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How to Write a Hypothesis – Steps & Tips

Published by Alaxendra Bets at August 14th, 2021 , Revised On October 26, 2023

What is a Research Hypothesis?

You can test a research statement with the help of experimental or theoretical research, known as a hypothesis.

If you want to find out the similarities, differences, and relationships between variables, you must write a testable hypothesis before compiling the data, performing analysis, and generating results to complete.

The data analysis and findings will help you test the hypothesis and see whether it is true or false. Here is all you need to know about how to write a hypothesis for a  dissertation .

Research Hypothesis Definition

Not sure what the meaning of the research hypothesis is?

A research hypothesis predicts an answer to the research question  based on existing theoretical knowledge or experimental data.

Some studies may have multiple hypothesis statements depending on the research question(s).  A research hypothesis must be based on formulas, facts, and theories. It should be testable by data analysis, observations, experiments, or other scientific methodologies that can refute or support the statement.

Variables in Hypothesis

Developing a hypothesis is easy. Most research studies have two or more variables in the hypothesis, particularly studies involving correlational and experimental research. The researcher can control or change the independent variable(s) while measuring and observing the independent variable(s).

“How long a student sleeps affects test scores.”

In the above statement, the dependent variable is the test score, while the independent variable is the length of time spent in sleep. Developing a hypothesis will be easy if you know your research’s dependent and independent variables.

Once you have developed a thesis statement, questions such as how to write a hypothesis for the dissertation and how to test a research hypothesis become pretty straightforward.

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Step-by-Step Guide on How to Write a Hypothesis

Here are the steps involved in how to write a hypothesis for a dissertation.

Step 1: Start with a Research Question

  • Begin by asking a specific question about a topic of interest.
  • This question should be clear, concise, and researchable.

Example: Does exposure to sunlight affect plant growth?

Step 2: Do Preliminary Research

  • Before formulating a hypothesis, conduct background research to understand existing knowledge on the topic.
  • Familiarise yourself with prior studies, theories, or observations related to the research question.

Step 3: Define Variables

  • Independent Variable (IV): The factor that you change or manipulate in an experiment.
  • Dependent Variable (DV): The factor that you measure.

Example: IV: Amount of sunlight exposure (e.g., 2 hours/day, 4 hours/day, 8 hours/day) DV: Plant growth (e.g., height in centimetres)

Step 4: Formulate the Hypothesis

  • A hypothesis is a statement that predicts the relationship between variables.
  • It is often written as an “if-then” statement.

Example: If plants receive more sunlight, then they will grow taller.

Step 5: Ensure it is Testable

A good hypothesis is empirically testable. This means you should be able to design an experiment or observation to test its validity.

Example: You can set up an experiment where plants are exposed to varying amounts of sunlight and then measure their growth over a period of time.

Step 6: Consider Potential Confounding Variables

  • Confounding variables are factors other than the independent variable that might affect the outcome.
  • It is important to identify these to ensure that they do not skew your results.

Example: Soil quality, water frequency, or type of plant can all affect growth. Consider keeping these constant in your experiment.

Step 7: Write the Null Hypothesis

  • The null hypothesis is a statement that there is no effect or no relationship between the variables.
  • It is what you aim to disprove or reject through your research.

Example: There is no difference in plant growth regardless of the amount of sunlight exposure.

Step 8: Test your Hypothesis

Design an experiment or conduct observations to test your hypothesis.

Example: Grow three sets of plants: one set exposed to 2 hours of sunlight daily, another exposed to 4 hours, and a third exposed to 8 hours. Measure and compare their growth after a set period.

Step 9: Analyse the Results

After testing, review your data to determine if it supports your hypothesis.

Step 10: Draw Conclusions

  • Based on your findings, determine whether you can accept or reject the hypothesis.
  • Remember, even if you reject your hypothesis, it’s a valuable result. It can guide future research and refine questions.

Three Ways to Phrase a Hypothesis

Try to use “if”… and “then”… to identify the variables. The independent variable should be present in the first part of the hypothesis, while the dependent variable will form the second part of the statement. Consider understanding the below research hypothesis example to create a specific, clear, and concise research hypothesis;

If an obese lady starts attending Zomba fitness classes, her health will improve.

In academic research, you can write the predicted variable relationship directly because most research studies correlate terms.

The number of Zomba fitness classes attended by the obese lady has a positive effect on health.

If your research compares two groups, then you can develop a hypothesis statement on their differences.

An obese lady who attended most Zumba fitness classes will have better health than those who attended a few.

How to Write a Null Hypothesis

If a statistical analysis is involved in your research, then you must create a null hypothesis. If you find any relationship between the variables, then the null hypothesis will be the default position that there is no relationship between them. H0 is the symbol for the null hypothesis, while the hypothesis is represented as H1. The null hypothesis will also answer your question, “How to test the research hypothesis in the dissertation.”

H0: The number of Zumba fitness classes attended by the obese lady does not affect her health.

H1: The number of Zumba fitness classes attended by obese lady positively affects health.

Also see:  Your Dissertation in Education

Hypothesis Examples

Research Question: Does the amount of sunlight a plant receives affect its growth? Hypothesis: Plants that receive more sunlight will grow taller than plants that receive less sunlight.

Research Question: Do students who eat breakfast perform better in school exams than those who don’t? Hypothesis: Students who eat a morning breakfast will score higher on school exams compared to students who skip breakfast.

Research Question: Does listening to music while studying impact a student’s ability to retain information? Hypothesis 1 (Directional): Students who listen to music while studying will retain less information than those who study in silence. Hypothesis 2 (Non-directional): There will be a difference in information retention between students who listen to music while studying and those who study in silence.

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If you are unsure about how to rest a research hypothesis in a dissertation or simply unsure about how to develop a hypothesis for your research, then you can take advantage of our dissertation services which cover every tiny aspect of a dissertation project you might need help with including but not limited to setting up a hypothesis and research questions,  help with individual chapters ,  full dissertation writing ,  statistical analysis , and much more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 5 rules for writing a good hypothesis.

  • Clear Statement: State a clear relationship between variables.
  • Testable: Ensure it can be investigated and measured.
  • Specific: Avoid vague terms, be precise in predictions.
  • Falsifiable: Design to allow potential disproof.
  • Relevant: Address research question and align with existing knowledge.

What is a hypothesis in simple words?

