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Hypothesis to Be Tested: Definition and 4 Steps for Testing with Example

definition of hypothesis testing in research

What Is Hypothesis Testing?

Hypothesis testing, sometimes called significance testing, is an act in statistics whereby an analyst tests an assumption regarding a population parameter. The methodology employed by the analyst depends on the nature of the data used and the reason for the analysis.

Hypothesis testing is used to assess the plausibility of a hypothesis by using sample data. Such data may come from a larger population, or from a data-generating process. The word "population" will be used for both of these cases in the following descriptions.

Key Takeaways

  • Hypothesis testing is used to assess the plausibility of a hypothesis by using sample data.
  • The test provides evidence concerning the plausibility of the hypothesis, given the data.
  • Statistical analysts test a hypothesis by measuring and examining a random sample of the population being analyzed.
  • The four steps of hypothesis testing include stating the hypotheses, formulating an analysis plan, analyzing the sample data, and analyzing the result.

How Hypothesis Testing Works

In hypothesis testing, an  analyst  tests a statistical sample, with the goal of providing evidence on the plausibility of the null hypothesis.

Statistical analysts test a hypothesis by measuring and examining a random sample of the population being analyzed. All analysts use a random population sample to test two different hypotheses: the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis.

The null hypothesis is usually a hypothesis of equality between population parameters; e.g., a null hypothesis may state that the population mean return is equal to zero. The alternative hypothesis is effectively the opposite of a null hypothesis (e.g., the population mean return is not equal to zero). Thus, they are mutually exclusive , and only one can be true. However, one of the two hypotheses will always be true.

The null hypothesis is a statement about a population parameter, such as the population mean, that is assumed to be true.

4 Steps of Hypothesis Testing

All hypotheses are tested using a four-step process:

  • The first step is for the analyst to state the hypotheses.
  • The second step is to formulate an analysis plan, which outlines how the data will be evaluated.
  • The third step is to carry out the plan and analyze the sample data.
  • The final step is to analyze the results and either reject the null hypothesis, or state that the null hypothesis is plausible, given the data.

Real-World Example of Hypothesis Testing

If, for example, a person wants to test that a penny has exactly a 50% chance of landing on heads, the null hypothesis would be that 50% is correct, and the alternative hypothesis would be that 50% is not correct.

Mathematically, the null hypothesis would be represented as Ho: P = 0.5. The alternative hypothesis would be denoted as "Ha" and be identical to the null hypothesis, except with the equal sign struck-through, meaning that it does not equal 50%.

A random sample of 100 coin flips is taken, and the null hypothesis is then tested. If it is found that the 100 coin flips were distributed as 40 heads and 60 tails, the analyst would assume that a penny does not have a 50% chance of landing on heads and would reject the null hypothesis and accept the alternative hypothesis.

If, on the other hand, there were 48 heads and 52 tails, then it is plausible that the coin could be fair and still produce such a result. In cases such as this where the null hypothesis is "accepted," the analyst states that the difference between the expected results (50 heads and 50 tails) and the observed results (48 heads and 52 tails) is "explainable by chance alone."

Some staticians attribute the first hypothesis tests to satirical writer John Arbuthnot in 1710, who studied male and female births in England after observing that in nearly every year, male births exceeded female births by a slight proportion. Arbuthnot calculated that the probability of this happening by chance was small, and therefore it was due to “divine providence.”

What is Hypothesis Testing?

Hypothesis testing refers to a process used by analysts to assess the plausibility of a hypothesis by using sample data. In hypothesis testing, statisticians formulate two hypotheses: the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis. A null hypothesis determines there is no difference between two groups or conditions, while the alternative hypothesis determines that there is a difference. Researchers evaluate the statistical significance of the test based on the probability that the null hypothesis is true.

What are the Four Key Steps Involved in Hypothesis Testing?

Hypothesis testing begins with an analyst stating two hypotheses, with only one that can be right. The analyst then formulates an analysis plan, which outlines how the data will be evaluated. Next, they move to the testing phase and analyze the sample data. Finally, the analyst analyzes the results and either rejects the null hypothesis or states that the null hypothesis is plausible, given the data.

What are the Benefits of Hypothesis Testing?

Hypothesis testing helps assess the accuracy of new ideas or theories by testing them against data. This allows researchers to determine whether the evidence supports their hypothesis, helping to avoid false claims and conclusions. Hypothesis testing also provides a framework for decision-making based on data rather than personal opinions or biases. By relying on statistical analysis, hypothesis testing helps to reduce the effects of chance and confounding variables, providing a robust framework for making informed conclusions.

What are the Limitations of Hypothesis Testing?

Hypothesis testing relies exclusively on data and doesn’t provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject being studied. Additionally, the accuracy of the results depends on the quality of the available data and the statistical methods used. Inaccurate data or inappropriate hypothesis formulation may lead to incorrect conclusions or failed tests. Hypothesis testing can also lead to errors, such as analysts either accepting or rejecting a null hypothesis when they shouldn’t have. These errors may result in false conclusions or missed opportunities to identify significant patterns or relationships in the data.

The Bottom Line

Hypothesis testing refers to a statistical process that helps researchers and/or analysts determine the reliability of a study. By using a well-formulated hypothesis and set of statistical tests, individuals or businesses can make inferences about the population that they are studying and draw conclusions based on the data presented. There are different types of hypothesis testing, each with their own set of rules and procedures. However, all hypothesis testing methods have the same four step process, which includes stating the hypotheses, formulating an analysis plan, analyzing the sample data, and analyzing the result. Hypothesis testing plays a vital part of the scientific process, helping to test assumptions and make better data-based decisions.

Sage. " Introduction to Hypothesis Testing. " Page 4.

Elder Research. " Who Invented the Null Hypothesis? "

Formplus. " Hypothesis Testing: Definition, Uses, Limitations and Examples. "

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Hypothesis testing

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When interpreting research findings, researchers need to assess whether these findings may have occurred by chance. Hypothesis testing is a systematic procedure for deciding whether the results of a research study support a particular theory which applies to a population.

Hypothesis testing uses sample data to evaluate a hypothesis about a population . A hypothesis test assesses how unusual the result is, whether it is reasonable chance variation or whether the result is too extreme to be considered chance variation.

Basic concepts

  • Null and research hypothesis

Probability value and types of errors

Effect size and statistical significance.

  • Directional and non-directional hypotheses

Null and research hypotheses

To carry out statistical hypothesis testing, research and null hypothesis are employed:

  • Research hypothesis : this is the hypothesis that you propose, also known as the alternative hypothesis HA. For example:

H A: There is a relationship between intelligence and academic results.

H A: First year university students obtain higher grades after an intensive Statistics course.

H A; Males and females differ in their levels of stress.

  • The null hypothesis (H o ) is the opposite of the research hypothesis and expresses that there is no relationship between variables, or no differences between groups; for example:

H o : There is no relationship between intelligence and academic results.

H o:  First year university students do not obtain higher grades after an intensive Statistics course.

H o : Males and females will not differ in their levels of stress.

The purpose of hypothesis testing is to test whether the null hypothesis (there is no difference, no effect) can be rejected or approved. If the null hypothesis is rejected, then the research hypothesis can be accepted. If the null hypothesis is accepted, then the research hypothesis is rejected.

In hypothesis testing, a value is set to assess whether the null hypothesis is accepted or rejected and whether the result is statistically significant:

  • A critical value is the score the sample would need to decide against the null hypothesis.
  • A probability value is used to assess the significance of the statistical test. If the null hypothesis is rejected, then the alternative to the null hypothesis is accepted.

The probability value, or p value , is the probability of an outcome or research result given the hypothesis. Usually, the probability value is set at 0.05: the null hypothesis will be rejected if the probability value of the statistical test is less than 0.05. There are two types of errors associated to hypothesis testing:

  • What if we observe a difference – but none exists in the population?
  • What if we do not find a difference – but it does exist in the population?

These situations are known as Type I and Type II errors:

  • Type I Error: is the type of error that involves the rejection of a null hypothesis that is actually true (i.e. a false positive).
  • Type II Error:  is the type of error that occurs when we do not reject a null hypothesis that is false (i.e. a false negative).

hypothesis testing process and types of errors

These errors cannot be eliminated; they can be minimised, but minimising one type of error will increase the probability of committing the other type.

The probability of making a Type I error depends on the criterion that is used to accept or reject the null hypothesis: the p value or alpha level . The alpha is set by the researcher, usually at .05, and is the chance the researcher is willing to take and still claim the significance of the statistical test.). Choosing a smaller alpha level will decrease the likelihood of committing Type I error.

For example, p<0.05  indicates that there are 5 chances in 100 that the difference observed was really due to sampling error – that 5% of the time a Type I error will occur or that there is a 5% chance that the opposite of the null hypothesis is actually true.

With a p<0.01, there will be 1 chance in 100 that the difference observed was really due to sampling error – 1% of the time a Type I error will occur.

The p level is specified before analysing the data. If the data analysis results in a probability value below the α (alpha) level, then the null hypothesis is rejected; if it is not, then the null hypothesis is not rejected.

When the null hypothesis is rejected, the effect is said to be statistically significant. However, statistical significance does not mean that the effect is important.

A result can be statistically significant, but the effect size may be small. Finding that an effect is significant does not provide information about how large or important the effect is. In fact, a small effect can be statistically significant if the sample size is large enough.

Information about the effect size, or magnitude of the result, is given by the statistical test. For example, the strength of the correlation between two variables is given by the coefficient of correlation, which varies from 0 to 1.

  • A hypothesis that states that students who attend an intensive Statistics course will obtain higher grades than students who do not attend would be directional.
  • A non-directional hypothesis states that there will be differences between students who attend do or don’t attend an intensive Statistics course, but we don’t know what group will get higher grades than the other. The hypothesis only states that they will obtain different grades.

The hypothesis testing process

The hypothesis testing process can be divided into five steps:

  • Restate the research question as research hypothesis and a null hypothesis about the populations.
  • Determine the characteristics of the comparison distribution.
  • Determine the cut off sample score on the comparison distribution at which the null hypothesis should be rejected.
  • Determine your sample’s score on the comparison distribution.
  • Decide whether to reject the null hypothesis.

This example illustrates how these five steps can be applied to text a hypothesis:

  • Let’s say that you conduct an experiment to investigate whether students’ ability to memorise words improves after they have consumed caffeine.
  • The experiment involves two groups of students: the first group consumes caffeine; the second group drinks water.
  • Both groups complete a memory test.
  • A randomly selected individual in the experimental condition (i.e. the group that consumes caffeine) has a score of 27 on the memory test. The scores of people in general on this memory measure are normally distributed with a mean of 19 and a standard deviation of 4.
  • The researcher predicts an effect (differences in memory for these groups) but does not predict a particular direction of effect (i.e. which group will have higher scores on the memory test). Using the 5% significance level, what should you conclude?

Step 1 : There are two populations of interest.

Population 1: People who go through the experimental procedure (drink coffee).

Population 2: People who do not go through the experimental procedure (drink water).

  • Research hypothesis: Population 1 will score differently from Population 2.
  • Null hypothesis: There will be no difference between the two populations.

Step 2 : We know that the characteristics of the comparison distribution (student population) are:

Population M = 19, Population SD= 4, normally distributed. These are the mean and standard deviation of the distribution of scores on the memory test for the general student population.

Step 3 : For a two-tailed test (the direction of the effect is not specified) at the 5% level (25% at each tail), the cut off sample scores are +1.96 and -1.99.

definition of hypothesis testing in research

Step 4 : Your sample score of 27 needs to be converted into a Z value. To calculate Z = (27-19)/4= 2 ( check the Converting into Z scores section if you need to review how to do this process)

Step 5 : A ‘Z’ score of 2 is more extreme than the cut off Z of +1.96 (see figure above). The result is significant and, thus, the null hypothesis is rejected.

You can find more examples here:

  • Statistics (RMIT Learning Lab)

Some commonly used statistical techniques

Correlation analysis, multiple regression.

  • Analysis of variance

Chi-square test for independence

Correlation analysis explores the association between variables . The purpose of correlational analysis is to discover whether there is a relationship between variables, which is unlikely to occur by sampling error. The null hypothesis is that there is no relationship between the two variables. Correlation analysis provides information about:

  • The direction of the relationship: positive or negative- given by the sign of the correlation coefficient.
  • The strength or magnitude of the relationship between the two variables- given by the correlation coefficient, which varies from 0 (no relationship between the variables) to 1 (perfect relationship between the variables).
  • Direction of the relationship.

A positive correlation indicates that high scores on one variable are associated with high scores on the other variable; low scores on one variable are associated with low scores on the second variable . For instance, in the figure below, higher scores on negative affect are associated with higher scores on perceived stress

example of positive correlation graph

A negative correlation indicates that high scores on one variable are associated with low scores on the other variable. The graph shows that a person who scores high on perceived stress will probably score low on mastery. The slope of the graph is downwards- as it moves to the right. In the figure below, higher scores on mastery are associated with lower scores on perceived stress.

example of negative correlation graph

Fig 2. Negative correlation between two variables. Adapted from Pallant, J. (2013). SPSS survival manual: A step by step guide to data analysis using IBM SPSS (5th ed.). Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, London: Allen & Unwin

2. The strength or magnitude of the relationship

The strength of a linear relationship between two variables is measured by a statistic known as the correlation coefficient , which varies from 0 to -1, and from 0 to +1. There are several correlation coefficients; the most widely used are Pearson’s r and Spearman’s rho. The strength of the relationship is interpreted as follows:

  • Small/weak: r= .10 to .29
  • Medium/moderate: r= .30 to .49
  • Large/strong: r= .50 to 1

It is important to note that correlation analysis does not imply causality. Correlation is used to explore the association between variables, however, it does not indicate that one variable causes the other. The correlation between two variables could be due to the fact that a third variable is affecting the two variables.

Multiple regression is an extension of correlation analysis. Multiple regression is used to explore the relationship between one dependent variable and a number of independent variables or predictors . The purpose of a multiple regression model is to predict values of a dependent variable based on the values of the independent variables or predictors. For example, a researcher may be interested in predicting students’ academic success (e.g. grades) based on a number of predictors, for example, hours spent studying, satisfaction with studies, relationships with peers and lecturers.

