Research hypothesis: a presumed answer to a research question

Generally, a research hypothesis can be defined as an assumption/prediction about the potential answer to an earlier formulated research question. However, these responses are speculative and must be checked by empirical evidence before they can be confirmed (verified) or rejected (falsified). Hypotheses and research questions are thus closely related.

If you want to formulate a hypothesis properly, it is necessary first to define the research problem of the study, and then to formulate a research question or questions. Your assumptions should unequivocally relate to the research problem. It is recommended that a hypothesis should be assigned to a particular research question. In other words, while research questions determine what we are trying to find out, a hypothesis is the predicted answer to those questions. Therefore, it is extremely important to formulate the question clearly and precisely, and then also speculate about the answer. As you can see below, it is usually relatively easy to move back from a hypothesis to a research question.

  1. Research hypothesis: Ability to take parental leave and its duration increases the risk of unemployment.
    Research question: Does the ability to take parental leave and its duration increase the risk of unemployment after the leave is over?
  2. Research hypothesis: With the growing role of China in global production networks, the competitive position of Central and Eastern European countries is declining.
    Research question: How does the growing role of China in global production networks affect the competitive position of Central and Eastern European countries?

Why should you consider developing research hypotheses? Hypotheses can be useful because they are often much more precise than research questions. While you can try to ask questions without prior knowledge of the topic, in the case of a hypothesis, it is often necessary to have at least a minimum knowledge of the problem. Hypotheses tend to provide more clues than research questions both in terms of the type of data to be collected in the study and the way in which the data should be analyzed.

As a rule, creating hypotheses is part of the research process. Some researchers, however, believe that if one does not have enough knowledge about a topic, it is better to skip formulating a hypothesis at the beginning of the study and wait for results. This approach is based on the inductive reasoning which, unlike deduction, presents hypotheses after research.

Review Questions

Our course “Designing research questions” is coming to an end. Try to answer the questions below and check if you have mastered the topic.

  1. What steps precede the stage of designing a research question(s)?
  2. What are the characteristics of strong research questions?
  3. What does it mean that research question should have limits?
  4. What are research hypotheses?


Your course is completed. Now it is time for a really quick revision:

  • Developing a strong research question is the foundation of a successful research project.
  • Strong research question is focused, specific, feasible and relevant. It seeks to improve knowledge on a topic.
  • A research hypothesis is a statement of expectation or prediction that will be tested by research.