A hypothesis is an educated guess or prediction about something that can be tested. It is a statement that suggests a possible explanation for an event or phenomenon based on prior knowledge or observation. Scientists use hypotheses as a starting point for experiments to discover if they are true or false.

What is the hypothesis and examples?

A hypothesis is a testable prediction or explanation for an observation or phenomenon. For example, if plants are given sunlight, then they will grow. In this case, the hypothesis suggests that sunlight has a positive effect on plant growth. It can be tested by experimenting with plants in varying light conditions.

What is the hypothesis in research definition?

A hypothesis in research is a clear, testable statement predicting the possible outcome of a study based on prior knowledge and observation. It serves as the foundation for conducting experiments or investigations. Researchers test the validity of the hypothesis to draw conclusions and advance knowledge in a particular field.

Why is it called a hypothesis?

The term “hypothesis” originates from the Greek word “hypothesis,” which means “base” or “foundation.” It’s used to describe a foundational statement or proposition that can be tested. In scientific contexts, it denotes a tentative explanation for a phenomenon, serving as a starting point for investigation or experimentation.

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What is and How to Write a Good Hypothesis in Research?

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Table of Contents

One of the most important aspects of conducting research is constructing a strong hypothesis. But what makes a hypothesis in research effective? In this article, we’ll look at the difference between a hypothesis and a research question, as well as the elements of a good hypothesis in research. We’ll also include some examples of effective hypotheses, and what pitfalls to avoid.

What is a Hypothesis in Research?

Simply put, a hypothesis is a research question that also includes the predicted or expected result of the research. Without a hypothesis, there can be no basis for a scientific or research experiment. As such, it is critical that you carefully construct your hypothesis by being deliberate and thorough, even before you set pen to paper. Unless your hypothesis is clearly and carefully constructed, any flaw can have an adverse, and even grave, effect on the quality of your experiment and its subsequent results.

Research Question vs Hypothesis

It’s easy to confuse research questions with hypotheses, and vice versa. While they’re both critical to the Scientific Method, they have very specific differences. Primarily, a research question, just like a hypothesis, is focused and concise. But a hypothesis includes a prediction based on the proposed research, and is designed to forecast the relationship of and between two (or more) variables. Research questions are open-ended, and invite debate and discussion, while hypotheses are closed, e.g. “The relationship between A and B will be C.”

A hypothesis is generally used if your research topic is fairly well established, and you are relatively certain about the relationship between the variables that will be presented in your research. Since a hypothesis is ideally suited for experimental studies, it will, by its very existence, affect the design of your experiment. The research question is typically used for new topics that have not yet been researched extensively. Here, the relationship between different variables is less known. There is no prediction made, but there may be variables explored. The research question can be casual in nature, simply trying to understand if a relationship even exists, descriptive or comparative.

How to Write Hypothesis in Research

Writing an effective hypothesis starts before you even begin to type. Like any task, preparation is key, so you start first by conducting research yourself, and reading all you can about the topic that you plan to research. From there, you’ll gain the knowledge you need to understand where your focus within the topic will lie.

Remember that a hypothesis is a prediction of the relationship that exists between two or more variables. Your job is to write a hypothesis, and design the research, to “prove” whether or not your prediction is correct. A common pitfall is to use judgments that are subjective and inappropriate for the construction of a hypothesis. It’s important to keep the focus and language of your hypothesis objective.

An effective hypothesis in research is clearly and concisely written, and any terms or definitions clarified and defined. Specific language must also be used to avoid any generalities or assumptions.

Use the following points as a checklist to evaluate the effectiveness of your research hypothesis:

  • Predicts the relationship and outcome
  • Simple and concise – avoid wordiness
  • Clear with no ambiguity or assumptions about the readers’ knowledge
  • Observable and testable results
  • Relevant and specific to the research question or problem

Research Hypothesis Example

Perhaps the best way to evaluate whether or not your hypothesis is effective is to compare it to those of your colleagues in the field. There is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to writing a powerful research hypothesis. As you’re reading and preparing your hypothesis, you’ll also read other hypotheses. These can help guide you on what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to writing a strong research hypothesis.

Here are a few generic examples to get you started.

Eating an apple each day, after the age of 60, will result in a reduction of frequency of physician visits.

Budget airlines are more likely to receive more customer complaints. A budget airline is defined as an airline that offers lower fares and fewer amenities than a traditional full-service airline. (Note that the term “budget airline” is included in the hypothesis.

Workplaces that offer flexible working hours report higher levels of employee job satisfaction than workplaces with fixed hours.

Each of the above examples are specific, observable and measurable, and the statement of prediction can be verified or shown to be false by utilizing standard experimental practices. It should be noted, however, that often your hypothesis will change as your research progresses.

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How to Write a Dissertation | A Guide to Structure & Content

A dissertation or thesis is a long piece of academic writing based on original research, submitted as part of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree.

The structure of a dissertation depends on your field, but it is usually divided into at least four or five chapters (including an introduction and conclusion chapter).

The most common dissertation structure in the sciences and social sciences includes:

  • An introduction to your topic
  • A literature review that surveys relevant sources
  • An explanation of your methodology
  • An overview of the results of your research
  • A discussion of the results and their implications
  • A conclusion that shows what your research has contributed

Dissertations in the humanities are often structured more like a long essay , building an argument by analysing primary and secondary sources . Instead of the standard structure outlined here, you might organise your chapters around different themes or case studies.

Other important elements of the dissertation include the title page , abstract , and reference list . If in doubt about how your dissertation should be structured, always check your department’s guidelines and consult with your supervisor.

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Table of contents

Acknowledgements, table of contents, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review / theoretical framework, methodology, reference list.

The very first page of your document contains your dissertation’s title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo. Many programs have strict requirements for formatting the dissertation title page .

The title page is often used as cover when printing and binding your dissertation .

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The acknowledgements section is usually optional, and gives space for you to thank everyone who helped you in writing your dissertation. This might include your supervisors, participants in your research, and friends or family who supported you.

The abstract is a short summary of your dissertation, usually about 150-300 words long. You should write it at the very end, when you’ve completed the rest of the dissertation. In the abstract, make sure to:

  • State the main topic and aims of your research
  • Describe the methods you used
  • Summarise the main results
  • State your conclusions

Although the abstract is very short, it’s the first part (and sometimes the only part) of your dissertation that people will read, so it’s important that you get it right. If you’re struggling to write a strong abstract, read our guide on how to write an abstract .

