Q: What is the interconnectivity between research objectives and hypothesis?

1 Answer to this question

A piece of research can have many objectives. Market research, for example, is about finding out how different people or one more defined classes of people respond to a particular product. Many simple field experiments in agriculture seek to determine the optimum dose of fertilizers for a given crop grown in a given season. Many current research projects are about finding out how effective vaccination is against COVID-19. In these examples, a hypothesis is assumed: that at least some people will like the product; that fertilizers typically lead to higher yields; and that vaccination can control the recurrence of a disease.

However, these and many other experiments can be traced back to those that tested specific hypotheses. Put simply, a hypothesis is a hunch and is based on observation and reasoning. Sir Alexander Fleming noticed that all the bacteria growing around the spot where a fungus was also growing had been killed whereas those growing around other fungi were alive. From this observation, Dr Fleming reasoned that the fungus in question must be producing a substance that is killing the bacteria—he had a hypothesis. However, at that stage, it was only a hunch, a theory. So, he set up a series of experiments to test whether the hypothesis was true.

That is the connection between a hypothesis and research objectives: a hypothesis is predictive – if the reasoning is correct, X will lead to Y – and research objectives are set up to test those predictions. To give another celebrated example, Louis Pasteur observed that food lasts longer at higher altitudes, reasoned that it could be because the air at higher altitudes is cleaner (with fewer or no germs), and set out to test the hypothesis by exposing food to air cleaned in the laboratory.

To sum up, research objectives, which are specific and concrete, are dictated by the hypotheses, which are theories and expressed in more general and broader terms: the same hypothesis can be tested in many different ways, and the research objectives will be different in each case.

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