A multiple regression model can be conducted using statistical software (e.g. SPSS). The software will test the significance of the model (i.e. does the model significantly predicts scores on the dependent variable using the independent variables introduced in the model?), how much of the variance in the dependent variable is explained by the model, and the individual contribution of each independent variable.

Example of multiple regression model

example of multiple regression model to predict help-seeking

From Dunn et al. (2014). Influence of academic self-regulation, critical thinking, and age on online graduate students' academic help-seeking.

In this model, help-seeking is the dependent variable; there are three independent variables or predictors. The coefficients show the direction (positive or negative) and magnitude of the relationship between each predictor and the dependent variable. The model was statistically significant and predicted 13.5% of the variance in help-seeking.

t-Tests are employed to compare the mean score on some continuous variable for two groups . The null hypothesis to be tested is there are no differences between the two groups (e.g. anxiety scores for males and females are not different).

If the significance value of the t-test is equal or less than .05, there is a significant difference in the mean scores on the variable of interest for each of the two groups. If the value is above .05, there is no significant difference between the groups.

t-Tests can be employed to compare the mean scores of two different groups (independent-samples t-test ) or to compare the same group of people on two different occasions ( paired-samples t-test) .

In addition to assessing whether the difference between the two groups is statistically significant, it is important to consider the effect size or magnitude of the difference between the groups. The effect size is given by partial eta squared (proportion of variance of the dependent variable that is explained by the independent variable) and Cohen’s d (difference between groups in terms of standard deviation units).

In this example, an independent samples t-test was conducted to assess whether males and females differ in their perceived anxiety levels. The significance of the test is .004. Since this value is less than .05, we can conclude that there is a statistically significant difference between males and females in their perceived anxiety levels.

t-test results obtained using SPSS

Whilst t-tests compare the mean score on one variable for two groups, analysis of variance is used to test more than two groups . Following the previous example, analysis of variance would be employed to test whether there are differences in anxiety scores for students from different disciplines.

Analysis of variance compare the variance (variability in scores) between the different groups (believed to be due to the independent variable) with the variability within each group (believed to be due to chance). An F ratio is calculated; a large F ratio indicates that there is more variability between the groups (caused by the independent variable) than there is within each group (error term). A significant F test indicates that we can reject the null hypothesis; i.e. that there is no difference between the groups.

Again, effect size statistics such as Cohen’s d and eta squared are employed to assess the magnitude of the differences between groups.

In this example, we examined differences in perceived anxiety between students from different disciplines. The results of the Anova Test show that the significance level is .005. Since this value is below .05, we can conclude that there are statistically significant differences between students from different disciplines in their perceived anxiety levels.

ANOVA results obtained using SPSS

Chi-square test for independence is used to explore the relationship between two categorical variables. Each variable can have two or more categories.

For example, a researcher can use a Chi-square test for independence to assess the relationship between study disciplines (e.g. Psychology, Business, Education,…) and help-seeking behaviour (Yes/No). The test compares the observed frequencies of cases with the values that would be expected if there was no association between the two variables of interest. A statistically significant Chi-square test indicates that the two variables are associated (e.g. Psychology students are more likely to seek help than Business students). The effect size is assessed using effect size statistics: Phi and Cramer’s V .

In this example, a Chi-square test was conducted to assess whether males and females differ in their help-seeking behaviour (Yes/No). The crosstabulation table shows the percentage of males of females who sought/didn't seek help. The table 'Chi square tests' shows the significance of the test (Pearson Chi square asymp sig: .482). Since this value is above .05, we conclude that there is no statistically significant difference between males and females in their help-seeking behaviour.

Chi-square test results obtained using SPSS

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A Complete Guide on Hypothesis Testing in Statistics

Table of Contents

In today’s data-driven world , decisions are based on data all the time. Hypothesis plays a crucial role in that process, whether it may be making business decisions, in the health sector, academia, or in quality improvement. Without hypothesis & hypothesis tests, you risk drawing the wrong conclusions and making bad decisions. In this tutorial, you will look at Hypothesis Testing in Statistics.

What Is Hypothesis Testing in Statistics?

Hypothesis Testing is a type of statistical analysis in which you put your assumptions about a population parameter to the test. It is used to estimate the relationship between 2 statistical variables.

Let's discuss few examples of statistical hypothesis from real-life - 

  • A teacher assumes that 60% of his college's students come from lower-middle-class families.
  • A doctor believes that 3D (Diet, Dose, and Discipline) is 90% effective for diabetic patients.

Now that you know about hypothesis testing, look at the two types of hypothesis testing in statistics.

Hypothesis Testing Formula

Z = ( x̅ – μ0 ) / (σ /√n)

  • Here, x̅ is the sample mean,
  • μ0 is the population mean,
  • σ is the standard deviation,
  • n is the sample size.

How Hypothesis Testing Works?

An analyst performs hypothesis testing on a statistical sample to present evidence of the plausibility of the null hypothesis. Measurements and analyses are conducted on a random sample of the population to test a theory. Analysts use a random population sample to test two hypotheses: the null and alternative hypotheses.

The null hypothesis is typically an equality hypothesis between population parameters; for example, a null hypothesis may claim that the population means return equals zero. The alternate hypothesis is essentially the inverse of the null hypothesis (e.g., the population means the return is not equal to zero). As a result, they are mutually exclusive, and only one can be correct. One of the two possibilities, however, will always be correct.

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Your Dream Career is Just Around The Corner!

Null Hypothesis and Alternate Hypothesis

The Null Hypothesis is the assumption that the event will not occur. A null hypothesis has no bearing on the study's outcome unless it is rejected.

H0 is the symbol for it, and it is pronounced H-naught.

The Alternate Hypothesis is the logical opposite of the null hypothesis. The acceptance of the alternative hypothesis follows the rejection of the null hypothesis. H1 is the symbol for it.

Let's understand this with an example.

A sanitizer manufacturer claims that its product kills 95 percent of germs on average. 

To put this company's claim to the test, create a null and alternate hypothesis.

H0 (Null Hypothesis): Average = 95%.

Alternative Hypothesis (H1): The average is less than 95%.

Another straightforward example to understand this concept is determining whether or not a coin is fair and balanced. The null hypothesis states that the probability of a show of heads is equal to the likelihood of a show of tails. In contrast, the alternate theory states that the probability of a show of heads and tails would be very different.

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The Ultimate Ticket to Top Data Science Job Roles

Hypothesis Testing Calculation With Examples

Let's consider a hypothesis test for the average height of women in the United States. Suppose our null hypothesis is that the average height is 5'4". We gather a sample of 100 women and determine that their average height is 5'5". The standard deviation of population is 2.

To calculate the z-score, we would use the following formula:

z = ( x̅ – μ0 ) / (σ /√n)

z = (5'5" - 5'4") / (2" / √100)

z = 0.5 / (0.045)

 We will reject the null hypothesis as the z-score of 11.11 is very large and conclude that there is evidence to suggest that the average height of women in the US is greater than 5'4".

Steps of Hypothesis Testing

Step 1: specify your null and alternate hypotheses.

It is critical to rephrase your original research hypothesis (the prediction that you wish to study) as a null (Ho) and alternative (Ha) hypothesis so that you can test it quantitatively. Your first hypothesis, which predicts a link between variables, is generally your alternate hypothesis. The null hypothesis predicts no link between the variables of interest.

Step 2: Gather Data

For a statistical test to be legitimate, sampling and data collection must be done in a way that is meant to test your hypothesis. You cannot draw statistical conclusions about the population you are interested in if your data is not representative.

Step 3: Conduct a Statistical Test

Other statistical tests are available, but they all compare within-group variance (how to spread out the data inside a category) against between-group variance (how different the categories are from one another). If the between-group variation is big enough that there is little or no overlap between groups, your statistical test will display a low p-value to represent this. This suggests that the disparities between these groups are unlikely to have occurred by accident. Alternatively, if there is a large within-group variance and a low between-group variance, your statistical test will show a high p-value. Any difference you find across groups is most likely attributable to chance. The variety of variables and the level of measurement of your obtained data will influence your statistical test selection.

Step 4: Determine Rejection Of Your Null Hypothesis

Your statistical test results must determine whether your null hypothesis should be rejected or not. In most circumstances, you will base your judgment on the p-value provided by the statistical test. In most circumstances, your preset level of significance for rejecting the null hypothesis will be 0.05 - that is, when there is less than a 5% likelihood that these data would be seen if the null hypothesis were true. In other circumstances, researchers use a lower level of significance, such as 0.01 (1%). This reduces the possibility of wrongly rejecting the null hypothesis.

Step 5: Present Your Results 

The findings of hypothesis testing will be discussed in the results and discussion portions of your research paper, dissertation, or thesis. You should include a concise overview of the data and a summary of the findings of your statistical test in the results section. You can talk about whether your results confirmed your initial hypothesis or not in the conversation. Rejecting or failing to reject the null hypothesis is a formal term used in hypothesis testing. This is likely a must for your statistics assignments.

Types of Hypothesis Testing

To determine whether a discovery or relationship is statistically significant, hypothesis testing uses a z-test. It usually checks to see if two means are the same (the null hypothesis). Only when the population standard deviation is known and the sample size is 30 data points or more, can a z-test be applied.

A statistical test called a t-test is employed to compare the means of two groups. To determine whether two groups differ or if a procedure or treatment affects the population of interest, it is frequently used in hypothesis testing.


You utilize a Chi-square test for hypothesis testing concerning whether your data is as predicted. To determine if the expected and observed results are well-fitted, the Chi-square test analyzes the differences between categorical variables from a random sample. The test's fundamental premise is that the observed values in your data should be compared to the predicted values that would be present if the null hypothesis were true.

Hypothesis Testing and Confidence Intervals

Both confidence intervals and hypothesis tests are inferential techniques that depend on approximating the sample distribution. Data from a sample is used to estimate a population parameter using confidence intervals. Data from a sample is used in hypothesis testing to examine a given hypothesis. We must have a postulated parameter to conduct hypothesis testing.

Bootstrap distributions and randomization distributions are created using comparable simulation techniques. The observed sample statistic is the focal point of a bootstrap distribution, whereas the null hypothesis value is the focal point of a randomization distribution.

A variety of feasible population parameter estimates are included in confidence ranges. In this lesson, we created just two-tailed confidence intervals. There is a direct connection between these two-tail confidence intervals and these two-tail hypothesis tests. The results of a two-tailed hypothesis test and two-tailed confidence intervals typically provide the same results. In other words, a hypothesis test at the 0.05 level will virtually always fail to reject the null hypothesis if the 95% confidence interval contains the predicted value. A hypothesis test at the 0.05 level will nearly certainly reject the null hypothesis if the 95% confidence interval does not include the hypothesized parameter.

Simple and Composite Hypothesis Testing

Depending on the population distribution, you can classify the statistical hypothesis into two types.

Simple Hypothesis: A simple hypothesis specifies an exact value for the parameter.

Composite Hypothesis: A composite hypothesis specifies a range of values.

A company is claiming that their average sales for this quarter are 1000 units. This is an example of a simple hypothesis.

Suppose the company claims that the sales are in the range of 900 to 1000 units. Then this is a case of a composite hypothesis.

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Become a Data Scientist With Real-World Experience

One-Tailed and Two-Tailed Hypothesis Testing

The One-Tailed test, also called a directional test, considers a critical region of data that would result in the null hypothesis being rejected if the test sample falls into it, inevitably meaning the acceptance of the alternate hypothesis.

In a one-tailed test, the critical distribution area is one-sided, meaning the test sample is either greater or lesser than a specific value.

In two tails, the test sample is checked to be greater or less than a range of values in a Two-Tailed test, implying that the critical distribution area is two-sided.

If the sample falls within this range, the alternate hypothesis will be accepted, and the null hypothesis will be rejected.

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Right Tailed Hypothesis Testing

If the larger than (>) sign appears in your hypothesis statement, you are using a right-tailed test, also known as an upper test. Or, to put it another way, the disparity is to the right. For instance, you can contrast the battery life before and after a change in production. Your hypothesis statements can be the following if you want to know if the battery life is longer than the original (let's say 90 hours):

  • The null hypothesis is (H0 <= 90) or less change.
  • A possibility is that battery life has risen (H1) > 90.

The crucial point in this situation is that the alternate hypothesis (H1), not the null hypothesis, decides whether you get a right-tailed test.

Left Tailed Hypothesis Testing

Alternative hypotheses that assert the true value of a parameter is lower than the null hypothesis are tested with a left-tailed test; they are indicated by the asterisk "<".

Suppose H0: mean = 50 and H1: mean not equal to 50

According to the H1, the mean can be greater than or less than 50. This is an example of a Two-tailed test.

In a similar manner, if H0: mean >=50, then H1: mean <50

Here the mean is less than 50. It is called a One-tailed test.

Type 1 and Type 2 Error

A hypothesis test can result in two types of errors.

Type 1 Error: A Type-I error occurs when sample results reject the null hypothesis despite being true.

Type 2 Error: A Type-II error occurs when the null hypothesis is not rejected when it is false, unlike a Type-I error.

Suppose a teacher evaluates the examination paper to decide whether a student passes or fails.

H0: Student has passed

H1: Student has failed

Type I error will be the teacher failing the student [rejects H0] although the student scored the passing marks [H0 was true]. 

Type II error will be the case where the teacher passes the student [do not reject H0] although the student did not score the passing marks [H1 is true].

Level of Significance

The alpha value is a criterion for determining whether a test statistic is statistically significant. In a statistical test, Alpha represents an acceptable probability of a Type I error. Because alpha is a probability, it can be anywhere between 0 and 1. In practice, the most commonly used alpha values are 0.01, 0.05, and 0.1, which represent a 1%, 5%, and 10% chance of a Type I error, respectively (i.e. rejecting the null hypothesis when it is in fact correct).