In the table of contents, list all of your chapters and subheadings and their page numbers. The dissertation contents page gives the reader an overview of your structure and helps easily navigate the document.

All parts of your dissertation should be included in the table of contents, including the appendices. You can generate a table of contents automatically in Word.

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If you have used a lot of tables and figures in your dissertation, you should itemise them in a numbered list . You can automatically generate this list using the Insert Caption feature in Word.

If you have used a lot of abbreviations in your dissertation, you can include them in an alphabetised list of abbreviations so that the reader can easily look up their meanings.

If you have used a lot of highly specialised terms that will not be familiar to your reader, it might be a good idea to include a glossary . List the terms alphabetically and explain each term with a brief description or definition.

In the introduction, you set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance, and tell the reader what to expect in the rest of the dissertation. The introduction should:

  • Establish your research topic , giving necessary background information to contextualise your work
  • Narrow down the focus and define the scope of the research
  • Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, showing your work’s relevance to a broader problem or debate
  • Clearly state your objectives and research questions , and indicate how you will answer them
  • Give an overview of your dissertation’s structure

Everything in the introduction should be clear, engaging, and relevant to your research. By the end, the reader should understand the what , why and how of your research. Not sure how? Read our guide on how to write a dissertation introduction .

Before you start on your research, you should have conducted a literature review to gain a thorough understanding of the academic work that already exists on your topic. This means:

  • Collecting sources (e.g. books and journal articles) and selecting the most relevant ones
  • Critically evaluating and analysing each source
  • Drawing connections between them (e.g. themes, patterns, conflicts, gaps) to make an overall point

In the dissertation literature review chapter or section, you shouldn’t just summarise existing studies, but develop a coherent structure and argument that leads to a clear basis or justification for your own research. For example, it might aim to show how your research:

  • Addresses a gap in the literature
  • Takes a new theoretical or methodological approach to the topic
  • Proposes a solution to an unresolved problem
  • Advances a theoretical debate
  • Builds on and strengthens existing knowledge with new data

The literature review often becomes the basis for a theoretical framework , in which you define and analyse the key theories, concepts and models that frame your research. In this section you can answer descriptive research questions about the relationship between concepts or variables.

The methodology chapter or section describes how you conducted your research, allowing your reader to assess its validity. You should generally include:

  • The overall approach and type of research (e.g. qualitative, quantitative, experimental, ethnographic)
  • Your methods of collecting data (e.g. interviews, surveys, archives)
  • Details of where, when, and with whom the research took place
  • Your methods of analysing data (e.g. statistical analysis, discourse analysis)
  • Tools and materials you used (e.g. computer programs, lab equipment)
  • A discussion of any obstacles you faced in conducting the research and how you overcame them
  • An evaluation or justification of your methods

Your aim in the methodology is to accurately report what you did, as well as convincing the reader that this was the best approach to answering your research questions or objectives.

Next, you report the results of your research . You can structure this section around sub-questions, hypotheses, or topics. Only report results that are relevant to your objectives and research questions. In some disciplines, the results section is strictly separated from the discussion, while in others the two are combined.

For example, for qualitative methods like in-depth interviews, the presentation of the data will often be woven together with discussion and analysis, while in quantitative and experimental research, the results should be presented separately before you discuss their meaning. If you’re unsure, consult with your supervisor and look at sample dissertations to find out the best structure for your research.

In the results section it can often be helpful to include tables, graphs and charts. Think carefully about how best to present your data, and don’t include tables or figures that just repeat what you have written  –  they should provide extra information or usefully visualise the results in a way that adds value to your text.

Full versions of your data (such as interview transcripts) can be included as an appendix .

The discussion  is where you explore the meaning and implications of your results in relation to your research questions. Here you should interpret the results in detail, discussing whether they met your expectations and how well they fit with the framework that you built in earlier chapters. If any of the results were unexpected, offer explanations for why this might be. It’s a good idea to consider alternative interpretations of your data and discuss any limitations that might have influenced the results.

The discussion should reference other scholarly work to show how your results fit with existing knowledge. You can also make recommendations for future research or practical action.

The dissertation conclusion should concisely answer the main research question, leaving the reader with a clear understanding of your central argument. Wrap up your dissertation with a final reflection on what you did and how you did it. The conclusion often also includes recommendations for research or practice.

In this section, it’s important to show how your findings contribute to knowledge in the field and why your research matters. What have you added to what was already known?

You must include full details of all sources that you have cited in a reference list (sometimes also called a works cited list or bibliography). It’s important to follow a consistent reference style . Each style has strict and specific requirements for how to format your sources in the reference list.

The most common styles used in UK universities are Harvard referencing and Vancouver referencing . Your department will often specify which referencing style you should use – for example, psychology students tend to use APA style , humanities students often use MHRA , and law students always use OSCOLA . M ake sure to check the requirements, and ask your supervisor if you’re unsure.

To save time creating the reference list and make sure your citations are correctly and consistently formatted, you can use our free APA Citation Generator .

Your dissertation itself should contain only essential information that directly contributes to answering your research question. Documents you have used that do not fit into the main body of your dissertation (such as interview transcripts, survey questions or tables with full figures) can be added as appendices .

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Writing a Strong Hypothesis Statement

dissertation hypothesis writing

All good theses begins with a good thesis question. However, all great theses begins with a great hypothesis statement. One of the most important steps for writing a thesis is to create a strong hypothesis statement. 

What is a hypothesis statement?

A hypothesis statement must be testable. If it cannot be tested, then there is no research to be done.

Simply put, a hypothesis statement posits the relationship between two or more variables. It is a prediction of what you think will happen in a research study. A hypothesis statement must be testable. If it cannot be tested, then there is no research to be done. If your thesis question is whether wildfires have effects on the weather, “wildfires create tornadoes” would be your hypothesis. However, a hypothesis needs to have several key elements in order to meet the criteria for a good hypothesis.

In this article, we will learn about what distinguishes a weak hypothesis from a strong one. We will also learn how to phrase your thesis question and frame your variables so that you are able to write a strong hypothesis statement and great thesis.

What is a hypothesis?

A hypothesis statement posits, or considers, a relationship between two variables.

As we mentioned above, a hypothesis statement posits or considers a relationship between two variables. In our hypothesis statement example above, the two variables are wildfires and tornadoes, and our assumed relationship between the two is a causal one (wildfires cause tornadoes). It is clear from our example above what we will be investigating: the relationship between wildfires and tornadoes.

