence, it's necessary that you include specific elements in it to make it complete. Here are the key elements to include in a hypothesis:

Prediction

Many scientists and researchers choose to form hypotheses using 'if/then' statements, but it's also acceptable to develop a hypothesis using a declarative statement. The form in which you write your hypothesis isn't important, as long as you make sure to include a prediction in it that you want to test. For example, 'Drinking coffee in the morning improves employee productivity'.

Variables

Writing a good hypothesis also involves clearly stating all variables that you want to consider in your testing. For example, the statement about coffee in the morning to improve productivity involves one independent variable, which is drinking, and one dependent variable, which is employee productivity after drinking coffee. By designing an experiment and finding the result of it, you can prove or disprove that they're related.

Related: 10 common types of variables in research and statistics

Subject group

The final element that forms a hypothesis is the subject group. A good hypothesis is one that states the subjects you want to test during your research project. In this case, your subject group is employees and you may consider asking employees from different companies to participate in your study. You could also create a more detailed hypothesis, for example:

  • If you want to study employees from a specific company: Drinking coffee in the morning improves the productivity of employees working at The Water Company.

  • If you want to study employees with the same work schedule: Drinking coffee in the morning improves the productivity of full-time employees who work a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job.

Example types of hypotheses

Reviewing examples of hypotheses can help you better understand how to form your own. Here are some example hypotheses in different formats:

If/then statement

An 'if/then' statement claims that one event occurs as a result of something else that happens before it. Here are some hypotheses using this format:

  • If I read from a book once per day, then my reading speed for documents at work will increase.

  • If a company offers flexible work hours, then their employees are happier at work.

  • If employees like their bosses, then they work harder.

Simple statement

A simple statement hypothesis states that your prediction is true and the result of an experiment either confirms or denies the statement. Here are some simple statement hypotheses:

  • A less expensive briefcase falls apart faster than a more expensive briefcase.

  • Bringing vegetables to work every day for lunch causes weight loss.

  • Drinking four cups of coffee at work every day increases blood pressure.

Null hypothesis

A null hypothesis claims that the original hypothesis is false by showing no relationship between the variables. Here are some examples of null hypotheses:

  • Employees don't have a preference for office temperature.

  • Physical activity during the workday doesn't impact productivity.

  • It doesn't matter whether employees sit in office chairs or folding chairs.

Additional tips for improving your research skills

Knowing how to form clear and concise hypotheses is just one of many factors that you can focus on while developing strong research skills and pursuing a career as a research scientist. Consider these additional tips to accomplish your career goals:

  • Question your findings: It can be useful to start broad and narrow your research to focus on the specifics of your field or the hypothesis you're testing. Questioning your findings may help you develop a wider viewpoint and find case studies that are the most relevant to what you're testing.

  • Choose quality sources: Knowing how to tell if a source is of high quality is essential to making sure you get accurate and reliable results from your research projects. For instance, while assessing your sources, use your analytical and critical thinking skills to determine if the author is an expert in their field.

  • Verify information: While looking for additional sources for your research, it's important that you make sure the information is the same across several sources. Doing this can help you test those sources for accuracy.

  • Stay open-minded: Even if you're certain that you can prove your hypothesis, it's important that you stay open-minded throughout the entire research process. Occasionally, the results of your tests may surprise you and it's important that you know how to react to them.

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