The research literature disagrees about the meaning of the terms proposition and hypothesis. We define a proposition as a statement about concepts that may be judged as true or false if it refers to observable phenomena. When a proposition is formulated for empirical testing, we call it a hypothesis. For our purpose, we shall define a hypothesis as a tentative explanation for certain
behaviour (phenomena) which have occurred or will occur. An hypothesis states the research expectations concerning the relationships between the variables in the research problem. It is the most specific statement of the problem and it states what the researcher thinks would be the outcome of the research to be undertaken.
Hypotheses are derived from or are based on existing theories, previous research, personal observations or experiences. Each hypothesis will usually express a predicted relationship between two or more variables or concepts. It is important to note that while hypothesis are central to empirical research, not all researches must have hypothesis. Were hypothesis are omitted the study should have a clear statement of research questions, assumptions or objectives. Hypotheses have to be tested, but assumptions do not have to be tested. Testing hypothesis does not prove or disprove the hypothesis. Data is collected and analyzed determine whether the hypothesized relationship exist. If the results fail to support a stated hypothesis, it does not mean that the study has failed. Such a situation implies that existing theories or principles need to be revised or retested under various situations.
Types of Hypothesis
1. Null Hypothesis
It is a statement that no relationship or difference exists between the parameter and the statistic being compared to it. Analysts usually test to determine whether there has been no change in the population of interest or whether a real difference exists. Any relationship in this case or difference between the two is merely due to chances or some error. The null hypothesis is usually denoted as (Ho ;).
• There is no relationship between vacation benefits and employees job satisfaction.
• There is no significant difference in performance between learners who participate in class discussion and those who do not.
2. Alternative Direction Hypothesis
It is a statement that states that a relationship or difference exists between the stipulated variable and goes further to specify the nature of the relationship or difference between variables. This means that the relationship may be stated as being greater than, less than, increased, decreased, higher than, lower than etc. Alternative hypothesis are denoted as (H1 ;). Example: The higher the vacation benefits, the higher the job satisfaction among employees.
3. Alternative non-directional hypothesis
This type of hypothesis state that there is a relationship or difference between the stipulated variables but the researcher does not know the nature of such a relationship or difference. These types of hypothesis do indicate a relationship or difference but do not indicate the direction of these relationships. From these hypotheses, it is not possible to say whether the relationship is positive or negative.
Example: There is a relationship between vacation benefits and employees job satisfaction.
Good hypothesis should have the following characteristics
• They must state clearly and briefly the expected relationships between variables.
• They must have both the independent and dependent variables.
• They must be based on a sound rationale derived from theory or from previous research or professional experience.
• They must be consistent with generally accepted traits or common sense.
• They must be testable. A hypothesis is not testable if it calls for techniques that are not available with the present state of the art. A hypothesis is also untestable if it calls for an explanation that defies known physical or psychological laws.
• They should be testable within a reasonable period.
• Variables tested in the hypothesis must be consistent with the purpose, statement and objective of the study.
• Good hypothesis must be simple and as precise as possible.
Purposes of having a hypothesis in research (functions)
• Hypothesis provides direction; they bridge the gap between the problem and evidence needed for its solution.
• Hypotheses ensure collection of the evidence necessary to answer the question posed in the statement of the problem.
• Hypothesis permit the researcher to understand the problem with greater clarity and use the data collected to find solutions to the problem.
• Hypothesis form the framework for the ultimate conclusions of a study, researchers always bases their conclusions on the results of tests of their hypothesis.
• Hypothesis enables the investigation to assess the information collected from the stand point of both relevance and organization.
Therefore, the most important role of hypothesis is to guide the direction of the study. A frequent problem in research is the proliferation of interesting information. Unless the researcher curbs the urge to include additional element, a study can be diluted by trivial concerns that do not answer the basic questions posed. The virtue of the hypothesis is that, if taken seriously, it limits what shall be studied and what shall not. It identifies facts that are relevant and those that are not; in so doing, it suggests which form of research design is likely to be more appropriate. A final role of the hypothesis is to provide a framework for organizing the conclusions that result.
A person not familiar with research uses the term theory to express the opposite of fact. In this sense, theory is viewed as being speculative. One hears that Doctor A is too theoretical, that managers need to be practical, or that some idea will not work because it is too theoretical. This is an incorrect picture of the relationship between fact and theory. When you are too theoretical, your basis of explanation or decision is not sufficiently attuned to specific empirical conditions. This may be so, but it does not prove that theory and fact are opposites. The truth is that fact and theory are each necessary for each other to be of value. Our ability to make rational decisions, as well as to develop scientific knowledge, is measured by the degree to which we combine fact and theory. We all operate on the basis of theories we hold. In one sense, theories are the generalizations we make about variables and the relationships among them. We use these generalizations to make decisions and predict outcomes.
Consider a situation where you are called on to interview two persons for possible promotion to the position of department manager. Do you have a theory about what characteristics such a person should have? Suppose you interview Ms A and observe that she answers your questions well, openly, and apparently sincerely. She also expresses thoughtful ideas about how to improve departmental functioning and is articulate in stating her views. Ms B, on the other hand, is guarded in her comments and reluctant to advance ideas for improvement. She answers questions by saying what ‘Mr. General Manager wants’. She is also less articulate and seems
less sincere to Ms A. You would probably choose A, based on the way you combine the concepts, definitions, and hypothesis mentioned into a theory of managerial effectiveness. It may not be a good theory because of the variable we have ignored, but it illustrates that we all use theory to guide our decisions, predictions, and explanations.
A theory is set of systematically interrelated concepts, definitions, and propositions that are advanced to explain and predict phenomena (facts). In this sense, we have many theories and use them continually to explain or predict what goes on around us. To the degree that our theories are sound, and fit the situation, we are successful in our explanations and predictions. Thus, while a given theory and a set of facts may not fit, they are not opposites. Our challenge is to build a better theory and to be more skillful in fitting theory and fact together.
Theory and Research
It is important for researchers to recognize the pervasiveness and value of theory. Theory serves us in many useful ways:
- First, as orientation, it narrows the range of facts we need to study. Any problem may be studied in a number of different ways, and theory suggests which ways are likely to yield the greatest meaning.
- Theory may also suggest a system for the researcher to impose on data in order to classify them in the most meaningful way.
- Theory also summarizes what is known about an object of study and states the uniformities that lie beyond the immediate observation; when it does so, theory can also be used to predict further facts that should be found.