A strong hypothesis statement should be:

  • A prediction of the relationship between two or more variables

A hypothesis is not just a blind guess. It should build upon existing theories and knowledge . Tornadoes are often observed near wildfires once the fires reach a certain size. In addition, tornadoes are not a normal weather event in many areas; they have been spotted together with wildfires. This existing knowledge has informed the formulation of our hypothesis.

Depending on the thesis question, your research paper might have multiple hypothesis statements. What is important is that your hypothesis statement or statements are testable through data analysis, observation, experiments, or other methodologies.

Formulating your hypothesis

One of the best ways to form a hypothesis is to think about “if...then” statements.

Now that we know what a hypothesis statement is, let’s walk through how to formulate a strong one. First, you will need a thesis question. Your thesis question should be narrow in scope, answerable, and focused. Once you have your thesis question, it is time to start thinking about your hypothesis statement. You will need to clearly identify the variables involved before you can begin thinking about their relationship.

One of the best ways to form a hypothesis is to think about “if...then” statements . This can also help you easily identify the variables you are working with and refine your hypothesis statement. Let’s take a few examples.

If teenagers are given comprehensive sex education, there will be fewer teen pregnancies .

In this example, the independent variable is whether or not teenagers receive comprehensive sex education (the cause), and the dependent variable is the number of teen pregnancies (the effect).

If a cat is fed a vegan diet, it will die .

Here, our independent variable is the diet of the cat (the cause), and the dependent variable is the cat’s health (the thing impacted by the cause).

If children drink 8oz of milk per day, they will grow taller than children who do not drink any milk .

What are the variables in this hypothesis? If you identified drinking milk as the independent variable and growth as the dependent variable, you are correct. This is because we are guessing that drinking milk causes increased growth in the height of children.

Refining your hypothesis

Do not be afraid to refine your hypothesis throughout the process of formulation.

Do not be afraid to refine your hypothesis throughout the process of formulation. A strong hypothesis statement is clear, testable, and involves a prediction. While “testable” means verifiable or falsifiable, it also means that you are able to perform the necessary experiments without violating any ethical standards. Perhaps once you think about the ethics of possibly harming some cats by testing a vegan diet on them you might abandon the idea of that experiment altogether. However, if you think it is really important to research the relationship between a cat’s diet and a cat’s health, perhaps you could refine your hypothesis to something like this:

If 50% of a cat’s meals are vegan, the cat will not be able to meet its nutritional needs .

Another feature of a strong hypothesis statement is that it can easily be tested with the resources that you have readily available. While it might not be feasible to measure the growth of a cohort of children throughout their whole lives, you may be able to do so for a year. Then, you can adjust your hypothesis to something like this:

I f children aged 8 drink 8oz of milk per day for one year, they will grow taller during that year than children who do not drink any milk .

As you work to narrow down and refine your hypothesis to reflect a realistic potential research scope, don’t be afraid to talk to your supervisor about any concerns or questions you might have about what is truly possible to research. 

What makes a hypothesis weak?

We noted above that a strong hypothesis statement is clear, is a prediction of a relationship between two or more variables, and is testable. We also clarified that statements, which are too general or specific are not strong hypotheses. We have looked at some examples of hypotheses that meet the criteria for a strong hypothesis, but before we go any further, let’s look at weak or bad hypothesis statement examples so that you can really see the difference.

Bad hypothesis 1: Diabetes is caused by witchcraft .

While this is fun to think about, it cannot be tested or proven one way or the other with clear evidence, data analysis, or experiments. This bad hypothesis fails to meet the testability requirement.

Bad hypothesis 2: If I change the amount of food I eat, my energy levels will change .

This is quite vague. Am I increasing or decreasing my food intake? What do I expect exactly will happen to my energy levels and why? How am I defining energy level? This bad hypothesis statement fails the clarity requirement.

Bad hypothesis 3: Japanese food is disgusting because Japanese people don’t like tourists .

This hypothesis is unclear about the posited relationship between variables. Are we positing the relationship between the deliciousness of Japanese food and the desire for tourists to visit? or the relationship between the deliciousness of Japanese food and the amount that Japanese people like tourists? There is also the problematic subjectivity of the assessment that Japanese food is “disgusting.” The problems are numerous.

The null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis

The null hypothesis, quite simply, posits that there is no relationship between the variables.

What is the null hypothesis?

The hypothesis posits a relationship between two or more variables. The null hypothesis, quite simply, posits that there is no relationship between the variables. It is often indicated as H 0 , which is read as “h-oh” or “h-null.” The alternative hypothesis is the opposite of the null hypothesis as it posits that there is some relationship between the variables. The alternative hypothesis is written as H a or H 1 .

Let’s take our previous hypothesis statement examples discussed at the start and look at their corresponding null hypothesis.

H a : If teenagers are given comprehensive sex education, there will be fewer teen pregnancies .
H 0 : If teenagers are given comprehensive sex education, there will be no change in the number of teen pregnancies .

The null hypothesis assumes that comprehensive sex education will not affect how many teenagers get pregnant. It should be carefully noted that the null hypothesis is not always the opposite of the alternative hypothesis. For example:

If teenagers are given comprehensive sex education, there will be more teen pregnancies .

These are opposing statements that assume an opposite relationship between the variables: comprehensive sex education increases or decreases the number of teen pregnancies. In fact, these are both alternative hypotheses. This is because they both still assume that there is a relationship between the variables . In other words, both hypothesis statements assume that there is some kind of relationship between sex education and teen pregnancy rates. The alternative hypothesis is also the researcher’s actual predicted outcome, which is why calling it “alternative” can be confusing! However, you can think of it this way: our default assumption is the null hypothesis, and so any possible relationship is an alternative to the default.

Step-by-step sample hypothesis statements

Now that we’ve covered what makes a hypothesis statement strong, how to go about formulating a hypothesis statement, refining your hypothesis statement, and the null hypothesis, let’s put it all together with some examples. The table below shows a breakdown of how we can take a thesis question, identify the variables, create a null hypothesis, and finally create a strong alternative hypothesis.

Once you have formulated a solid thesis question and written a strong hypothesis statement, you are ready to begin your thesis in earnest. Check out our site for more tips on writing a great thesis and information on thesis proofreading and editing services.

