Does your study take an experimental approach to answer questions? Are you making a prediction about the phenomenon being studied? If your answer to these questions is ‘yes’, then you will need a hypothesis, but if it is ‘no’ then you will need a research question.
This is because a hypothesis is a statement that is tested by experiment(s) to confirm or deny the phenomenon
Turning now to a research question, if you are incorporating a research question rather than a hypothesis, then remember that some of the important features of a good question are that the question or problem should be:
about one issue;
clear and concise;
addresses an important, controversial and/or an unresolved issue; feasible to undertake within a specified timeframe;
Hypothesis (plural = hypotheses)
A hypothesis is not a question, but rather it is a statement about the relationship between two or more variables.
So, for example, the first question above could become a hypothesis by making this a statement rather than a question, namely:
The perceived needs of the patient and users of South Bedfordshire’s palliative care services are being met.
To be complete a hypothesis must include three components:
The relationship between the variables
As you can see, the hypothesis translates the research question into a prediction of expected outcomes.
A hypothesis is the tool of quantitative studies, and is only found in such studies. In fact, a hypothesis is usually only found in experimental quantitative research studies. You will be able to find out more about hypothesese when we look at them in more detail later in the session.
A research question is the question that the research project sets out to answer. In actual fact, a research study may set out to answer several questions. The methodology used for that study, and the tools used to conduct the research, all depend upon the research questions being asked.
For example, in the example of a qualitative research study, the following two research questions that underpin the study, and also needed to be answered by the study, are shown in the box below.
There are two research questions that will need to be answered by this phase of the research. These are:
· ‘Are the perceived needs of the patients and users of South Bedfordshire’s palliative care services bei ng met?’
· ‘If not, what needs to be done if these needs are to be met in the future?’ The first question can be answered by a quantitative study, whereas the second one may require a qualitative study to answer it.
Research questions can therefore be used in quantitative and qualitative research studies.