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A p-value is a metric that expresses the likelihood that an observed difference could have occurred by chance. As the p-value decreases the statistical significance of the observed difference increases. If the p-value is too low, you reject the null hypothesis.

Here you have taken an example in which you are trying to test whether the new advertising campaign has increased the product's sales. The p-value is the likelihood that the null hypothesis, which states that there is no change in the sales due to the new advertising campaign, is true. If the p-value is .30, then there is a 30% chance that there is no increase or decrease in the product's sales.  If the p-value is 0.03, then there is a 3% probability that there is no increase or decrease in the sales value due to the new advertising campaign. As you can see, the lower the p-value, the chances of the alternate hypothesis being true increases, which means that the new advertising campaign causes an increase or decrease in sales.

Why is Hypothesis Testing Important in Research Methodology?

Hypothesis testing is crucial in research methodology for several reasons:

  • Provides evidence-based conclusions: It allows researchers to make objective conclusions based on empirical data, providing evidence to support or refute their research hypotheses.
  • Supports decision-making: It helps make informed decisions, such as accepting or rejecting a new treatment, implementing policy changes, or adopting new practices.
  • Adds rigor and validity: It adds scientific rigor to research using statistical methods to analyze data, ensuring that conclusions are based on sound statistical evidence.
  • Contributes to the advancement of knowledge: By testing hypotheses, researchers contribute to the growth of knowledge in their respective fields by confirming existing theories or discovering new patterns and relationships.

Limitations of Hypothesis Testing

Hypothesis testing has some limitations that researchers should be aware of:

  • It cannot prove or establish the truth: Hypothesis testing provides evidence to support or reject a hypothesis, but it cannot confirm the absolute truth of the research question.
  • Results are sample-specific: Hypothesis testing is based on analyzing a sample from a population, and the conclusions drawn are specific to that particular sample.
  • Possible errors: During hypothesis testing, there is a chance of committing type I error (rejecting a true null hypothesis) or type II error (failing to reject a false null hypothesis).
  • Assumptions and requirements: Different tests have specific assumptions and requirements that must be met to accurately interpret results.

After reading this tutorial, you would have a much better understanding of hypothesis testing, one of the most important concepts in the field of Data Science . The majority of hypotheses are based on speculation about observed behavior, natural phenomena, or established theories.

If you are interested in statistics of data science and skills needed for such a career, you ought to explore Simplilearn’s Post Graduate Program in Data Science.

If you have any questions regarding this ‘Hypothesis Testing In Statistics’ tutorial, do share them in the comment section. Our subject matter expert will respond to your queries. Happy learning!

1. What is hypothesis testing in statistics with example?

Hypothesis testing is a statistical method used to determine if there is enough evidence in a sample data to draw conclusions about a population. It involves formulating two competing hypotheses, the null hypothesis (H0) and the alternative hypothesis (Ha), and then collecting data to assess the evidence. An example: testing if a new drug improves patient recovery (Ha) compared to the standard treatment (H0) based on collected patient data.

2. What is hypothesis testing and its types?

Hypothesis testing is a statistical method used to make inferences about a population based on sample data. It involves formulating two hypotheses: the null hypothesis (H0), which represents the default assumption, and the alternative hypothesis (Ha), which contradicts H0. The goal is to assess the evidence and determine whether there is enough statistical significance to reject the null hypothesis in favor of the alternative hypothesis.

Types of hypothesis testing:

  • One-sample test: Used to compare a sample to a known value or a hypothesized value.
  • Two-sample test: Compares two independent samples to assess if there is a significant difference between their means or distributions.
  • Paired-sample test: Compares two related samples, such as pre-test and post-test data, to evaluate changes within the same subjects over time or under different conditions.
  • Chi-square test: Used to analyze categorical data and determine if there is a significant association between variables.
  • ANOVA (Analysis of Variance): Compares means across multiple groups to check if there is a significant difference between them.

3. What are the steps of hypothesis testing?

The steps of hypothesis testing are as follows:

  • Formulate the hypotheses: State the null hypothesis (H0) and the alternative hypothesis (Ha) based on the research question.
  • Set the significance level: Determine the acceptable level of error (alpha) for making a decision.
  • Collect and analyze data: Gather and process the sample data.
  • Compute test statistic: Calculate the appropriate statistical test to assess the evidence.
  • Make a decision: Compare the test statistic with critical values or p-values and determine whether to reject H0 in favor of Ha or not.
  • Draw conclusions: Interpret the results and communicate the findings in the context of the research question.

4. What are the 2 types of hypothesis testing?

  • One-tailed (or one-sided) test: Tests for the significance of an effect in only one direction, either positive or negative.
  • Two-tailed (or two-sided) test: Tests for the significance of an effect in both directions, allowing for the possibility of a positive or negative effect.

The choice between one-tailed and two-tailed tests depends on the specific research question and the directionality of the expected effect.

5. What are the 3 major types of hypothesis?

The three major types of hypotheses are:

  • Null Hypothesis (H0): Represents the default assumption, stating that there is no significant effect or relationship in the data.
  • Alternative Hypothesis (Ha): Contradicts the null hypothesis and proposes a specific effect or relationship that researchers want to investigate.
  • Nondirectional Hypothesis: An alternative hypothesis that doesn't specify the direction of the effect, leaving it open for both positive and negative possibilities.

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About the author.

Avijeet Biswal

Avijeet is a Senior Research Analyst at Simplilearn. Passionate about Data Analytics, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning, Avijeet is also interested in politics, cricket, and football.

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Hypothesis Testing

Hypothesis testing is a tool for making statistical inferences about the population data. It is an analysis tool that tests assumptions and determines how likely something is within a given standard of accuracy. Hypothesis testing provides a way to verify whether the results of an experiment are valid.

A null hypothesis and an alternative hypothesis are set up before performing the hypothesis testing. This helps to arrive at a conclusion regarding the sample obtained from the population. In this article, we will learn more about hypothesis testing, its types, steps to perform the testing, and associated examples.

What is Hypothesis Testing in Statistics?

Hypothesis testing uses sample data from the population to draw useful conclusions regarding the population probability distribution . It tests an assumption made about the data using different types of hypothesis testing methodologies. The hypothesis testing results in either rejecting or not rejecting the null hypothesis.

Hypothesis Testing Definition

Hypothesis testing can be defined as a statistical tool that is used to identify if the results of an experiment are meaningful or not. It involves setting up a null hypothesis and an alternative hypothesis. These two hypotheses will always be mutually exclusive. This means that if the null hypothesis is true then the alternative hypothesis is false and vice versa. An example of hypothesis testing is setting up a test to check if a new medicine works on a disease in a more efficient manner.

Null Hypothesis

The null hypothesis is a concise mathematical statement that is used to indicate that there is no difference between two possibilities. In other words, there is no difference between certain characteristics of data. This hypothesis assumes that the outcomes of an experiment are based on chance alone. It is denoted as \(H_{0}\). Hypothesis testing is used to conclude if the null hypothesis can be rejected or not. Suppose an experiment is conducted to check if girls are shorter than boys at the age of 5. The null hypothesis will say that they are the same height.

Alternative Hypothesis

The alternative hypothesis is an alternative to the null hypothesis. It is used to show that the observations of an experiment are due to some real effect. It indicates that there is a statistical significance between two possible outcomes and can be denoted as \(H_{1}\) or \(H_{a}\). For the above-mentioned example, the alternative hypothesis would be that girls are shorter than boys at the age of 5.

Hypothesis Testing P Value

In hypothesis testing, the p value is used to indicate whether the results obtained after conducting a test are statistically significant or not. It also indicates the probability of making an error in rejecting or not rejecting the null hypothesis.This value is always a number between 0 and 1. The p value is compared to an alpha level, \(\alpha\) or significance level. The alpha level can be defined as the acceptable risk of incorrectly rejecting the null hypothesis. The alpha level is usually chosen between 1% to 5%.

Hypothesis Testing Critical region

All sets of values that lead to rejecting the null hypothesis lie in the critical region. Furthermore, the value that separates the critical region from the non-critical region is known as the critical value.

Hypothesis Testing Formula

Depending upon the type of data available and the size, different types of hypothesis testing are used to determine whether the null hypothesis can be rejected or not. The hypothesis testing formula for some important test statistics are given below:

  • z = \(\frac{\overline{x}-\mu}{\frac{\sigma}{\sqrt{n}}}\). \(\overline{x}\) is the sample mean, \(\mu\) is the population mean, \(\sigma\) is the population standard deviation and n is the size of the sample.
  • t = \(\frac{\overline{x}-\mu}{\frac{s}{\sqrt{n}}}\). s is the sample standard deviation.
  • \(\chi ^{2} = \sum \frac{(O_{i}-E_{i})^{2}}{E_{i}}\). \(O_{i}\) is the observed value and \(E_{i}\) is the expected value.

We will learn more about these test statistics in the upcoming section.

Types of Hypothesis Testing

Selecting the correct test for performing hypothesis testing can be confusing. These tests are used to determine a test statistic on the basis of which the null hypothesis can either be rejected or not rejected. Some of the important tests used for hypothesis testing are given below.

Hypothesis Testing Z Test

A z test is a way of hypothesis testing that is used for a large sample size (n ≥ 30). It is used to determine whether there is a difference between the population mean and the sample mean when the population standard deviation is known. It can also be used to compare the mean of two samples. It is used to compute the z test statistic. The formulas are given as follows:

  • One sample: z = \(\frac{\overline{x}-\mu}{\frac{\sigma}{\sqrt{n}}}\).
  • Two samples: z = \(\frac{(\overline{x_{1}}-\overline{x_{2}})-(\mu_{1}-\mu_{2})}{\sqrt{\frac{\sigma_{1}^{2}}{n_{1}}+\frac{\sigma_{2}^{2}}{n_{2}}}}\).

Hypothesis Testing t Test

The t test is another method of hypothesis testing that is used for a small sample size (n < 30). It is also used to compare the sample mean and population mean. However, the population standard deviation is not known. Instead, the sample standard deviation is known. The mean of two samples can also be compared using the t test.

  • One sample: t = \(\frac{\overline{x}-\mu}{\frac{s}{\sqrt{n}}}\).
  • Two samples: t = \(\frac{(\overline{x_{1}}-\overline{x_{2}})-(\mu_{1}-\mu_{2})}{\sqrt{\frac{s_{1}^{2}}{n_{1}}+\frac{s_{2}^{2}}{n_{2}}}}\).

Hypothesis Testing Chi Square

The Chi square test is a hypothesis testing method that is used to check whether the variables in a population are independent or not. It is used when the test statistic is chi-squared distributed.

One Tailed Hypothesis Testing

One tailed hypothesis testing is done when the rejection region is only in one direction. It can also be known as directional hypothesis testing because the effects can be tested in one direction only. This type of testing is further classified into the right tailed test and left tailed test.

Right Tailed Hypothesis Testing

The right tail test is also known as the upper tail test. This test is used to check whether the population parameter is greater than some value. The null and alternative hypotheses for this test are given as follows:

\(H_{0}\): The population parameter is ≤ some value

\(H_{1}\): The population parameter is > some value.

If the test statistic has a greater value than the critical value then the null hypothesis is rejected

Right Tail Hypothesis Testing

Left Tailed Hypothesis Testing

The left tail test is also known as the lower tail test. It is used to check whether the population parameter is less than some value. The hypotheses for this hypothesis testing can be written as follows:

\(H_{0}\): The population parameter is ≥ some value

\(H_{1}\): The population parameter is < some value.

The null hypothesis is rejected if the test statistic has a value lesser than the critical value.

Left Tail Hypothesis Testing

Two Tailed Hypothesis Testing

In this hypothesis testing method, the critical region lies on both sides of the sampling distribution. It is also known as a non - directional hypothesis testing method. The two-tailed test is used when it needs to be determined if the population parameter is assumed to be different than some value. The hypotheses can be set up as follows:

\(H_{0}\): the population parameter = some value

\(H_{1}\): the population parameter ≠ some value

The null hypothesis is rejected if the test statistic has a value that is not equal to the critical value.

Two Tail Hypothesis Testing

Hypothesis Testing Steps

Hypothesis testing can be easily performed in five simple steps. The most important step is to correctly set up the hypotheses and identify the right method for hypothesis testing. The basic steps to perform hypothesis testing are as follows:

  • Step 1: Set up the null hypothesis by correctly identifying whether it is the left-tailed, right-tailed, or two-tailed hypothesis testing.
  • Step 2: Set up the alternative hypothesis.
  • Step 3: Choose the correct significance level, \(\alpha\), and find the critical value.
  • Step 4: Calculate the correct test statistic (z, t or \(\chi\)) and p-value.
  • Step 5: Compare the test statistic with the critical value or compare the p-value with \(\alpha\) to arrive at a conclusion. In other words, decide if the null hypothesis is to be rejected or not.

Hypothesis Testing Example

The best way to solve a problem on hypothesis testing is by applying the 5 steps mentioned in the previous section. Suppose a researcher claims that the mean average weight of men is greater than 100kgs with a standard deviation of 15kgs. 30 men are chosen with an average weight of 112.5 Kgs. Using hypothesis testing, check if there is enough evidence to support the researcher's claim. The confidence interval is given as 95%.

Step 1: This is an example of a right-tailed test. Set up the null hypothesis as \(H_{0}\): \(\mu\) = 100.

Step 2: The alternative hypothesis is given by \(H_{1}\): \(\mu\) > 100.

Step 3: As this is a one-tailed test, \(\alpha\) = 100% - 95% = 5%. This can be used to determine the critical value.

1 - \(\alpha\) = 1 - 0.05 = 0.95

0.95 gives the required area under the curve. Now using a normal distribution table, the area 0.95 is at z = 1.645. A similar process can be followed for a t-test. The only additional requirement is to calculate the degrees of freedom given by n - 1.

Step 4: Calculate the z test statistic. This is because the sample size is 30. Furthermore, the sample and population means are known along with the standard deviation.

z = \(\frac{\overline{x}-\mu}{\frac{\sigma}{\sqrt{n}}}\).