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Start with a clear thesis question

Think about “if-then” statements to identify your variables and the relationship between them

Create a null hypothesis

Formulate an alternative hypothesis using the variables you have identified

Make sure your hypothesis clearly posits a relationship between variables

Make sure your hypothesis is testable considering your available time and resources

What makes a hypothesis strong? +

A hypothesis is strong when it is testable, clear, and identifies a potential relationship between two or more variables.

What makes a hypothesis weak? +

A hypothesis is weak when it is too specific or too general, or does not identify a clear relationship between two or more variables.

What is the null hypothesis? +

The null hypothesis posits that the variables you have identified have no relationship.

Grad Coach

Dissertation Structure & Layout 101: How to structure your dissertation, thesis or research project.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) Reviewed By: David Phair (PhD) | July 2019

So, you’ve got a decent understanding of what a dissertation is , you’ve chosen your topic and hopefully you’ve received approval for your research proposal . Awesome! Now its time to start the actual dissertation or thesis writing journey.

To craft a high-quality document, the very first thing you need to understand is dissertation structure . In this post, we’ll walk you through the generic dissertation structure and layout, step by step. We’ll start with the big picture, and then zoom into each chapter to briefly discuss the core contents. If you’re just starting out on your research journey, you should start with this post, which covers the big-picture process of how to write a dissertation or thesis .

Dissertation structure and layout - the basics

*The Caveat *

In this post, we’ll be discussing a traditional dissertation/thesis structure and layout, which is generally used for social science research across universities, whether in the US, UK, Europe or Australia. However, some universities may have small variations on this structure (extra chapters, merged chapters, slightly different ordering, etc).

So, always check with your university if they have a prescribed structure or layout that they expect you to work with. If not, it’s safe to assume the structure we’ll discuss here is suitable. And even if they do have a prescribed structure, you’ll still get value from this post as we’ll explain the core contents of each section.  

Overview: S tructuring a dissertation or thesis

  • Acknowledgements page
  • Abstract (or executive summary)
  • Table of contents , list of figures and tables
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Literature review
  • Chapter 3: Methodology
  • Chapter 4: Results
  • Chapter 5: Discussion
  • Chapter 6: Conclusion
  • Reference list

As I mentioned, some universities will have slight variations on this structure. For example, they want an additional “personal reflection chapter”, or they might prefer the results and discussion chapter to be merged into one. Regardless, the overarching flow will always be the same, as this flow reflects the research process , which we discussed here – i.e.:

  • The introduction chapter presents the core research question and aims .
  • The literature review chapter assesses what the current research says about this question.
  • The methodology, results and discussion chapters go about undertaking new research about this question.
  • The conclusion chapter (attempts to) answer the core research question .

In other words, the dissertation structure and layout reflect the research process of asking a well-defined question(s), investigating, and then answering the question – see below.

A dissertation's structure reflect the research process

To restate that – the structure and layout of a dissertation reflect the flow of the overall research process . This is essential to understand, as each chapter will make a lot more sense if you “get” this concept. If you’re not familiar with the research process, read this post before going further.

Right. Now that we’ve covered the big picture, let’s dive a little deeper into the details of each section and chapter. Oh and by the way, you can also grab our free dissertation/thesis template here to help speed things up.

The title page of your dissertation is the very first impression the marker will get of your work, so it pays to invest some time thinking about your title. But what makes for a good title? A strong title needs to be 3 things:

  • Succinct (not overly lengthy or verbose)
  • Specific (not vague or ambiguous)
  • Representative of the research you’re undertaking (clearly linked to your research questions)

Typically, a good title includes mention of the following:

  • The broader area of the research (i.e. the overarching topic)
  • The specific focus of your research (i.e. your specific context)
  • Indication of research design (e.g. quantitative , qualitative , or  mixed methods ).

For example:

A quantitative investigation [research design] into the antecedents of organisational trust [broader area] in the UK retail forex trading market [specific context/area of focus].

Again, some universities may have specific requirements regarding the format and structure of the title, so it’s worth double-checking expectations with your institution (if there’s no mention in the brief or study material).

Dissertations stacked up

Acknowledgements

This page provides you with an opportunity to say thank you to those who helped you along your research journey. Generally, it’s optional (and won’t count towards your marks), but it is academic best practice to include this.

So, who do you say thanks to? Well, there’s no prescribed requirements, but it’s common to mention the following people:

  • Your dissertation supervisor or committee.
  • Any professors, lecturers or academics that helped you understand the topic or methodologies.
  • Any tutors, mentors or advisors.
  • Your family and friends, especially spouse (for adult learners studying part-time).

There’s no need for lengthy rambling. Just state who you’re thankful to and for what (e.g. thank you to my supervisor, John Doe, for his endless patience and attentiveness) – be sincere. In terms of length, you should keep this to a page or less.

Abstract or executive summary

The dissertation abstract (or executive summary for some degrees) serves to provide the first-time reader (and marker or moderator) with a big-picture view of your research project. It should give them an understanding of the key insights and findings from the research, without them needing to read the rest of the report – in other words, it should be able to stand alone .

For it to stand alone, your abstract should cover the following key points (at a minimum):

  • Your research questions and aims – what key question(s) did your research aim to answer?
  • Your methodology – how did you go about investigating the topic and finding answers to your research question(s)?
  • Your findings – following your own research, what did do you discover?
  • Your conclusions – based on your findings, what conclusions did you draw? What answers did you find to your research question(s)?

So, in much the same way the dissertation structure mimics the research process, your abstract or executive summary should reflect the research process, from the initial stage of asking the original question to the final stage of answering that question.

In practical terms, it’s a good idea to write this section up last , once all your core chapters are complete. Otherwise, you’ll end up writing and rewriting this section multiple times (just wasting time). For a step by step guide on how to write a strong executive summary, check out this post .

Need a helping hand?

dissertation hypothesis writing

Table of contents

This section is straightforward. You’ll typically present your table of contents (TOC) first, followed by the two lists – figures and tables. I recommend that you use Microsoft Word’s automatic table of contents generator to generate your TOC. If you’re not familiar with this functionality, the video below explains it simply:

If you find that your table of contents is overly lengthy, consider removing one level of depth. Oftentimes, this can be done without detracting from the usefulness of the TOC.

