ROLE OF HYPOTHESIS IN SOCIAL RESEARCH

 

Practice  Questions – Write short note on Importance and Sources of Hypothesis in Sociological Research. [ UPSC 2008]

Approach – Introduction, What makes Hypothesis relevant in a sociological research?, What are the sources which aids us to derive hypothesis?, Conclusion

 

INTRODUCTION

A hypothesis is a prediction of what will be found at the outcome of a research project and is typically focused on the relationship between two different variables studied in the research. It is usually based on both theoretical expectations about how things work and already existing scientific evidence.

We know that research begins with a problem or a felt need or difficulty. The purpose of research is to find a solution to the difficulty. It is desirable that the researcher should propose a set of suggested solutions or explanations of the  difficulty which the research proposes to solve. Such tentative solutions formulated as a proposition are called hypotheses. The suggested solutions formulated as hypotheses may or may not be the real solutions to the problem. Whether they are or not is the task of research to test and establish.

 

DEFINTITIONS

  • Lundberg- A Hypothesis is a tentative generalisation, the validity of which remains to be tested. In its most elementary stages, the hypothesis may be any hunch, guess imaginative idea or Intuition whatsoever which becomes the basis of action or Investigation.
  • Bogardus- A Hypothesis is a proposition to be tested.
  • Goode and Hatt- It is a proposition which can be put to test to determinants validity.
  • P. V. Yaung- The idea of ​a temporary but central importance that becomes the basis of useful research is called a working hypothesis.

 

TYPES OF HYPOTHESIS

i) Explanatory Hypothesis: The purpose of this hypothesis is to explain a certain fact. All hypotheses are in a way explanatory for a hypothesis is advanced only when we try to explain the observed fact. A large number of hypotheses are advanced to explain the individual facts in life. A theft, a murder, an accident are examples.

ii) Descriptive Hypothesis: Some times a researcher comes across a complex phenomenon. He/ she does not understand the relations among the observed facts. But how to account for these facts? The answer is a descriptive hypothesis. A hypothesis is descriptive when it is based upon the points of resemblance of some thing. It describes the cause and effect relationship of a phenomenon e.g., the current unemployment rate of a state exceeds 25% of the work force. Similarly, the consumers of local made products constitute asignificant market segment.

iii) Analogical Hypothesis: When we formulate a hypothesis on the basis of similarities (analogy), it is called an analogical hypothesis e.g., families with higher earnings invest more surplus income on long term investments.

iv) Working hypothesis: Some times certain facts cannot be explained adequately by existing hypotheses, and no new hypothesis comes up. Thus, the investigation is held up. In this situation, a researcher formulates a hypothesis which enables to continue investigation. Such a hypothesis, though inadequate and formulated for the purpose of further investigation only, is called a working hypothesis. It is simply accepted as a starting point in the process of investigation.

v) Null Hypothesis: It is an important concept that is used widely in the sampling theory. It forms the basis of many tests of significance. Under this type, the hypothesis is stated negatively. It is null because it may be nullified, if the evidence of a random sample is unfavourable to the hypothesis. It is a hypothesis being tested (H0). If the calculated value of the test is less than the permissible value, Null hypothesis is accepted, otherwise it is rejected. The rejection of a null hypothesis implies that the difference could not have arisen due to chance or sampling fluctuations.

 

USES OF HYPOTHESIS

i) It is a starting point for many a research work.
ii) It helps in deciding the direction in which to proceed.
iii) It helps in selecting and collecting pertinent facts.
iv) It is an aid to explanation.
v) It helps in drawing specific conclusions.
vi) It helps in testing theories.
vii) It works as a basis for future knowledge.

 

ROLE  OF HYPOTHESIS

In any scientific investigation, the role of hypothesis is indispensable as it always guides and gives direction to scientific research. Research remains unfocused without a hypothesis. Without it, the scientist is not in position to decide as to what to observe and how to observe. He may at best beat around the bush. In the words of Northrop, “The function of hypothesis is to direct our search for order among facts, the suggestions formulated in any hypothesis may be solution to the problem, whether they are, is the task of the enquiry”.

First, it is an operating tool of theory. It can be deduced from other hypotheses and theories. If it is correctly drawn and scientifically formulated, it enables the researcher to proceed on correct line of study. Due to this progress, the investigator becomes capable of drawing proper conclusions. In the words of Goode and Hatt, “without hypothesis the research is unfocussed, a random empirical wandering. The results cannot be studied as facts with clear meaning. Hypothesis is a necessary link between theory and investigation which leads to discovery and addition to knowledge.

Secondly, the hypothesis acts as a pointer to enquiry. Scientific research has to proceed in certain definite lines and through hypothesis the researcher becomes capable of knowing specifically what he has to find out by determining the direction provided by the hypothesis. Hypotheses acts like a pole star or a compass to a sailor with the help of which he is able to head in the proper direction.

Thirdly, the hypothesis enables us to select relevant and pertinent facts and makes our task easier. Once, the direction and points are identified, the researcher is in a position to eliminate the irrelevant facts and concentrate only on the relevant facts. Highlighting the role of hypothesis in providing pertinent facts, P.V. Young has stated, “The use of hypothesis prevents a blind research and indiscriminate gathering of masses of data which may later prove irrelevant to the problem under study”. For example, if the researcher is interested in examining the relationship between broken home and juvenile delinquency, he can easily proceed in the proper direction and collect pertinent information succeeded only when he has succeed in formulating a useful hypothesis.

Fourthly, the hypothesis provides guidance by way of providing the direction, pointing to enquiry, enabling to select pertinent facts and helping to draw specific conclusions. It saves the researcher from the botheration of ‘trial and error’ which causes loss of money, energy and time.

Finally, the hypothesis plays a significant role in facilitating advancement of knowledge beyond one’s value and opinions. In real terms, the science is incomplete without hypotheses.

 

STAGES OF HYPOTHESIS TESTING

  • EXPERIMENTATION : Research study focuses its study which is manageable and approachable to it and where it can test its hypothesis. The study gradually becomes more focused on its variables and influences on variables so that hypothesis may be tested. In this process, hypothesis can be disproved.
  • REHEARSAL TESTING : The researcher should conduct a pre testing or rehearsal before going for field work or data collection.
  • FIELD RESEARCH : To test and investigate hypothesis, field work with predetermined research methodology tools is conducted in which interviews, observations with stakeholders, questionnaires, surveys etc are used to follow. The documentation study may also happens at this stage.
  • PRIMARY & SECONDARY DATA/INFORMATION ANALYSIS : The primary or secondary data and information’s available prior to hypothesis testing may be used to ascertain validity of hypothesis itself.

 

CONCLUSION

Formulating a hypothesis can take place at the very beginning of a research project, or after a bit of research has already been done. Sometimes a researcher knows right from the start which variables she is interested in studying, and she may already have a hunch about their relationships. Other times, a researcher may have an interest in ​a particular topic, trend, or phenomenon, but he may not know enough about it to identify variables or formulate a hypothesis. Whenever a hypothesis is formulated, the most important thing is to be precise about what one’s variables are, what the nature of the relationship between them might be, and how one can go about conducting a study of them.

 

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