\(\mu\) = 100, \(\overline{x}\) = 112.5, n = 30, \(\sigma\) = 15

z = \(\frac{112.5-100}{\frac{15}{\sqrt{30}}}\) = 4.56

Step 5: Conclusion. As 4.56 > 1.645 thus, the null hypothesis can be rejected.

Hypothesis Testing and Confidence Intervals

Confidence intervals form an important part of hypothesis testing. This is because the alpha level can be determined from a given confidence interval. Suppose a confidence interval is given as 95%. Subtract the confidence interval from 100%. This gives 100 - 95 = 5% or 0.05. This is the alpha value of a one-tailed hypothesis testing. To obtain the alpha value for a two-tailed hypothesis testing, divide this value by 2. This gives 0.05 / 2 = 0.025.

Related Articles:

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Important Notes on Hypothesis Testing

  • Hypothesis testing is a technique that is used to verify whether the results of an experiment are statistically significant.
  • It involves the setting up of a null hypothesis and an alternate hypothesis.
  • There are three types of tests that can be conducted under hypothesis testing - z test, t test, and chi square test.
  • Hypothesis testing can be classified as right tail, left tail, and two tail tests.

Examples on Hypothesis Testing

  • Example 1: The average weight of a dumbbell in a gym is 90lbs. However, a physical trainer believes that the average weight might be higher. A random sample of 5 dumbbells with an average weight of 110lbs and a standard deviation of 18lbs. Using hypothesis testing check if the physical trainer's claim can be supported for a 95% confidence level. Solution: As the sample size is lesser than 30, the t-test is used. \(H_{0}\): \(\mu\) = 90, \(H_{1}\): \(\mu\) > 90 \(\overline{x}\) = 110, \(\mu\) = 90, n = 5, s = 18. \(\alpha\) = 0.05 Using the t-distribution table, the critical value is 2.132 t = \(\frac{\overline{x}-\mu}{\frac{s}{\sqrt{n}}}\) t = 2.484 As 2.484 > 2.132, the null hypothesis is rejected. Answer: The average weight of the dumbbells may be greater than 90lbs
  • Example 2: The average score on a test is 80 with a standard deviation of 10. With a new teaching curriculum introduced it is believed that this score will change. On random testing, the score of 38 students, the mean was found to be 88. With a 0.05 significance level, is there any evidence to support this claim? Solution: This is an example of two-tail hypothesis testing. The z test will be used. \(H_{0}\): \(\mu\) = 80, \(H_{1}\): \(\mu\) ≠ 80 \(\overline{x}\) = 88, \(\mu\) = 80, n = 36, \(\sigma\) = 10. \(\alpha\) = 0.05 / 2 = 0.025 The critical value using the normal distribution table is 1.96 z = \(\frac{\overline{x}-\mu}{\frac{\sigma}{\sqrt{n}}}\) z = \(\frac{88-80}{\frac{10}{\sqrt{36}}}\) = 4.8 As 4.8 > 1.96, the null hypothesis is rejected. Answer: There is a difference in the scores after the new curriculum was introduced.
  • Example 3: The average score of a class is 90. However, a teacher believes that the average score might be lower. The scores of 6 students were randomly measured. The mean was 82 with a standard deviation of 18. With a 0.05 significance level use hypothesis testing to check if this claim is true. Solution: The t test will be used. \(H_{0}\): \(\mu\) = 90, \(H_{1}\): \(\mu\) < 90 \(\overline{x}\) = 110, \(\mu\) = 90, n = 6, s = 18 The critical value from the t table is -2.015 t = \(\frac{\overline{x}-\mu}{\frac{s}{\sqrt{n}}}\) t = \(\frac{82-90}{\frac{18}{\sqrt{6}}}\) t = -1.088 As -1.088 > -2.015, we fail to reject the null hypothesis. Answer: There is not enough evidence to support the claim.

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FAQs on Hypothesis Testing

What is hypothesis testing.

Hypothesis testing in statistics is a tool that is used to make inferences about the population data. It is also used to check if the results of an experiment are valid.

What is the z Test in Hypothesis Testing?

The z test in hypothesis testing is used to find the z test statistic for normally distributed data . The z test is used when the standard deviation of the population is known and the sample size is greater than or equal to 30.

What is the t Test in Hypothesis Testing?

The t test in hypothesis testing is used when the data follows a student t distribution . It is used when the sample size is less than 30 and standard deviation of the population is not known.

What is the formula for z test in Hypothesis Testing?

The formula for a one sample z test in hypothesis testing is z = \(\frac{\overline{x}-\mu}{\frac{\sigma}{\sqrt{n}}}\) and for two samples is z = \(\frac{(\overline{x_{1}}-\overline{x_{2}})-(\mu_{1}-\mu_{2})}{\sqrt{\frac{\sigma_{1}^{2}}{n_{1}}+\frac{\sigma_{2}^{2}}{n_{2}}}}\).

What is the p Value in Hypothesis Testing?

The p value helps to determine if the test results are statistically significant or not. In hypothesis testing, the null hypothesis can either be rejected or not rejected based on the comparison between the p value and the alpha level.

What is One Tail Hypothesis Testing?

When the rejection region is only on one side of the distribution curve then it is known as one tail hypothesis testing. The right tail test and the left tail test are two types of directional hypothesis testing.

What is the Alpha Level in Two Tail Hypothesis Testing?

To get the alpha level in a two tail hypothesis testing divide \(\alpha\) by 2. This is done as there are two rejection regions in the curve.

Frequently asked questions

What is hypothesis testing.

Hypothesis testing is a formal procedure for investigating our ideas about the world using statistics. It is used by scientists to test specific predictions, called hypotheses , by calculating how likely it is that a pattern or relationship between variables could have arisen by chance.

Frequently asked questions: Methodology

Attrition refers to participants leaving a study. It always happens to some extent—for example, in randomized controlled trials for medical research.

Differential attrition occurs when attrition or dropout rates differ systematically between the intervention and the control group . As a result, the characteristics of the participants who drop out differ from the characteristics of those who stay in the study. Because of this, study results may be biased .

Action research is conducted in order to solve a particular issue immediately, while case studies are often conducted over a longer period of time and focus more on observing and analyzing a particular ongoing phenomenon.

Action research is focused on solving a problem or informing individual and community-based knowledge in a way that impacts teaching, learning, and other related processes. It is less focused on contributing theoretical input, instead producing actionable input.

Action research is particularly popular with educators as a form of systematic inquiry because it prioritizes reflection and bridges the gap between theory and practice. Educators are able to simultaneously investigate an issue as they solve it, and the method is very iterative and flexible.

A cycle of inquiry is another name for action research . It is usually visualized in a spiral shape following a series of steps, such as “planning → acting → observing → reflecting.”

To make quantitative observations , you need to use instruments that are capable of measuring the quantity you want to observe. For example, you might use a ruler to measure the length of an object or a thermometer to measure its temperature.

Criterion validity and construct validity are both types of measurement validity . In other words, they both show you how accurately a method measures something.

While construct validity is the degree to which a test or other measurement method measures what it claims to measure, criterion validity is the degree to which a test can predictively (in the future) or concurrently (in the present) measure something.

Construct validity is often considered the overarching type of measurement validity . You need to have face validity , content validity , and criterion validity in order to achieve construct validity.

Convergent validity and discriminant validity are both subtypes of construct validity . Together, they help you evaluate whether a test measures the concept it was designed to measure.

  • Convergent validity indicates whether a test that is designed to measure a particular construct correlates with other tests that assess the same or similar construct.
  • Discriminant validity indicates whether two tests that should not be highly related to each other are indeed not related. This type of validity is also called divergent validity .

You need to assess both in order to demonstrate construct validity. Neither one alone is sufficient for establishing construct validity.

  • Discriminant validity indicates whether two tests that should not be highly related to each other are indeed not related

Content validity shows you how accurately a test or other measurement method taps  into the various aspects of the specific construct you are researching.

In other words, it helps you answer the question: “does the test measure all aspects of the construct I want to measure?” If it does, then the test has high content validity.

The higher the content validity, the more accurate the measurement of the construct.

If the test fails to include parts of the construct, or irrelevant parts are included, the validity of the instrument is threatened, which brings your results into question.

Face validity and content validity are similar in that they both evaluate how suitable the content of a test is. The difference is that face validity is subjective, and assesses content at surface level.

When a test has strong face validity, anyone would agree that the test’s questions appear to measure what they are intended to measure.

For example, looking at a 4th grade math test consisting of problems in which students have to add and multiply, most people would agree that it has strong face validity (i.e., it looks like a math test).

On the other hand, content validity evaluates how well a test represents all the aspects of a topic. Assessing content validity is more systematic and relies on expert evaluation. of each question, analyzing whether each one covers the aspects that the test was designed to cover.

A 4th grade math test would have high content validity if it covered all the skills taught in that grade. Experts(in this case, math teachers), would have to evaluate the content validity by comparing the test to the learning objectives.

Snowball sampling is a non-probability sampling method . Unlike probability sampling (which involves some form of random selection ), the initial individuals selected to be studied are the ones who recruit new participants.

Because not every member of the target population has an equal chance of being recruited into the sample, selection in snowball sampling is non-random.

Snowball sampling is a non-probability sampling method , where there is not an equal chance for every member of the population to be included in the sample .

This means that you cannot use inferential statistics and make generalizations —often the goal of quantitative research . As such, a snowball sample is not representative of the target population and is usually a better fit for qualitative research .

Snowball sampling relies on the use of referrals. Here, the researcher recruits one or more initial participants, who then recruit the next ones.

Participants share similar characteristics and/or know each other. Because of this, not every member of the population has an equal chance of being included in the sample, giving rise to sampling bias .

Snowball sampling is best used in the following cases:

  • If there is no sampling frame available (e.g., people with a rare disease)
  • If the population of interest is hard to access or locate (e.g., people experiencing homelessness)
  • If the research focuses on a sensitive topic (e.g., extramarital affairs)

The reproducibility and replicability of a study can be ensured by writing a transparent, detailed method section and using clear, unambiguous language.

Reproducibility and replicability are related terms.

  • Reproducing research entails reanalyzing the existing data in the same manner.
  • Replicating (or repeating ) the research entails reconducting the entire analysis, including the collection of new data . 
  • A successful reproduction shows that the data analyses were conducted in a fair and honest manner.
  • A successful replication shows that the reliability of the results is high.

Stratified sampling and quota sampling both involve dividing the population into subgroups and selecting units from each subgroup. The purpose in both cases is to select a representative sample and/or to allow comparisons between subgroups.

The main difference is that in stratified sampling, you draw a random sample from each subgroup ( probability sampling ). In quota sampling you select a predetermined number or proportion of units, in a non-random manner ( non-probability sampling ).

Purposive and convenience sampling are both sampling methods that are typically used in qualitative data collection.

A convenience sample is drawn from a source that is conveniently accessible to the researcher. Convenience sampling does not distinguish characteristics among the participants. On the other hand, purposive sampling focuses on selecting participants possessing characteristics associated with the research study.

The findings of studies based on either convenience or purposive sampling can only be generalized to the (sub)population from which the sample is drawn, and not to the entire population.

Random sampling or probability sampling is based on random selection. This means that each unit has an equal chance (i.e., equal probability) of being included in the sample.

On the other hand, convenience sampling involves stopping people at random, which means that not everyone has an equal chance of being selected depending on the place, time, or day you are collecting your data.

Convenience sampling and quota sampling are both non-probability sampling methods. They both use non-random criteria like availability, geographical proximity, or expert knowledge to recruit study participants.

However, in convenience sampling, you continue to sample units or cases until you reach the required sample size.

In quota sampling, you first need to divide your population of interest into subgroups (strata) and estimate their proportions (quota) in the population. Then you can start your data collection, using convenience sampling to recruit participants, until the proportions in each subgroup coincide with the estimated proportions in the population.

A sampling frame is a list of every member in the entire population . It is important that the sampling frame is as complete as possible, so that your sample accurately reflects your population.

Stratified and cluster sampling may look similar, but bear in mind that groups created in cluster sampling are heterogeneous , so the individual characteristics in the cluster vary. In contrast, groups created in stratified sampling are homogeneous , as units share characteristics.

Relatedly, in cluster sampling you randomly select entire groups and include all units of each group in your sample. However, in stratified sampling, you select some units of all groups and include them in your sample. In this way, both methods can ensure that your sample is representative of the target population .

A systematic review is secondary research because it uses existing research. You don’t collect new data yourself.

The key difference between observational studies and experimental designs is that a well-done observational study does not influence the responses of participants, while experiments do have some sort of treatment condition applied to at least some participants by random assignment .

An observational study is a great choice for you if your research question is based purely on observations. If there are ethical, logistical, or practical concerns that prevent you from conducting a traditional experiment , an observational study may be a good choice. In an observational study, there is no interference or manipulation of the research subjects, as well as no control or treatment groups .

It’s often best to ask a variety of people to review your measurements. You can ask experts, such as other researchers, or laypeople, such as potential participants, to judge the face validity of tests.

While experts have a deep understanding of research methods , the people you’re studying can provide you with valuable insights you may have missed otherwise.

Face validity is important because it’s a simple first step to measuring the overall validity of a test or technique. It’s a relatively intuitive, quick, and easy way to start checking whether a new measure seems useful at first glance.

Good face validity means that anyone who reviews your measure says that it seems to be measuring what it’s supposed to. With poor face validity, someone reviewing your measure may be left confused about what you’re measuring and why you’re using this method.

Face validity is about whether a test appears to measure what it’s supposed to measure. This type of validity is concerned with whether a measure seems relevant and appropriate for what it’s assessing only on the surface.

Statistical analyses are often applied to test validity with data from your measures. You test convergent validity and discriminant validity with correlations to see if results from your test are positively or negatively related to those of other established tests.

You can also use regression analyses to assess whether your measure is actually predictive of outcomes that you expect it to predict theoretically. A regression analysis that supports your expectations strengthens your claim of construct validity .

When designing or evaluating a measure, construct validity helps you ensure you’re actually measuring the construct you’re interested in. If you don’t have construct validity, you may inadvertently measure unrelated or distinct constructs and lose precision in your research.