Right, now that the “admin” sections are out of the way, its time to move on to your core chapters. These chapters are the heart of your dissertation and are where you’ll earn the marks. The first chapter is the introduction chapter – as you would expect, this is the time to introduce your research…

It’s important to understand that even though you’ve provided an overview of your research in your abstract, your introduction needs to be written as if the reader has not read that (remember, the abstract is essentially a standalone document). So, your introduction chapter needs to start from the very beginning, and should address the following questions:

  • What will you be investigating (in plain-language, big picture-level)?
  • Why is that worth investigating? How is it important to academia or business? How is it sufficiently original?
  • What are your research aims and research question(s)? Note that the research questions can sometimes be presented at the end of the literature review (next chapter).
  • What is the scope of your study? In other words, what will and won’t you cover ?
  • How will you approach your research? In other words, what methodology will you adopt?
  • How will you structure your dissertation? What are the core chapters and what will you do in each of them?

These are just the bare basic requirements for your intro chapter. Some universities will want additional bells and whistles in the intro chapter, so be sure to carefully read your brief or consult your research supervisor.

If done right, your introduction chapter will set a clear direction for the rest of your dissertation. Specifically, it will make it clear to the reader (and marker) exactly what you’ll be investigating, why that’s important, and how you’ll be going about the investigation. Conversely, if your introduction chapter leaves a first-time reader wondering what exactly you’ll be researching, you’ve still got some work to do.

Now that you’ve set a clear direction with your introduction chapter, the next step is the literature review . In this section, you will analyse the existing research (typically academic journal articles and high-quality industry publications), with a view to understanding the following questions:

  • What does the literature currently say about the topic you’re investigating?
  • Is the literature lacking or well established? Is it divided or in disagreement?
  • How does your research fit into the bigger picture?
  • How does your research contribute something original?
  • How does the methodology of previous studies help you develop your own?

Depending on the nature of your study, you may also present a conceptual framework towards the end of your literature review, which you will then test in your actual research.

Again, some universities will want you to focus on some of these areas more than others, some will have additional or fewer requirements, and so on. Therefore, as always, its important to review your brief and/or discuss with your supervisor, so that you know exactly what’s expected of your literature review chapter.

Dissertation writing

Now that you’ve investigated the current state of knowledge in your literature review chapter and are familiar with the existing key theories, models and frameworks, its time to design your own research. Enter the methodology chapter – the most “science-ey” of the chapters…

In this chapter, you need to address two critical questions:

  • Exactly HOW will you carry out your research (i.e. what is your intended research design)?
  • Exactly WHY have you chosen to do things this way (i.e. how do you justify your design)?

Remember, the dissertation part of your degree is first and foremost about developing and demonstrating research skills . Therefore, the markers want to see that you know which methods to use, can clearly articulate why you’ve chosen then, and know how to deploy them effectively.

Importantly, this chapter requires detail – don’t hold back on the specifics. State exactly what you’ll be doing, with who, when, for how long, etc. Moreover, for every design choice you make, make sure you justify it.

In practice, you will likely end up coming back to this chapter once you’ve undertaken all your data collection and analysis, and revise it based on changes you made during the analysis phase. This is perfectly fine. Its natural for you to add an additional analysis technique, scrap an old one, etc based on where your data lead you. Of course, I’m talking about small changes here – not a fundamental switch from qualitative to quantitative, which will likely send your supervisor in a spin!

You’ve now collected your data and undertaken your analysis, whether qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods. In this chapter, you’ll present the raw results of your analysis . For example, in the case of a quant study, you’ll present the demographic data, descriptive statistics, inferential statistics , etc.

Typically, Chapter 4 is simply a presentation and description of the data, not a discussion of the meaning of the data. In other words, it’s descriptive, rather than analytical – the meaning is discussed in Chapter 5. However, some universities will want you to combine chapters 4 and 5, so that you both present and interpret the meaning of the data at the same time. Check with your institution what their preference is.

Now that you’ve presented the data analysis results, its time to interpret and analyse them. In other words, its time to discuss what they mean, especially in relation to your research question(s).

What you discuss here will depend largely on your chosen methodology. For example, if you’ve gone the quantitative route, you might discuss the relationships between variables . If you’ve gone the qualitative route, you might discuss key themes and the meanings thereof. It all depends on what your research design choices were.

Most importantly, you need to discuss your results in relation to your research questions and aims, as well as the existing literature. What do the results tell you about your research questions? Are they aligned with the existing research or at odds? If so, why might this be? Dig deep into your findings and explain what the findings suggest, in plain English.

The final chapter – you’ve made it! Now that you’ve discussed your interpretation of the results, its time to bring it back to the beginning with the conclusion chapter . In other words, its time to (attempt to) answer your original research question s (from way back in chapter 1). Clearly state what your conclusions are in terms of your research questions. This might feel a bit repetitive, as you would have touched on this in the previous chapter, but its important to bring the discussion full circle and explicitly state your answer(s) to the research question(s).

Dissertation and thesis prep

Next, you’ll typically discuss the implications of your findings? In other words, you’ve answered your research questions – but what does this mean for the real world (or even for academia)? What should now be done differently, given the new insight you’ve generated?

Lastly, you should discuss the limitations of your research, as well as what this means for future research in the area. No study is perfect, especially not a Masters-level. Discuss the shortcomings of your research. Perhaps your methodology was limited, perhaps your sample size was small or not representative, etc, etc. Don’t be afraid to critique your work – the markers want to see that you can identify the limitations of your work. This is a strength, not a weakness. Be brutal!

This marks the end of your core chapters – woohoo! From here on out, it’s pretty smooth sailing.

The reference list is straightforward. It should contain a list of all resources cited in your dissertation, in the required format, e.g. APA , Harvard, etc.

It’s essential that you use reference management software for your dissertation. Do NOT try handle your referencing manually – its far too error prone. On a reference list of multiple pages, you’re going to make mistake. To this end, I suggest considering either Mendeley or Zotero. Both are free and provide a very straightforward interface to ensure that your referencing is 100% on point. I’ve included a simple how-to video for the Mendeley software (my personal favourite) below:

Some universities may ask you to include a bibliography, as opposed to a reference list. These two things are not the same . A bibliography is similar to a reference list, except that it also includes resources which informed your thinking but were not directly cited in your dissertation. So, double-check your brief and make sure you use the right one.

The very last piece of the puzzle is the appendix or set of appendices. This is where you’ll include any supporting data and evidence. Importantly, supporting is the keyword here.

