Aims and Hypotheses

There is no research without a proper aim and hypotheses aims and hypotheses in research are the supporting frameworks on a path to new scientific discoveries. To better understand their importance, let us first analyse the difference between aims and hypotheses in psychology, examine their purpose, and give some examples.

Aims and Hypotheses Aims and Hypotheses

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Table of contents
    • First, we will define the aims and hypotheses and learn the difference between aims and hypotheses in psychology.

    • Then, we will look at different types of hypotheses.

    • Next, we will look at the function of aims and hypotheses in research and psychology.

    • Later, we will look at specific aims and hypotheses in research examples.

    • Finally, we will discuss the need and how explicit research aims objectives and hypotheses are implemented.

    Difference Between Aims and Hypotheses: Psychology

    When you write a research report, you should state the aim first and then the hypothesis.

    The aim is a summary of the goal or purpose of the research.

    The aim is a broad starting point that gets narrowed down into the hypothesis.

    The hypothesis is a predictive, testable statement about what the researcher expects to find in the study.

    Types of Hypotheses

    Before we get into the types of hypotheses, let's quickly recap the hypotheses' components.

    The independent variable (IV) is the factor that the researcher manipulates/ changes (this can be naturally occurring in some instances) and is theorised to be the cause of a phenomenon.

    And the dependent variable (DV) is the factor that the researcher measures because they believe that the changes in the IV will affect the DV.

    There are two types of hypotheses: null and alternative hypotheses.

    A null hypothesis states that the independent variable does not influence the dependent variable. The null hypothesis states that changes/ manipulating the IV will not affect the DV.

    Research scenario: Investigation of how test results affect sleep.

    An example of a null hypothesis is there is no difference in recorded sleep time (dependent variable) between students who received good and poor grades (independent variable).

    An alternative hypothesis states that the independent variable has an effect on the dependent variable. Often, it is the same (or very similar) to your research hypothesis.

    Research scenario: Investigating how sleep deprivation affects performance on cognitive tests.

    An alternative hypothesis may be that the less sleep students get (independent variable), the worse their performance will be on cognitive tests (dependent variable). Not sleep-deprived students will perform better on the Mini-Mental Status Examination test than sleep-deprived students.

    Photograph of a bed in a bedroom. StudySmarterFig. 1. Would you score well on exams when you did not sleep long enough?

    The alternative hypothesis can be further sub-categorised into a one- or two-tailed hypothesis. A one-tailed hypothesis (also known as a directional hypothesis) suggests that the results can go one way, e.g. it may increase or decrease. And a two-tailed (also known as a non-directional hypothesis) is exactly the opposite; there are two ways the results could expectedly go.

    An example of a two-tailed hypothesis is if you flip a coin, you could predict that it will land on either heads or tails.

    Aims and Hypothesis in Research

    In research, aims and hypotheses play major roles. They are the part of the research that sets you up for the rest of the study. Without strong research aims and hypotheses, your research will lack direction.

    First, let's go over the function of research aims.

    Research aims provide an overview of the research objective; this allows all researchers to be on the same page about the purpose of the research. Aims also describe why the research is needed and how it complements existing research in the field.

    Duplicating research can sometimes be useful, but most times, researchers want to conduct their own new research.

    Outside of the researchers, readers can then identify the research topic and whether it interests them.

    The research aimed to examine the effects of sleep deprivation on test performance.

    But what information do hypotheses provide?

    Hypotheses identify the variables studied in an experiment. They describe expected results in terms of the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable. When readers see the hypothesis, they should know exactly what the researcher expected in the study's outcome (remember, sometimes the researcher can be wrong).

    The hypothesis was that the less sleep a student gets (independent variable), the worse grades a student will achieve (dependent variable).

    Typically, researchers use hypotheses for statistical tests such as hypothesis testing, which allows them to determine if the original predictions are correct. Hypotheses are helpful because the reader can quickly identify the variables, the expected results based on previous research, and how the experiment should measure these variables.

    Hypotheses usually influence the research design and analysis used in conducting the research.

    Psychological research must meet a standard for the psychological research community to accept it.

    Components of Hypotheses

    When writing research hypotheses, there are several essential things to consider, including:

    • The hypotheses must be clear and concise;

      • it must be easy to understand and not contain irrelevant details.

    • The researcher must predict what they expect to find based on reading previous research findings.

    • The researcher must explain how they arrived at their predictions, citing evidence from prior research.

    • The researcher must identify all variables they will study.

    One study examined how sleep deprivation affects performance on cognitive tests. The hypothesis was to identify sleeping time as the independent variable and cognitive test scores as the dependent variable.

    Additionally, the research must operationalise the hypotheses and describe how the variables will be measured.