Construct validity is often considered the overarching type of measurement validity ,  because it covers all of the other types. You need to have face validity , content validity , and criterion validity to achieve construct validity.

Construct validity is about how well a test measures the concept it was designed to evaluate. It’s one of four types of measurement validity , which includes construct validity, face validity , and criterion validity.

There are two subtypes of construct validity.

  • Convergent validity : The extent to which your measure corresponds to measures of related constructs
  • Discriminant validity : The extent to which your measure is unrelated or negatively related to measures of distinct constructs

Naturalistic observation is a valuable tool because of its flexibility, external validity , and suitability for topics that can’t be studied in a lab setting.

The downsides of naturalistic observation include its lack of scientific control , ethical considerations , and potential for bias from observers and subjects.

Naturalistic observation is a qualitative research method where you record the behaviors of your research subjects in real world settings. You avoid interfering or influencing anything in a naturalistic observation.

You can think of naturalistic observation as “people watching” with a purpose.

A dependent variable is what changes as a result of the independent variable manipulation in experiments . It’s what you’re interested in measuring, and it “depends” on your independent variable.

In statistics, dependent variables are also called:

  • Response variables (they respond to a change in another variable)
  • Outcome variables (they represent the outcome you want to measure)
  • Left-hand-side variables (they appear on the left-hand side of a regression equation)

An independent variable is the variable you manipulate, control, or vary in an experimental study to explore its effects. It’s called “independent” because it’s not influenced by any other variables in the study.

Independent variables are also called:

  • Explanatory variables (they explain an event or outcome)
  • Predictor variables (they can be used to predict the value of a dependent variable)
  • Right-hand-side variables (they appear on the right-hand side of a regression equation).

As a rule of thumb, questions related to thoughts, beliefs, and feelings work well in focus groups. Take your time formulating strong questions, paying special attention to phrasing. Be careful to avoid leading questions , which can bias your responses.

Overall, your focus group questions should be:

  • Open-ended and flexible
  • Impossible to answer with “yes” or “no” (questions that start with “why” or “how” are often best)
  • Unambiguous, getting straight to the point while still stimulating discussion
  • Unbiased and neutral

A structured interview is a data collection method that relies on asking questions in a set order to collect data on a topic. They are often quantitative in nature. Structured interviews are best used when: 

  • You already have a very clear understanding of your topic. Perhaps significant research has already been conducted, or you have done some prior research yourself, but you already possess a baseline for designing strong structured questions.
  • You are constrained in terms of time or resources and need to analyze your data quickly and efficiently.
  • Your research question depends on strong parity between participants, with environmental conditions held constant.

More flexible interview options include semi-structured interviews , unstructured interviews , and focus groups .

Social desirability bias is the tendency for interview participants to give responses that will be viewed favorably by the interviewer or other participants. It occurs in all types of interviews and surveys , but is most common in semi-structured interviews , unstructured interviews , and focus groups .

Social desirability bias can be mitigated by ensuring participants feel at ease and comfortable sharing their views. Make sure to pay attention to your own body language and any physical or verbal cues, such as nodding or widening your eyes.

This type of bias can also occur in observations if the participants know they’re being observed. They might alter their behavior accordingly.

The interviewer effect is a type of bias that emerges when a characteristic of an interviewer (race, age, gender identity, etc.) influences the responses given by the interviewee.

There is a risk of an interviewer effect in all types of interviews , but it can be mitigated by writing really high-quality interview questions.

A semi-structured interview is a blend of structured and unstructured types of interviews. Semi-structured interviews are best used when:

  • You have prior interview experience. Spontaneous questions are deceptively challenging, and it’s easy to accidentally ask a leading question or make a participant uncomfortable.
  • Your research question is exploratory in nature. Participant answers can guide future research questions and help you develop a more robust knowledge base for future research.

An unstructured interview is the most flexible type of interview, but it is not always the best fit for your research topic.

Unstructured interviews are best used when:

  • You are an experienced interviewer and have a very strong background in your research topic, since it is challenging to ask spontaneous, colloquial questions.
  • Your research question is exploratory in nature. While you may have developed hypotheses, you are open to discovering new or shifting viewpoints through the interview process.
  • You are seeking descriptive data, and are ready to ask questions that will deepen and contextualize your initial thoughts and hypotheses.
  • Your research depends on forming connections with your participants and making them feel comfortable revealing deeper emotions, lived experiences, or thoughts.

The four most common types of interviews are:

  • Structured interviews : The questions are predetermined in both topic and order. 
  • Semi-structured interviews : A few questions are predetermined, but other questions aren’t planned.
  • Unstructured interviews : None of the questions are predetermined.
  • Focus group interviews : The questions are presented to a group instead of one individual.

Deductive reasoning is commonly used in scientific research, and it’s especially associated with quantitative research .

In research, you might have come across something called the hypothetico-deductive method . It’s the scientific method of testing hypotheses to check whether your predictions are substantiated by real-world data.

Deductive reasoning is a logical approach where you progress from general ideas to specific conclusions. It’s often contrasted with inductive reasoning , where you start with specific observations and form general conclusions.

Deductive reasoning is also called deductive logic.

There are many different types of inductive reasoning that people use formally or informally.

Here are a few common types:

  • Inductive generalization : You use observations about a sample to come to a conclusion about the population it came from.
  • Statistical generalization: You use specific numbers about samples to make statements about populations.
  • Causal reasoning: You make cause-and-effect links between different things.
  • Sign reasoning: You make a conclusion about a correlational relationship between different things.
  • Analogical reasoning: You make a conclusion about something based on its similarities to something else.

Inductive reasoning is a bottom-up approach, while deductive reasoning is top-down.

Inductive reasoning takes you from the specific to the general, while in deductive reasoning, you make inferences by going from general premises to specific conclusions.

In inductive research , you start by making observations or gathering data. Then, you take a broad scan of your data and search for patterns. Finally, you make general conclusions that you might incorporate into theories.

Inductive reasoning is a method of drawing conclusions by going from the specific to the general. It’s usually contrasted with deductive reasoning, where you proceed from general information to specific conclusions.

Inductive reasoning is also called inductive logic or bottom-up reasoning.

A hypothesis states your predictions about what your research will find. It is a tentative answer to your research question that has not yet been tested. For some research projects, you might have to write several hypotheses that address different aspects of your research question.

A hypothesis is not just a guess — it should be based on existing theories and knowledge. It also has to be testable, which means you can support or refute it through scientific research methods (such as experiments, observations and statistical analysis of data).

Triangulation can help:

  • Reduce research bias that comes from using a single method, theory, or investigator
  • Enhance validity by approaching the same topic with different tools
  • Establish credibility by giving you a complete picture of the research problem

But triangulation can also pose problems:

  • It’s time-consuming and labor-intensive, often involving an interdisciplinary team.
  • Your results may be inconsistent or even contradictory.

There are four main types of triangulation :

  • Data triangulation : Using data from different times, spaces, and people
  • Investigator triangulation : Involving multiple researchers in collecting or analyzing data
  • Theory triangulation : Using varying theoretical perspectives in your research
  • Methodological triangulation : Using different methodologies to approach the same topic

Many academic fields use peer review , largely to determine whether a manuscript is suitable for publication. Peer review enhances the credibility of the published manuscript.

However, peer review is also common in non-academic settings. The United Nations, the European Union, and many individual nations use peer review to evaluate grant applications. It is also widely used in medical and health-related fields as a teaching or quality-of-care measure. 

Peer assessment is often used in the classroom as a pedagogical tool. Both receiving feedback and providing it are thought to enhance the learning process, helping students think critically and collaboratively.

Peer review can stop obviously problematic, falsified, or otherwise untrustworthy research from being published. It also represents an excellent opportunity to get feedback from renowned experts in your field. It acts as a first defense, helping you ensure your argument is clear and that there are no gaps, vague terms, or unanswered questions for readers who weren’t involved in the research process.

Peer-reviewed articles are considered a highly credible source due to this stringent process they go through before publication.

In general, the peer review process follows the following steps: 

  • First, the author submits the manuscript to the editor.
  • Reject the manuscript and send it back to author, or 
  • Send it onward to the selected peer reviewer(s) 
  • Next, the peer review process occurs. The reviewer provides feedback, addressing any major or minor issues with the manuscript, and gives their advice regarding what edits should be made. 
  • Lastly, the edited manuscript is sent back to the author. They input the edits, and resubmit it to the editor for publication.

Exploratory research is often used when the issue you’re studying is new or when the data collection process is challenging for some reason.

You can use exploratory research if you have a general idea or a specific question that you want to study but there is no preexisting knowledge or paradigm with which to study it.

Exploratory research is a methodology approach that explores research questions that have not previously been studied in depth. It is often used when the issue you’re studying is new, or the data collection process is challenging in some way.

Explanatory research is used to investigate how or why a phenomenon occurs. Therefore, this type of research is often one of the first stages in the research process , serving as a jumping-off point for future research.

Exploratory research aims to explore the main aspects of an under-researched problem, while explanatory research aims to explain the causes and consequences of a well-defined problem.

Explanatory research is a research method used to investigate how or why something occurs when only a small amount of information is available pertaining to that topic. It can help you increase your understanding of a given topic.

Clean data are valid, accurate, complete, consistent, unique, and uniform. Dirty data include inconsistencies and errors.

Dirty data can come from any part of the research process, including poor research design , inappropriate measurement materials, or flawed data entry.

Data cleaning takes place between data collection and data analyses. But you can use some methods even before collecting data.

For clean data, you should start by designing measures that collect valid data. Data validation at the time of data entry or collection helps you minimize the amount of data cleaning you’ll need to do.

After data collection, you can use data standardization and data transformation to clean your data. You’ll also deal with any missing values, outliers, and duplicate values.

Every dataset requires different techniques to clean dirty data , but you need to address these issues in a systematic way. You focus on finding and resolving data points that don’t agree or fit with the rest of your dataset.

These data might be missing values, outliers, duplicate values, incorrectly formatted, or irrelevant. You’ll start with screening and diagnosing your data. Then, you’ll often standardize and accept or remove data to make your dataset consistent and valid.

Data cleaning is necessary for valid and appropriate analyses. Dirty data contain inconsistencies or errors , but cleaning your data helps you minimize or resolve these.

Without data cleaning, you could end up with a Type I or II error in your conclusion. These types of erroneous conclusions can be practically significant with important consequences, because they lead to misplaced investments or missed opportunities.

Data cleaning involves spotting and resolving potential data inconsistencies or errors to improve your data quality. An error is any value (e.g., recorded weight) that doesn’t reflect the true value (e.g., actual weight) of something that’s being measured.

In this process, you review, analyze, detect, modify, or remove “dirty” data to make your dataset “clean.” Data cleaning is also called data cleansing or data scrubbing.

Research misconduct means making up or falsifying data, manipulating data analyses, or misrepresenting results in research reports. It’s a form of academic fraud.

These actions are committed intentionally and can have serious consequences; research misconduct is not a simple mistake or a point of disagreement but a serious ethical failure.

Anonymity means you don’t know who the participants are, while confidentiality means you know who they are but remove identifying information from your research report. Both are important ethical considerations .

You can only guarantee anonymity by not collecting any personally identifying information—for example, names, phone numbers, email addresses, IP addresses, physical characteristics, photos, or videos.

You can keep data confidential by using aggregate information in your research report, so that you only refer to groups of participants rather than individuals.

Research ethics matter for scientific integrity, human rights and dignity, and collaboration between science and society. These principles make sure that participation in studies is voluntary, informed, and safe.

Ethical considerations in research are a set of principles that guide your research designs and practices. These principles include voluntary participation, informed consent, anonymity, confidentiality, potential for harm, and results communication.

Scientists and researchers must always adhere to a certain code of conduct when collecting data from others .

These considerations protect the rights of research participants, enhance research validity , and maintain scientific integrity.

In multistage sampling , you can use probability or non-probability sampling methods .

For a probability sample, you have to conduct probability sampling at every stage.

You can mix it up by using simple random sampling , systematic sampling , or stratified sampling to select units at different stages, depending on what is applicable and relevant to your study.

Multistage sampling can simplify data collection when you have large, geographically spread samples, and you can obtain a probability sample without a complete sampling frame.

But multistage sampling may not lead to a representative sample, and larger samples are needed for multistage samples to achieve the statistical properties of simple random samples .

These are four of the most common mixed methods designs :

  • Convergent parallel: Quantitative and qualitative data are collected at the same time and analyzed separately. After both analyses are complete, compare your results to draw overall conclusions. 
  • Embedded: Quantitative and qualitative data are collected at the same time, but within a larger quantitative or qualitative design. One type of data is secondary to the other.
  • Explanatory sequential: Quantitative data is collected and analyzed first, followed by qualitative data. You can use this design if you think your qualitative data will explain and contextualize your quantitative findings.
  • Exploratory sequential: Qualitative data is collected and analyzed first, followed by quantitative data. You can use this design if you think the quantitative data will confirm or validate your qualitative findings.

Triangulation in research means using multiple datasets, methods, theories and/or investigators to address a research question. It’s a research strategy that can help you enhance the validity and credibility of your findings.

Triangulation is mainly used in qualitative research , but it’s also commonly applied in quantitative research . Mixed methods research always uses triangulation.

In multistage sampling , or multistage cluster sampling, you draw a sample from a population using smaller and smaller groups at each stage.

This method is often used to collect data from a large, geographically spread group of people in national surveys, for example. You take advantage of hierarchical groupings (e.g., from state to city to neighborhood) to create a sample that’s less expensive and time-consuming to collect data from.

No, the steepness or slope of the line isn’t related to the correlation coefficient value. The correlation coefficient only tells you how closely your data fit on a line, so two datasets with the same correlation coefficient can have very different slopes.

To find the slope of the line, you’ll need to perform a regression analysis .

Correlation coefficients always range between -1 and 1.

The sign of the coefficient tells you the direction of the relationship: a positive value means the variables change together in the same direction, while a negative value means they change together in opposite directions.

The absolute value of a number is equal to the number without its sign. The absolute value of a correlation coefficient tells you the magnitude of the correlation: the greater the absolute value, the stronger the correlation.