Your appendices should provide additional “nice to know”, depth-adding information, which is not critical to the core analysis. Appendices should not be used as a way to cut down word count (see this post which covers how to reduce word count ). In other words, don’t place content that is critical to the core analysis here, just to save word count. You will not earn marks on any content in the appendices, so don’t try to play the system!

Time to recap…

And there you have it – the traditional dissertation structure and layout, from A-Z. To recap, the core structure for a dissertation or thesis is (typically) as follows:

  • Acknowledgments page

Most importantly, the core chapters should reflect the research process (asking, investigating and answering your research question). Moreover, the research question(s) should form the golden thread throughout your dissertation structure. Everything should revolve around the research questions, and as you’ve seen, they should form both the start point (i.e. introduction chapter) and the endpoint (i.e. conclusion chapter).

I hope this post has provided you with clarity about the traditional dissertation/thesis structure and layout. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below, or feel free to get in touch with us. Also, be sure to check out the rest of the  Grad Coach Blog .

dissertation hypothesis writing

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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Dissertation and thesis defense 101

36 Comments

ARUN kumar SHARMA

many thanks i found it very useful

Derek Jansen

Glad to hear that, Arun. Good luck writing your dissertation.

Sue

Such clear practical logical advice. I very much needed to read this to keep me focused in stead of fretting.. Perfect now ready to start my research!

hayder

what about scientific fields like computer or engineering thesis what is the difference in the structure? thank you very much

Tim

Thanks so much this helped me a lot!

Ade Adeniyi

Very helpful and accessible. What I like most is how practical the advice is along with helpful tools/ links.

Thanks Ade!

Aswathi

Thank you so much sir.. It was really helpful..

You’re welcome!

Jp Raimundo

Hi! How many words maximum should contain the abstract?

Karmelia Renatee

Thank you so much 😊 Find this at the right moment

You’re most welcome. Good luck with your dissertation.

moha

best ever benefit i got on right time thank you

Krishnan iyer

Many times Clarity and vision of destination of dissertation is what makes the difference between good ,average and great researchers the same way a great automobile driver is fast with clarity of address and Clear weather conditions .

I guess Great researcher = great ideas + knowledge + great and fast data collection and modeling + great writing + high clarity on all these

You have given immense clarity from start to end.

Alwyn Malan

Morning. Where will I write the definitions of what I’m referring to in my report?

Rose

Thank you so much Derek, I was almost lost! Thanks a tonnnn! Have a great day!

yemi Amos

Thanks ! so concise and valuable

Kgomotso Siwelane

This was very helpful. Clear and concise. I know exactly what to do now.

dauda sesay

Thank you for allowing me to go through briefly. I hope to find time to continue.

Patrick Mwathi

Really useful to me. Thanks a thousand times

Adao Bundi

Very interesting! It will definitely set me and many more for success. highly recommended.

SAIKUMAR NALUMASU

Thank you soo much sir, for the opportunity to express my skills

mwepu Ilunga

Usefull, thanks a lot. Really clear

Rami

Very nice and easy to understand. Thank you .

Chrisogonas Odhiambo

That was incredibly useful. Thanks Grad Coach Crew!

Luke

My stress level just dropped at least 15 points after watching this. Just starting my thesis for my grad program and I feel a lot more capable now! Thanks for such a clear and helpful video, Emma and the GradCoach team!

Judy

Do we need to mention the number of words the dissertation contains in the main document?

It depends on your university’s requirements, so it would be best to check with them 🙂

Christine

Such a helpful post to help me get started with structuring my masters dissertation, thank you!

Simon Le

Great video; I appreciate that helpful information

Brhane Kidane

It is so necessary or avital course

johnson

This blog is very informative for my research. Thank you

avc

Doctoral students are required to fill out the National Research Council’s Survey of Earned Doctorates

Emmanuel Manjolo

wow this is an amazing gain in my life

Paul I Thoronka

This is so good

Tesfay haftu

How can i arrange my specific objectives in my dissertation?

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dissertation hypothesis writing

  • Questions about Expos?
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Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how you arrived at this claim. You arrive at your thesis by examining and analyzing the evidence available to you, which might be text or other types of source material.

A thesis will generally respond to an analytical question or pose a solution to a problem that you have framed for your readers (and for yourself). When you frame that question or problem for your readers, you are telling them what is at stake in your argument—why your question matters and why they should care about the answer . If you can explain to your readers why a question or problem is worth addressing, then they will understand why it’s worth reading an essay that develops your thesis—and you will understand why it’s worth writing that essay.

A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive , and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves. If your thesis is too narrow, you won’t be able to explore your topic in enough depth to say something interesting about it. If your thesis is too broad, you may not be able to support it with evidence from the available sources.

When you are writing an essay for a course assignment, you should make sure you understand what type of claim you are being asked to make. Many of your assignments will be asking you to make analytical claims , which are based on interpretation of facts, data, or sources.

Some of your assignments may ask you to make normative claims. Normative claims are claims of value or evaluation rather than fact—claims about how things should be rather than how they are. A normative claim makes the case for the importance of something, the action that should be taken, or the way the world should be. When you are asked to write a policy memo, a proposal, or an essay based on your own opinion, you will be making normative claims.

Here are some examples of possible thesis statements for a student's analysis of the article “The Case Against Perfection” by Professor Michael Sandel.  

Descriptive thesis (not arguable)  

While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence)  

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim  

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim  

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis  

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
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Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements

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This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement and examples of different types of thesis statements.

Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement

1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing:

  • An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.
  • An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.
  • An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.

If you are writing a text that does not fall under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph could still be helpful to your reader.

2. Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.

3. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.

4. Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.

Thesis Statement Examples

Example of an analytical thesis statement:

The paper that follows should:

  • Explain the analysis of the college admission process
  • Explain the challenge facing admissions counselors

Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:

  • Explain how students spend their time studying, attending class, and socializing with peers

Example of an argumentative thesis statement:

  • Present an argument and give evidence to support the claim that students should pursue community projects before entering college

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  • How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

Published on October 12, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 21, 2023.

Structure of a research proposal

A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it’s important, and how you will conduct your research.

The format of a research proposal varies between fields, but most proposals will contain at least these elements:

Introduction

Literature review.

  • Research design

Reference list

While the sections may vary, the overall objective is always the same. A research proposal serves as a blueprint and guide for your research plan, helping you get organized and feel confident in the path forward you choose to take.