    When assessing cognitive abilities, the researcher should indicate how they will assess the cognitive skills. They could do so with a cognitive test, such as the Mini-Mental Status Examination scores.

    Example Hypothesis

    A hypothesis denotes a relationship between two variables, the independent and dependent variables. An example hypothesis is the more you sleep, the less tired you will feel.

    Aims and Hypotheses: Psychology

    Now that we understand the difference between aims and hypotheses, let's take a closer look at their function.

    In psychology, aims and hypotheses function very similarly to other research fields. They set up the purpose of a study so that the researchers and readers understand its goals.

    The aims establish the reasoning behind the study and why that specific topic is being researched. And the hypotheses share the researchers' expectations. It outlines what the researchers expect when the IV is manipulated.

    Studies with well-defined aims and hypotheses allow the research to be more accessible. This means that a professional psychologist, a psychology student, or even someone who is simply curious about the topic can all read the research and understand its purpose.

    Aims and Hypotheses in Research Example

    As we have learned, aims and hypotheses are crucial in setting up successful research. They exist within every study and help outline the goals and outcomes the researchers expect. To further understand the aims and hypotheses in psychological research, let's look at a famous study – Asch's line experiment.

    Solomon Asch conducted a study in 1951 about conformity. This study has become renowned for exposing the strong effects of conformity in a group setting. Asch put one participant in a room with seven strangers, people he said were other participants but were, in fact, confederates.

    Confederates are hired actors who are told what to do in the experiment by the researcher.

    The participants were tasked with trying to match one line to three other lines. Initially, the confederates would answer correctly, but as the trials continued, they all answered incorrectly. Would the participant still give the correct answer, or would they be swayed by conformity and be wrong?

    Asch found that 74% of participants conformed at least once, even though they were obviously giving the wrong answer.

    Photograph of a university lecture room. StudySmarterFig. 2. Would you be influenced to conform during a lecture?

    In this experiment, the aim was to look at the effects of conformity. More specifically, Asch aimed to see how impactful groups' pressures are on an individual's conformity. Asch hypothesised that participants would conform to the group when the confederates answered incorrectly due to social pressure.

    Since we know the study's outcome, we know that Asch stayed true to his aims and provided supporting evidence for his hypothesis.

    Explicit Research Aims, Objectives, and Hypotheses

    An explicit research necessity across all disciplines is the operalisation of variables. When talking about operationalising a variable or hypothesis, it means that the term is defined so clearly and succinctly that there is no confusion or any grey area concerning what it means.

    When operationally defining variables, researchers need to not only define what the variable is but also how they will measure it. Operationally defined hypotheses not only include detailed descriptions of variables and the outcome but also the relationship between the variables.

    Remember, when studies and their results are replicated, they increase in reliability. Researchers operationally defining variables and hypotheses help future researchers replicate their study without confusion. If you do not operationally define key terms of your research and no one can replicate it, is there even a purpose to doing the research at all?

    While operationally defining variables and hypotheses might seem like a simple task, it is extremely important for a successful outcome.

    Aims and Hypotheses - Key takeaways

    • The aim is a summary of the goal or purpose of the research.
    • For the scientific psychological community to accept the aim, the objective must explain why the research is needed and how it will expand our current knowledge.
    • The hypothesis is a predictive, testable statement about what the researcher expects to find in the study.
    • The two types of hypotheses are null hypothesis and alternative hypothesis.
    • For the scientific community of psychologists to accept a hypothesis, it must identify all variables, which researchers must operationalise.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Aims and Hypotheses

    How to write aims and hypotheses?

    When writing aims, researchers should summarise the research goal and purpose in a straightforward statement. Moreover, researchers must ensure that it is a predictive and testable statement when writing a hypothesis. This process should summarise the expected results of the study. 

    What comes first, hypothesis or aims?

    Researchers should write the aims first and then the hypothesis when writing research. 

    What are the three types of hypotheses?

    The three types of hypotheses are:

    • Null hypothesis.
    • Alternative hypothesis.
    • Directional alternative hypothesis (one-tailed) or non-directional (two-tailed).

    What is an aim in psychology?

    An aim in psychology is a summary statement of the research's goal or purpose.

    How are hypotheses different from aims and objectives?

    Hypotheses differ from aims and objectives because aims are a general statement of the research's goals and purposes. In contrast, hypotheses explain precisely the predicted findings in terms of the independent and dependent variables. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What type of hypothesis is the following statement: ‘There will be a difference between Mini-Mental Status Examination scores in students who were and were not sleep-deprived?  

    What type of hypothesis is the following statement: ‘There will be no difference in time recorded sleeping between students who received good and poor grades in their school report’?

    What type of hypothesis is this statement ‘Students who were not sleep-deprived will have higher scores in the Mini-Mental Status Examination test than sleep-deprived students?

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