These are the assumptions your data must meet if you want to use Pearson’s r :

  • Both variables are on an interval or ratio level of measurement
  • Data from both variables follow normal distributions
  • Your data have no outliers
  • Your data is from a random or representative sample
  • You expect a linear relationship between the two variables

Quantitative research designs can be divided into two main categories:

  • Correlational and descriptive designs are used to investigate characteristics, averages, trends, and associations between variables.
  • Experimental and quasi-experimental designs are used to test causal relationships .

Qualitative research designs tend to be more flexible. Common types of qualitative design include case study , ethnography , and grounded theory designs.

A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research aims, that you collect high-quality data, and that you use the right kind of analysis to answer your questions, utilizing credible sources . This allows you to draw valid , trustworthy conclusions.

The priorities of a research design can vary depending on the field, but you usually have to specify:

  • Your research questions and/or hypotheses
  • Your overall approach (e.g., qualitative or quantitative )
  • The type of design you’re using (e.g., a survey , experiment , or case study )
  • Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., questionnaires , observations)
  • Your data collection procedures (e.g., operationalization , timing and data management)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical tests  or thematic analysis )

A research design is a strategy for answering your   research question . It defines your overall approach and determines how you will collect and analyze data.

Questionnaires can be self-administered or researcher-administered.

Self-administered questionnaires can be delivered online or in paper-and-pen formats, in person or through mail. All questions are standardized so that all respondents receive the same questions with identical wording.

Researcher-administered questionnaires are interviews that take place by phone, in-person, or online between researchers and respondents. You can gain deeper insights by clarifying questions for respondents or asking follow-up questions.

You can organize the questions logically, with a clear progression from simple to complex, or randomly between respondents. A logical flow helps respondents process the questionnaire easier and quicker, but it may lead to bias. Randomization can minimize the bias from order effects.

Closed-ended, or restricted-choice, questions offer respondents a fixed set of choices to select from. These questions are easier to answer quickly.

Open-ended or long-form questions allow respondents to answer in their own words. Because there are no restrictions on their choices, respondents can answer in ways that researchers may not have otherwise considered.

A questionnaire is a data collection tool or instrument, while a survey is an overarching research method that involves collecting and analyzing data from people using questionnaires.

The third variable and directionality problems are two main reasons why correlation isn’t causation .

The third variable problem means that a confounding variable affects both variables to make them seem causally related when they are not.

The directionality problem is when two variables correlate and might actually have a causal relationship, but it’s impossible to conclude which variable causes changes in the other.

Correlation describes an association between variables : when one variable changes, so does the other. A correlation is a statistical indicator of the relationship between variables.

Causation means that changes in one variable brings about changes in the other (i.e., there is a cause-and-effect relationship between variables). The two variables are correlated with each other, and there’s also a causal link between them.

While causation and correlation can exist simultaneously, correlation does not imply causation. In other words, correlation is simply a relationship where A relates to B—but A doesn’t necessarily cause B to happen (or vice versa). Mistaking correlation for causation is a common error and can lead to false cause fallacy .

Controlled experiments establish causality, whereas correlational studies only show associations between variables.

  • In an experimental design , you manipulate an independent variable and measure its effect on a dependent variable. Other variables are controlled so they can’t impact the results.
  • In a correlational design , you measure variables without manipulating any of them. You can test whether your variables change together, but you can’t be sure that one variable caused a change in another.

In general, correlational research is high in external validity while experimental research is high in internal validity .

A correlation is usually tested for two variables at a time, but you can test correlations between three or more variables.

A correlation coefficient is a single number that describes the strength and direction of the relationship between your variables.

Different types of correlation coefficients might be appropriate for your data based on their levels of measurement and distributions . The Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient (Pearson’s r ) is commonly used to assess a linear relationship between two quantitative variables.

A correlational research design investigates relationships between two variables (or more) without the researcher controlling or manipulating any of them. It’s a non-experimental type of quantitative research .

A correlation reflects the strength and/or direction of the association between two or more variables.

  • A positive correlation means that both variables change in the same direction.
  • A negative correlation means that the variables change in opposite directions.
  • A zero correlation means there’s no relationship between the variables.

Random error  is almost always present in scientific studies, even in highly controlled settings. While you can’t eradicate it completely, you can reduce random error by taking repeated measurements, using a large sample, and controlling extraneous variables .

You can avoid systematic error through careful design of your sampling , data collection , and analysis procedures. For example, use triangulation to measure your variables using multiple methods; regularly calibrate instruments or procedures; use random sampling and random assignment ; and apply masking (blinding) where possible.

Systematic error is generally a bigger problem in research.

With random error, multiple measurements will tend to cluster around the true value. When you’re collecting data from a large sample , the errors in different directions will cancel each other out.

Systematic errors are much more problematic because they can skew your data away from the true value. This can lead you to false conclusions ( Type I and II errors ) about the relationship between the variables you’re studying.

Random and systematic error are two types of measurement error.

Random error is a chance difference between the observed and true values of something (e.g., a researcher misreading a weighing scale records an incorrect measurement).

Systematic error is a consistent or proportional difference between the observed and true values of something (e.g., a miscalibrated scale consistently records weights as higher than they actually are).

On graphs, the explanatory variable is conventionally placed on the x-axis, while the response variable is placed on the y-axis.

  • If you have quantitative variables , use a scatterplot or a line graph.
  • If your response variable is categorical, use a scatterplot or a line graph.
  • If your explanatory variable is categorical, use a bar graph.

The term “ explanatory variable ” is sometimes preferred over “ independent variable ” because, in real world contexts, independent variables are often influenced by other variables. This means they aren’t totally independent.

Multiple independent variables may also be correlated with each other, so “explanatory variables” is a more appropriate term.

The difference between explanatory and response variables is simple:

  • An explanatory variable is the expected cause, and it explains the results.
  • A response variable is the expected effect, and it responds to other variables.

In a controlled experiment , all extraneous variables are held constant so that they can’t influence the results. Controlled experiments require:

  • A control group that receives a standard treatment, a fake treatment, or no treatment.
  • Random assignment of participants to ensure the groups are equivalent.

Depending on your study topic, there are various other methods of controlling variables .

There are 4 main types of extraneous variables :

  • Demand characteristics : environmental cues that encourage participants to conform to researchers’ expectations.
  • Experimenter effects : unintentional actions by researchers that influence study outcomes.
  • Situational variables : environmental variables that alter participants’ behaviors.
  • Participant variables : any characteristic or aspect of a participant’s background that could affect study results.

An extraneous variable is any variable that you’re not investigating that can potentially affect the dependent variable of your research study.

A confounding variable is a type of extraneous variable that not only affects the dependent variable, but is also related to the independent variable.

In a factorial design, multiple independent variables are tested.

If you test two variables, each level of one independent variable is combined with each level of the other independent variable to create different conditions.

Within-subjects designs have many potential threats to internal validity , but they are also very statistically powerful .


  • Only requires small samples
  • Statistically powerful
  • Removes the effects of individual differences on the outcomes


  • Internal validity threats reduce the likelihood of establishing a direct relationship between variables
  • Time-related effects, such as growth, can influence the outcomes
  • Carryover effects mean that the specific order of different treatments affect the outcomes

While a between-subjects design has fewer threats to internal validity , it also requires more participants for high statistical power than a within-subjects design .

  • Prevents carryover effects of learning and fatigue.
  • Shorter study duration.
  • Needs larger samples for high power.
  • Uses more resources to recruit participants, administer sessions, cover costs, etc.
  • Individual differences may be an alternative explanation for results.

Yes. Between-subjects and within-subjects designs can be combined in a single study when you have two or more independent variables (a factorial design). In a mixed factorial design, one variable is altered between subjects and another is altered within subjects.

In a between-subjects design , every participant experiences only one condition, and researchers assess group differences between participants in various conditions.

In a within-subjects design , each participant experiences all conditions, and researchers test the same participants repeatedly for differences between conditions.

The word “between” means that you’re comparing different conditions between groups, while the word “within” means you’re comparing different conditions within the same group.

Random assignment is used in experiments with a between-groups or independent measures design. In this research design, there’s usually a control group and one or more experimental groups. Random assignment helps ensure that the groups are comparable.

In general, you should always use random assignment in this type of experimental design when it is ethically possible and makes sense for your study topic.

To implement random assignment , assign a unique number to every member of your study’s sample .

Then, you can use a random number generator or a lottery method to randomly assign each number to a control or experimental group. You can also do so manually, by flipping a coin or rolling a dice to randomly assign participants to groups.

Random selection, or random sampling , is a way of selecting members of a population for your study’s sample.

In contrast, random assignment is a way of sorting the sample into control and experimental groups.

Random sampling enhances the external validity or generalizability of your results, while random assignment improves the internal validity of your study.

In experimental research, random assignment is a way of placing participants from your sample into different groups using randomization. With this method, every member of the sample has a known or equal chance of being placed in a control group or an experimental group.

“Controlling for a variable” means measuring extraneous variables and accounting for them statistically to remove their effects on other variables.

Researchers often model control variable data along with independent and dependent variable data in regression analyses and ANCOVAs . That way, you can isolate the control variable’s effects from the relationship between the variables of interest.

Control variables help you establish a correlational or causal relationship between variables by enhancing internal validity .

If you don’t control relevant extraneous variables , they may influence the outcomes of your study, and you may not be able to demonstrate that your results are really an effect of your independent variable .

A control variable is any variable that’s held constant in a research study. It’s not a variable of interest in the study, but it’s controlled because it could influence the outcomes.

Including mediators and moderators in your research helps you go beyond studying a simple relationship between two variables for a fuller picture of the real world. They are important to consider when studying complex correlational or causal relationships.

Mediators are part of the causal pathway of an effect, and they tell you how or why an effect takes place. Moderators usually help you judge the external validity of your study by identifying the limitations of when the relationship between variables holds.

If something is a mediating variable :

  • It’s caused by the independent variable .
  • It influences the dependent variable
  • When it’s taken into account, the statistical correlation between the independent and dependent variables is higher than when it isn’t considered.

A confounder is a third variable that affects variables of interest and makes them seem related when they are not. In contrast, a mediator is the mechanism of a relationship between two variables: it explains the process by which they are related.

A mediator variable explains the process through which two variables are related, while a moderator variable affects the strength and direction of that relationship.

There are three key steps in systematic sampling :

  • Define and list your population , ensuring that it is not ordered in a cyclical or periodic order.
  • Decide on your sample size and calculate your interval, k , by dividing your population by your target sample size.
  • Choose every k th member of the population as your sample.

Systematic sampling is a probability sampling method where researchers select members of the population at a regular interval – for example, by selecting every 15th person on a list of the population. If the population is in a random order, this can imitate the benefits of simple random sampling .

Yes, you can create a stratified sample using multiple characteristics, but you must ensure that every participant in your study belongs to one and only one subgroup. In this case, you multiply the numbers of subgroups for each characteristic to get the total number of groups.

For example, if you were stratifying by location with three subgroups (urban, rural, or suburban) and marital status with five subgroups (single, divorced, widowed, married, or partnered), you would have 3 x 5 = 15 subgroups.

You should use stratified sampling when your sample can be divided into mutually exclusive and exhaustive subgroups that you believe will take on different mean values for the variable that you’re studying.

Using stratified sampling will allow you to obtain more precise (with lower variance ) statistical estimates of whatever you are trying to measure.

For example, say you want to investigate how income differs based on educational attainment, but you know that this relationship can vary based on race. Using stratified sampling, you can ensure you obtain a large enough sample from each racial group, allowing you to draw more precise conclusions.

In stratified sampling , researchers divide subjects into subgroups called strata based on characteristics that they share (e.g., race, gender, educational attainment).

Once divided, each subgroup is randomly sampled using another probability sampling method.

Cluster sampling is more time- and cost-efficient than other probability sampling methods , particularly when it comes to large samples spread across a wide geographical area.

However, it provides less statistical certainty than other methods, such as simple random sampling , because it is difficult to ensure that your clusters properly represent the population as a whole.

There are three types of cluster sampling : single-stage, double-stage and multi-stage clustering. In all three types, you first divide the population into clusters, then randomly select clusters for use in your sample.

  • In single-stage sampling , you collect data from every unit within the selected clusters.
  • In double-stage sampling , you select a random sample of units from within the clusters.
  • In multi-stage sampling , you repeat the procedure of randomly sampling elements from within the clusters until you have reached a manageable sample.

Cluster sampling is a probability sampling method in which you divide a population into clusters, such as districts or schools, and then randomly select some of these clusters as your sample.

The clusters should ideally each be mini-representations of the population as a whole.

If properly implemented, simple random sampling is usually the best sampling method for ensuring both internal and external validity . However, it can sometimes be impractical and expensive to implement, depending on the size of the population to be studied,

If you have a list of every member of the population and the ability to reach whichever members are selected, you can use simple random sampling.

The American Community Survey  is an example of simple random sampling . In order to collect detailed data on the population of the US, the Census Bureau officials randomly select 3.5 million households per year and use a variety of methods to convince them to fill out the survey.

Simple random sampling is a type of probability sampling in which the researcher randomly selects a subset of participants from a population . Each member of the population has an equal chance of being selected. Data is then collected from as large a percentage as possible of this random subset.

Quasi-experimental design is most useful in situations where it would be unethical or impractical to run a true experiment .

Quasi-experiments have lower internal validity than true experiments, but they often have higher external validity  as they can use real-world interventions instead of artificial laboratory settings.

A quasi-experiment is a type of research design that attempts to establish a cause-and-effect relationship. The main difference with a true experiment is that the groups are not randomly assigned.

Blinding is important to reduce research bias (e.g., observer bias , demand characteristics ) and ensure a study’s internal validity .

If participants know whether they are in a control or treatment group , they may adjust their behavior in ways that affect the outcome that researchers are trying to measure. If the people administering the treatment are aware of group assignment, they may treat participants differently and thus directly or indirectly influence the final results.

  • In a single-blind study , only the participants are blinded.
  • In a double-blind study , both participants and experimenters are blinded.
  • In a triple-blind study , the assignment is hidden not only from participants and experimenters, but also from the researchers analyzing the data.