Table of contents

Research proposal purpose, research proposal examples, research design and methods, contribution to knowledge, research schedule, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research proposals.

Academics often have to write research proposals to get funding for their projects. As a student, you might have to write a research proposal as part of a grad school application , or prior to starting your thesis or dissertation .

In addition to helping you figure out what your research can look like, a proposal can also serve to demonstrate why your project is worth pursuing to a funder, educational institution, or supervisor.

Research proposal length

The length of a research proposal can vary quite a bit. A bachelor’s or master’s thesis proposal can be just a few pages, while proposals for PhD dissertations or research funding are usually much longer and more detailed. Your supervisor can help you determine the best length for your work.

One trick to get started is to think of your proposal’s structure as a shorter version of your thesis or dissertation , only without the results , conclusion and discussion sections.

Download our research proposal template

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Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We’ve included a few for you below.

  • Example research proposal #1: “A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management”
  • Example research proposal #2: “Medical Students as Mediators of Change in Tobacco Use”

Like your dissertation or thesis, the proposal will usually have a title page that includes:

  • The proposed title of your project
  • Your supervisor’s name
  • Your institution and department

The first part of your proposal is the initial pitch for your project. Make sure it succinctly explains what you want to do and why.

Your introduction should:

  • Introduce your topic
  • Give necessary background and context
  • Outline your  problem statement  and research questions

To guide your introduction , include information about:

  • Who could have an interest in the topic (e.g., scientists, policymakers)
  • How much is already known about the topic
  • What is missing from this current knowledge
  • What new insights your research will contribute
  • Why you believe this research is worth doing

As you get started, it’s important to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the most important research on your topic. A strong literature review  shows your reader that your project has a solid foundation in existing knowledge or theory. It also shows that you’re not simply repeating what other people have already done or said, but rather using existing research as a jumping-off point for your own.

In this section, share exactly how your project will contribute to ongoing conversations in the field by:

  • Comparing and contrasting the main theories, methods, and debates
  • Examining the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches
  • Explaining how will you build on, challenge, or synthesize prior scholarship

Following the literature review, restate your main  objectives . This brings the focus back to your own project. Next, your research design or methodology section will describe your overall approach, and the practical steps you will take to answer your research questions.

To finish your proposal on a strong note, explore the potential implications of your research for your field. Emphasize again what you aim to contribute and why it matters.

For example, your results might have implications for:

  • Improving best practices
  • Informing policymaking decisions
  • Strengthening a theory or model
  • Challenging popular or scientific beliefs
  • Creating a basis for future research

Last but not least, your research proposal must include correct citations for every source you have used, compiled in a reference list . To create citations quickly and easily, you can use our free APA citation generator .

Some institutions or funders require a detailed timeline of the project, asking you to forecast what you will do at each stage and how long it may take. While not always required, be sure to check the requirements of your project.

Here’s an example schedule to help you get started. You can also download a template at the button below.

Download our research schedule template

If you are applying for research funding, chances are you will have to include a detailed budget. This shows your estimates of how much each part of your project will cost.

Make sure to check what type of costs the funding body will agree to cover. For each item, include:

  • Cost : exactly how much money do you need?
  • Justification : why is this cost necessary to complete the research?
  • Source : how did you calculate the amount?

To determine your budget, think about:

  • Travel costs : do you need to go somewhere to collect your data? How will you get there, and how much time will you need? What will you do there (e.g., interviews, archival research)?
  • Materials : do you need access to any tools or technologies?
  • Help : do you need to hire any research assistants for the project? What will they do, and how much will you pay them?

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Methodology

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement .

Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.

I will compare …

A research aim is a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear in your introduction at the end of your problem statement , before your research objectives.

Research objectives are more specific than your research aim. They indicate the specific ways you’ll address the overarching aim.

A PhD, which is short for philosophiae doctor (doctor of philosophy in Latin), is the highest university degree that can be obtained. In a PhD, students spend 3–5 years writing a dissertation , which aims to make a significant, original contribution to current knowledge.

A PhD is intended to prepare students for a career as a researcher, whether that be in academia, the public sector, or the private sector.

A master’s is a 1- or 2-year graduate degree that can prepare you for a variety of careers.

All master’s involve graduate-level coursework. Some are research-intensive and intend to prepare students for further study in a PhD; these usually require their students to write a master’s thesis . Others focus on professional training for a specific career.

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.

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  1. How to Write a Strong Hypothesis

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    Step 1: Ask a question Writing a hypothesis begins with a research question that you want to answer. The question should be focused, specific, and researchable within the constraints of your project. Example: Research question Do students who attend more lectures get better exam results? Step 2: Do some preliminary research

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  7. What Is a Dissertation?

    A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed.

  8. How To Write A Dissertation Or Thesis

    How To Write A Dissertation: 8 Steps. Clearly understand what a dissertation (or thesis) is. Find a unique and valuable research topic. Craft a convincing research proposal. Write up a strong introduction chapter. Review the existing literature and compile a literature review.

  9. How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

    Writing a proposal or prospectus can be a challenge, but we've compiled some examples for you to get your started. Example #1: "Geographic Representations of the Planet Mars, 1867-1907" by Maria Lane. Example #2: "Individuals and the State in Late Bronze Age Greece: Messenian Perspectives on Mycenaean Society" by Dimitri Nakassis.

  10. How to Write a Dissertation

    A dissertation or thesis is a long piece of academic writing based on original research, submitted as part of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. The structure of a dissertation depends on your field, but it is usually divided into at least four or five chapters (including an introduction and conclusion chapter).

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  13. How To Write A Dissertation

    A thesis is a hypothesis or conjecture. A PhD dissertation is a lengthy, formal document that argues in defense of a particular thesis. ... Writing a dissertation requires a student to think deeply, to organize technical discussion, to muster arguments that will convince other scientists, and to follow rules for rigorous, formal presentation of ...

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  18. Secrets of Writing a Dissertation Hypothesis

    The assumption takes no more than one paragraph. In writing a dissertation, the author selects the necessary material, conducts particular research, gives a specific structure to work, and decides how to write a conclusion, based on the assumption. The student's facts in the main part of the document act as evidence for the hypothesis of ...

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  23. How to Write a Research Proposal

    How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates Published on October 12, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 21, 2023. A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it's important, and how you will conduct your research.