Blinding means hiding who is assigned to the treatment group and who is assigned to the control group in an experiment .

A true experiment (a.k.a. a controlled experiment) always includes at least one control group that doesn’t receive the experimental treatment.

However, some experiments use a within-subjects design to test treatments without a control group. In these designs, you usually compare one group’s outcomes before and after a treatment (instead of comparing outcomes between different groups).

For strong internal validity , it’s usually best to include a control group if possible. Without a control group, it’s harder to be certain that the outcome was caused by the experimental treatment and not by other variables.

An experimental group, also known as a treatment group, receives the treatment whose effect researchers wish to study, whereas a control group does not. They should be identical in all other ways.

Individual Likert-type questions are generally considered ordinal data , because the items have clear rank order, but don’t have an even distribution.

Overall Likert scale scores are sometimes treated as interval data. These scores are considered to have directionality and even spacing between them.

The type of data determines what statistical tests you should use to analyze your data.

A Likert scale is a rating scale that quantitatively assesses opinions, attitudes, or behaviors. It is made up of 4 or more questions that measure a single attitude or trait when response scores are combined.

To use a Likert scale in a survey , you present participants with Likert-type questions or statements, and a continuum of items, usually with 5 or 7 possible responses, to capture their degree of agreement.

In scientific research, concepts are the abstract ideas or phenomena that are being studied (e.g., educational achievement). Variables are properties or characteristics of the concept (e.g., performance at school), while indicators are ways of measuring or quantifying variables (e.g., yearly grade reports).

The process of turning abstract concepts into measurable variables and indicators is called operationalization .

There are various approaches to qualitative data analysis , but they all share five steps in common:

  • Prepare and organize your data.
  • Review and explore your data.
  • Develop a data coding system.
  • Assign codes to the data.
  • Identify recurring themes.

The specifics of each step depend on the focus of the analysis. Some common approaches include textual analysis , thematic analysis , and discourse analysis .

There are five common approaches to qualitative research :

  • Grounded theory involves collecting data in order to develop new theories.
  • Ethnography involves immersing yourself in a group or organization to understand its culture.
  • Narrative research involves interpreting stories to understand how people make sense of their experiences and perceptions.
  • Phenomenological research involves investigating phenomena through people’s lived experiences.
  • Action research links theory and practice in several cycles to drive innovative changes.

Operationalization means turning abstract conceptual ideas into measurable observations.

For example, the concept of social anxiety isn’t directly observable, but it can be operationally defined in terms of self-rating scores, behavioral avoidance of crowded places, or physical anxiety symptoms in social situations.

Before collecting data , it’s important to consider how you will operationalize the variables that you want to measure.

When conducting research, collecting original data has significant advantages:

  • You can tailor data collection to your specific research aims (e.g. understanding the needs of your consumers or user testing your website)
  • You can control and standardize the process for high reliability and validity (e.g. choosing appropriate measurements and sampling methods )

However, there are also some drawbacks: data collection can be time-consuming, labor-intensive and expensive. In some cases, it’s more efficient to use secondary data that has already been collected by someone else, but the data might be less reliable.

Data collection is the systematic process by which observations or measurements are gathered in research. It is used in many different contexts by academics, governments, businesses, and other organizations.

There are several methods you can use to decrease the impact of confounding variables on your research: restriction, matching, statistical control and randomization.

In restriction , you restrict your sample by only including certain subjects that have the same values of potential confounding variables.

In matching , you match each of the subjects in your treatment group with a counterpart in the comparison group. The matched subjects have the same values on any potential confounding variables, and only differ in the independent variable .

In statistical control , you include potential confounders as variables in your regression .

In randomization , you randomly assign the treatment (or independent variable) in your study to a sufficiently large number of subjects, which allows you to control for all potential confounding variables.

A confounding variable is closely related to both the independent and dependent variables in a study. An independent variable represents the supposed cause , while the dependent variable is the supposed effect . A confounding variable is a third variable that influences both the independent and dependent variables.

Failing to account for confounding variables can cause you to wrongly estimate the relationship between your independent and dependent variables.

To ensure the internal validity of your research, you must consider the impact of confounding variables. If you fail to account for them, you might over- or underestimate the causal relationship between your independent and dependent variables , or even find a causal relationship where none exists.

Yes, but including more than one of either type requires multiple research questions .

For example, if you are interested in the effect of a diet on health, you can use multiple measures of health: blood sugar, blood pressure, weight, pulse, and many more. Each of these is its own dependent variable with its own research question.

You could also choose to look at the effect of exercise levels as well as diet, or even the additional effect of the two combined. Each of these is a separate independent variable .

To ensure the internal validity of an experiment , you should only change one independent variable at a time.

No. The value of a dependent variable depends on an independent variable, so a variable cannot be both independent and dependent at the same time. It must be either the cause or the effect, not both!

You want to find out how blood sugar levels are affected by drinking diet soda and regular soda, so you conduct an experiment .

  • The type of soda – diet or regular – is the independent variable .
  • The level of blood sugar that you measure is the dependent variable – it changes depending on the type of soda.

Determining cause and effect is one of the most important parts of scientific research. It’s essential to know which is the cause – the independent variable – and which is the effect – the dependent variable.

In non-probability sampling , the sample is selected based on non-random criteria, and not every member of the population has a chance of being included.

Common non-probability sampling methods include convenience sampling , voluntary response sampling, purposive sampling , snowball sampling, and quota sampling .

Probability sampling means that every member of the target population has a known chance of being included in the sample.

Probability sampling methods include simple random sampling , systematic sampling , stratified sampling , and cluster sampling .

Using careful research design and sampling procedures can help you avoid sampling bias . Oversampling can be used to correct undercoverage bias .

Some common types of sampling bias include self-selection bias , nonresponse bias , undercoverage bias , survivorship bias , pre-screening or advertising bias, and healthy user bias.

Sampling bias is a threat to external validity – it limits the generalizability of your findings to a broader group of people.

A sampling error is the difference between a population parameter and a sample statistic .

A statistic refers to measures about the sample , while a parameter refers to measures about the population .

Populations are used when a research question requires data from every member of the population. This is usually only feasible when the population is small and easily accessible.

Samples are used to make inferences about populations . Samples are easier to collect data from because they are practical, cost-effective, convenient, and manageable.

There are seven threats to external validity : selection bias , history, experimenter effect, Hawthorne effect , testing effect, aptitude-treatment and situation effect.

The two types of external validity are population validity (whether you can generalize to other groups of people) and ecological validity (whether you can generalize to other situations and settings).

The external validity of a study is the extent to which you can generalize your findings to different groups of people, situations, and measures.

Cross-sectional studies cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship or analyze behavior over a period of time. To investigate cause and effect, you need to do a longitudinal study or an experimental study .

Cross-sectional studies are less expensive and time-consuming than many other types of study. They can provide useful insights into a population’s characteristics and identify correlations for further research.

Sometimes only cross-sectional data is available for analysis; other times your research question may only require a cross-sectional study to answer it.

Longitudinal studies can last anywhere from weeks to decades, although they tend to be at least a year long.

The 1970 British Cohort Study , which has collected data on the lives of 17,000 Brits since their births in 1970, is one well-known example of a longitudinal study .

Longitudinal studies are better to establish the correct sequence of events, identify changes over time, and provide insight into cause-and-effect relationships, but they also tend to be more expensive and time-consuming than other types of studies.

Longitudinal studies and cross-sectional studies are two different types of research design . In a cross-sectional study you collect data from a population at a specific point in time; in a longitudinal study you repeatedly collect data from the same sample over an extended period of time.

There are eight threats to internal validity : history, maturation, instrumentation, testing, selection bias , regression to the mean, social interaction and attrition .

Internal validity is the extent to which you can be confident that a cause-and-effect relationship established in a study cannot be explained by other factors.

In mixed methods research , you use both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods to answer your research question .

The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question .

  • If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis , use quantitative methods . If you want to explore ideas, thoughts and meanings, use qualitative methods .
  • If you want to analyze a large amount of readily-available data, use secondary data. If you want data specific to your purposes with control over how it is generated, collect primary data.
  • If you want to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables , use experimental methods. If you want to understand the characteristics of a research subject, use descriptive methods.

A confounding variable , also called a confounder or confounding factor, is a third variable in a study examining a potential cause-and-effect relationship.

A confounding variable is related to both the supposed cause and the supposed effect of the study. It can be difficult to separate the true effect of the independent variable from the effect of the confounding variable.

In your research design , it’s important to identify potential confounding variables and plan how you will reduce their impact.

Discrete and continuous variables are two types of quantitative variables :

  • Discrete variables represent counts (e.g. the number of objects in a collection).
  • Continuous variables represent measurable amounts (e.g. water volume or weight).

Quantitative variables are any variables where the data represent amounts (e.g. height, weight, or age).

Categorical variables are any variables where the data represent groups. This includes rankings (e.g. finishing places in a race), classifications (e.g. brands of cereal), and binary outcomes (e.g. coin flips).

You need to know what type of variables you are working with to choose the right statistical test for your data and interpret your results .

You can think of independent and dependent variables in terms of cause and effect: an independent variable is the variable you think is the cause , while a dependent variable is the effect .

In an experiment, you manipulate the independent variable and measure the outcome in the dependent variable. For example, in an experiment about the effect of nutrients on crop growth:

  • The  independent variable  is the amount of nutrients added to the crop field.
  • The  dependent variable is the biomass of the crops at harvest time.

Defining your variables, and deciding how you will manipulate and measure them, is an important part of experimental design .

Experimental design means planning a set of procedures to investigate a relationship between variables . To design a controlled experiment, you need:

  • A testable hypothesis
  • At least one independent variable that can be precisely manipulated
  • At least one dependent variable that can be precisely measured

When designing the experiment, you decide:

  • How you will manipulate the variable(s)
  • How you will control for any potential confounding variables
  • How many subjects or samples will be included in the study
  • How subjects will be assigned to treatment levels

Experimental design is essential to the internal and external validity of your experiment.

I nternal validity is the degree of confidence that the causal relationship you are testing is not influenced by other factors or variables .

External validity is the extent to which your results can be generalized to other contexts.

The validity of your experiment depends on your experimental design .

Reliability and validity are both about how well a method measures something:

  • Reliability refers to the  consistency of a measure (whether the results can be reproduced under the same conditions).
  • Validity   refers to the  accuracy of a measure (whether the results really do represent what they are supposed to measure).

If you are doing experimental research, you also have to consider the internal and external validity of your experiment.

A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population . Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research. For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.

In statistics, sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population.

Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.

Quantitative methods allow you to systematically measure variables and test hypotheses . Qualitative methods allow you to explore concepts and experiences in more detail.

Methodology refers to the overarching strategy and rationale of your research project . It involves studying the methods used in your field and the theories or principles behind them, in order to develop an approach that matches your objectives.

Methods are the specific tools and procedures you use to collect and analyze data (for example, experiments, surveys , and statistical tests ).

In shorter scientific papers, where the aim is to report the findings of a specific study, you might simply describe what you did in a methods section .

In a longer or more complex research project, such as a thesis or dissertation , you will probably include a methodology section , where you explain your approach to answering the research questions and cite relevant sources to support your choice of methods.

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  • Hypothesis Testing: Definition, Uses, Limitations + Examples


Hypothesis testing is as old as the scientific method and is at the heart of the research process. 

Research exists to validate or disprove assumptions about various phenomena. The process of validation involves testing and it is in this context that we will explore hypothesis testing. 

What is a Hypothesis? 

A hypothesis is a calculated prediction or assumption about a population parameter based on limited evidence. The whole idea behind hypothesis formulation is testing—this means the researcher subjects his or her calculated assumption to a series of evaluations to know whether they are true or false. 

Typically, every research starts with a hypothesis—the investigator makes a claim and experiments to prove that this claim is true or false . For instance, if you predict that students who drink milk before class perform better than those who don’t, then this becomes a hypothesis that can be confirmed or refuted using an experiment.  

Read: What is Empirical Research Study? [Examples & Method]

What are the Types of Hypotheses? 

1. simple hypothesis.

Also known as a basic hypothesis, a simple hypothesis suggests that an independent variable is responsible for a corresponding dependent variable. In other words, an occurrence of the independent variable inevitably leads to an occurrence of the dependent variable. 

Typically, simple hypotheses are considered as generally true, and they establish a causal relationship between two variables. 

Examples of Simple Hypothesis  

  • Drinking soda and other sugary drinks can cause obesity. 
  • Smoking cigarettes daily leads to lung cancer.

2. Complex Hypothesis

A complex hypothesis is also known as a modal. It accounts for the causal relationship between two independent variables and the resulting dependent variables. This means that the combination of the independent variables leads to the occurrence of the dependent variables . 

Examples of Complex Hypotheses  

  • Adults who do not smoke and drink are less likely to develop liver-related conditions.
  • Global warming causes icebergs to melt which in turn causes major changes in weather patterns.

3. Null Hypothesis

As the name suggests, a null hypothesis is formed when a researcher suspects that there’s no relationship between the variables in an observation. In this case, the purpose of the research is to approve or disapprove this assumption. 

Examples of Null Hypothesis

  • This is no significant change in a student’s performance if they drink coffee or tea before classes. 
  • There’s no significant change in the growth of a plant if one uses distilled water only or vitamin-rich water. 
Read: Research Report: Definition, Types + [Writing Guide]

4. Alternative Hypothesis 

To disapprove a null hypothesis, the researcher has to come up with an opposite assumption—this assumption is known as the alternative hypothesis. This means if the null hypothesis says that A is false, the alternative hypothesis assumes that A is true. 

An alternative hypothesis can be directional or non-directional depending on the direction of the difference. A directional alternative hypothesis specifies the direction of the tested relationship, stating that one variable is predicted to be larger or smaller than the null value while a non-directional hypothesis only validates the existence of a difference without stating its direction. 

Examples of Alternative Hypotheses  

  • Starting your day with a cup of tea instead of a cup of coffee can make you more alert in the morning. 
  • The growth of a plant improves significantly when it receives distilled water instead of vitamin-rich water. 

5. Logical Hypothesis

Logical hypotheses are some of the most common types of calculated assumptions in systematic investigations. It is an attempt to use your reasoning to connect different pieces in research and build a theory using little evidence. In this case, the researcher uses any data available to him, to form a plausible assumption that can be tested. 

Examples of Logical Hypothesis

  • Waking up early helps you to have a more productive day. 
  • Beings from Mars would not be able to breathe the air in the atmosphere of the Earth. 

6. Empirical Hypothesis  

After forming a logical hypothesis, the next step is to create an empirical or working hypothesis. At this stage, your logical hypothesis undergoes systematic testing to prove or disprove the assumption. An empirical hypothesis is subject to several variables that can trigger changes and lead to specific outcomes. 

Examples of Empirical Testing 

  • People who eat more fish run faster than people who eat meat.
  • Women taking vitamin E grow hair faster than those taking vitamin K.

7. Statistical Hypothesis

When forming a statistical hypothesis, the researcher examines the portion of a population of interest and makes a calculated assumption based on the data from this sample. A statistical hypothesis is most common with systematic investigations involving a large target audience. Here, it’s impossible to collect responses from every member of the population so you have to depend on data from your sample and extrapolate the results to the wider population. 

Examples of Statistical Hypothesis  

  • 45% of students in Louisiana have middle-income parents. 
  • 80% of the UK’s population gets a divorce because of irreconcilable differences.

What is Hypothesis Testing? 

Hypothesis testing is an assessment method that allows researchers to determine the plausibility of a hypothesis. It involves testing an assumption about a specific population parameter to know whether it’s true or false. These population parameters include variance, standard deviation, and median. 

Typically, hypothesis testing starts with developing a null hypothesis and then performing several tests that support or reject the null hypothesis. The researcher uses test statistics to compare the association or relationship between two or more variables. 

Explore: Research Bias: Definition, Types + Examples

Researchers also use hypothesis testing to calculate the coefficient of variation and determine if the regression relationship and the correlation coefficient are statistically significant.

How Hypothesis Testing Works

The basis of hypothesis testing is to examine and analyze the null hypothesis and alternative hypothesis to know which one is the most plausible assumption. Since both assumptions are mutually exclusive, only one can be true. In other words, the occurrence of a null hypothesis destroys the chances of the alternative coming to life, and vice-versa. 

Interesting: 21 Chrome Extensions for Academic Researchers in 2021

What Are The Stages of Hypothesis Testing?  

To successfully confirm or refute an assumption, the researcher goes through five (5) stages of hypothesis testing; 

  • Determine the null hypothesis
  • Specify the alternative hypothesis
  • Set the significance level
  • Calculate the test statistics and corresponding P-value
  • Draw your conclusion
  • Determine the Null Hypothesis

Like we mentioned earlier, hypothesis testing starts with creating a null hypothesis which stands as an assumption that a certain statement is false or implausible. For example, the null hypothesis (H0) could suggest that different subgroups in the research population react to a variable in the same way. 

  • Specify the Alternative Hypothesis

Once you know the variables for the null hypothesis, the next step is to determine the alternative hypothesis. The alternative hypothesis counters the null assumption by suggesting the statement or assertion is true. Depending on the purpose of your research, the alternative hypothesis can be one-sided or two-sided. 

Using the example we established earlier, the alternative hypothesis may argue that the different sub-groups react differently to the same variable based on several internal and external factors. 

  • Set the Significance Level

Many researchers create a 5% allowance for accepting the value of an alternative hypothesis, even if the value is untrue. This means that there is a 0.05 chance that one would go with the value of the alternative hypothesis, despite the truth of the null hypothesis. 

Something to note here is that the smaller the significance level, the greater the burden of proof needed to reject the null hypothesis and support the alternative hypothesis.

Explore: What is Data Interpretation? + [Types, Method & Tools]
  • Calculate the Test Statistics and Corresponding P-Value 

Test statistics in hypothesis testing allow you to compare different groups between variables while the p-value accounts for the probability of obtaining sample statistics if your null hypothesis is true. In this case, your test statistics can be the mean, median and similar parameters. 

If your p-value is 0.65, for example, then it means that the variable in your hypothesis will happen 65 in100 times by pure chance. Use this formula to determine the p-value for your data: 

definition of hypothesis testing in research

  • Draw Your Conclusions

After conducting a series of tests, you should be able to agree or refute the hypothesis based on feedback and insights from your sample data.  

Applications of Hypothesis Testing in Research

Hypothesis testing isn’t only confined to numbers and calculations; it also has several real-life applications in business, manufacturing, advertising, and medicine. 

In a factory or other manufacturing plants, hypothesis testing is an important part of quality and production control before the final products are approved and sent out to the consumer. 

During ideation and strategy development, C-level executives use hypothesis testing to evaluate their theories and assumptions before any form of implementation. For example, they could leverage hypothesis testing to determine whether or not some new advertising campaign, marketing technique, etc. causes increased sales. 

In addition, hypothesis testing is used during clinical trials to prove the efficacy of a drug or new medical method before its approval for widespread human usage. 

What is an Example of Hypothesis Testing?

An employer claims that her workers are of above-average intelligence. She takes a random sample of 20 of them and gets the following results: 

Mean IQ Scores: 110

Standard Deviation: 15 

Mean Population IQ: 100

Step 1: Using the value of the mean population IQ, we establish the null hypothesis as 100.

Step 2: State that the alternative hypothesis is greater than 100.

Step 3: State the alpha level as 0.05 or 5% 

Step 4: Find the rejection region area (given by your alpha level above) from the z-table. An area of .05 is equal to a z-score of 1.645.

Step 5: Calculate the test statistics using this formula

definition of hypothesis testing in research

Z = (110–100) ÷ (15÷√20) 

10 ÷ 3.35 = 2.99 

If the value of the test statistics is higher than the value of the rejection region, then you should reject the null hypothesis. If it is less, then you cannot reject the null. 

In this case, 2.99 > 1.645 so we reject the null. 

Importance/Benefits of Hypothesis Testing 

The most significant benefit of hypothesis testing is it allows you to evaluate the strength of your claim or assumption before implementing it in your data set. Also, hypothesis testing is the only valid method to prove that something “is or is not”. Other benefits include: 

  • Hypothesis testing provides a reliable framework for making any data decisions for your population of interest. 
  • It helps the researcher to successfully extrapolate data from the sample to the larger population. 
  • Hypothesis testing allows the researcher to determine whether the data from the sample is statistically significant. 
  • Hypothesis testing is one of the most important processes for measuring the validity and reliability of outcomes in any systematic investigation. 
  • It helps to provide links to the underlying theory and specific research questions.

Criticism and Limitations of Hypothesis Testing

Several limitations of hypothesis testing can affect the quality of data you get from this process. Some of these limitations include: 

  • The interpretation of a p-value for observation depends on the stopping rule and definition of multiple comparisons. This makes it difficult to calculate since the stopping rule is subject to numerous interpretations, plus “multiple comparisons” are unavoidably ambiguous. 
  • Conceptual issues often arise in hypothesis testing, especially if the researcher merges Fisher and Neyman-Pearson’s methods which are conceptually distinct. 
  • In an attempt to focus on the statistical significance of the data, the researcher might ignore the estimation and confirmation by repeated experiments.
  • Hypothesis testing can trigger publication bias, especially when it requires statistical significance as a criterion for publication.
  • When used to detect whether a difference exists between groups, hypothesis testing can trigger absurd assumptions that affect the reliability of your observation.


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  • Hypothesis Testing


What is Hypothesis Testing?

Hypothesis testing in statistics refers to analyzing an assumption about a population parameter. It is used to make an educated guess about an assumption using statistics. With the use of sample data, hypothesis testing makes an assumption about how true the assumption is for the entire population from where the sample is being taken.  

Any hypothetical statement we make may or may not be valid, and it is then our responsibility to provide evidence for its possibility. To approach any hypothesis, we follow these four simple steps that test its validity.

First, we formulate two hypothetical statements such that only one of them is true. By doing so, we can check the validity of our own hypothesis.

The next step is to formulate the statistical analysis to be followed based upon the data points.

Then we analyze the given data using our methodology.

The final step is to analyze the result and judge whether the null hypothesis will be rejected or is true.

Let’s look at several hypothesis testing examples:

It is observed that the average recovery time for a knee-surgery patient is 8 weeks. A physician believes that after successful knee surgery if the patient goes for physical therapy twice a week rather than thrice a week, the recovery period will be longer. Conduct hypothesis for this statement. 

David is a ten-year-old who finishes a 25-yard freestyle in the meantime of 16.43 seconds. David’s father bought goggles for his son, believing that it would help him to reduce his time. He then recorded a total of fifteen 25-yard freestyle for David, and the average time came out to be 16 seconds. Conduct a hypothesis.

A tire company claims their A-segment of tires have a running life of 50,000 miles before they need to be replaced, and previous studies show a standard deviation of 8,000 miles. After surveying a total of 28 tires, the mean run time came to be 46,500 miles with a standard deviation of 9800 miles. Is the claim made by the tire company consistent with the given data? Conduct hypothesis testing. 

All of the hypothesis testing examples are from real-life situations, which leads us to believe that hypothesis testing is a very practical topic indeed. It is an integral part of a researcher's study and is used in every research methodology in one way or another. 

Inferential statistics majorly deals with hypothesis testing. The research hypothesis states there is a relationship between the independent variable and dependent variable. Whereas the null hypothesis rejects this claim of any relationship between the two, our job as researchers or students is to check whether there is any relation between the two.  

Hypothesis Testing in Research Methodology

Now that we are clear about what hypothesis testing is? Let's look at the use of hypothesis testing in research methodology. Hypothesis testing is at the centre of research projects. 

What is Hypothesis Testing and Why is it Important in Research Methodology?

Often after formulating research statements, the validity of those statements need to be verified. Hypothesis testing offers a statistical approach to the researcher about the theoretical assumptions he/she made. It can be understood as quantitative results for a qualitative problem. 

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Hypothesis testing provides various techniques to test the hypothesis statement depending upon the variable and the data points. It finds its use in almost every field of research while answering statements such as whether this new medicine will work, a new testing method is appropriate, or if the outcomes of a random experiment are probable or not.

Procedure of Hypothesis Testing

To find the validity of any statement, we have to strictly follow the stepwise procedure of hypothesis testing. After stating the initial hypothesis, we have to re-write them in the form of a null and alternate hypothesis. The alternate hypothesis predicts a relationship between the variables, whereas the null hypothesis predicts no relationship between the variables.

After writing them as H 0 (null hypothesis) and H a (Alternate hypothesis), only one of the statements can be true. For example, taking the hypothesis that, on average, men are taller than women, we write the statements as:

H 0 : On average, men are not taller than women.

H a : On average, men are taller than women. 

Our next aim is to collect sample data, what we call sampling, in a way so that we can test our hypothesis. Your data should come from the concerned population for which you want to make a hypothesis. 

What is the p value in hypothesis testing? P-value gives us information about the probability of occurrence of results as extreme as observed results.

You will obtain your p-value after choosing the hypothesis testing method, which will be the guiding factor in rejecting the hypothesis. Usually, the p-value cutoff for rejecting the null hypothesis is 0.05. So anything below that, you will reject the null hypothesis. 

A low p-value means that the between-group variance is large enough that there is almost no overlapping, and it is unlikely that these came about by chance. A high p-value suggests there is a high within-group variance and low between-group variance, and any difference in the measure is due to chance only.

What is statistical hypothesis testing?

When forming conclusions through research, two sorts of errors are common: A hypothesis must be set and defined in statistics during a statistical survey or research. A statistical hypothesis is what it is called. It is, in fact, a population parameter assumption. However, it is unmistakable that this idea is always proven correct. Hypothesis testing refers to the predetermined formal procedures used by statisticians to determine whether hypotheses should be accepted or rejected. The process of selecting hypotheses for a given probability distribution based on observable data is known as hypothesis testing. Hypothesis testing is a fundamental and crucial issue in statistics. 

Why do I Need to Test it? Why not just prove an alternate one?

The quick answer is that you must as a scientist; it is part of the scientific process. Science employs a variety of methods to test or reject theories, ensuring that any new hypothesis is free of errors. One protection to ensure your research is not incorrect is to include both a null and an alternate hypothesis. The scientific community considers not incorporating the null hypothesis in your research to be poor practice. You are almost certainly setting yourself up for failure if you set out to prove another theory without first examining it. At the very least, your experiment will not be considered seriously.

Types of Hypothesis Testing

There are several types of hypothesis testing, and they are used based on the data provided. Depending on the sample size and the data given, we choose among different hypothesis testing methodologies. Here starts the use of hypothesis testing tools in research methodology.

Normality- This type of testing is used for normal distribution in a population sample. If the data points are grouped around the mean, the probability of them being above or below the mean is equally likely. Its shape resembles a bell curve that is equally distributed on either side of the mean.

T-test- This test is used when the sample size in a normally distributed population is comparatively small, and the standard deviation is unknown. Usually, if the sample size drops below 30, we use a T-test to find the confidence intervals of the population. 

Chi-Square Test- The Chi-Square test is used to test the population variance against the known or assumed value of the population variance. It is also a better choice to test the goodness of fit of a distribution of data. The two most common Chi-Square tests are the Chi-Square test of independence and the chi-square test of variance.

ANOVA- Analysis of Variance or ANOVA compares the data sets of two different populations or samples. It is similar in its use to the t-test or the Z-test, but it allows us to compare more than two sample means. ANOVA allows us to test the significance between an independent variable and a dependent variable, namely X and Y, respectively.

Z-test- It is a statistical measure to test that the means of two population samples are different when their variance is known. For a Z-test, the population is assumed to be normally distributed. A z-test is better suited in the case of large sample sizes greater than 30. This is due to the central limit theorem that as the sample size increases, the samples are considered to be distributed normally. 


FAQs on Hypothesis Testing

1. Mention the types of hypothesis Tests.

There are two types of a hypothesis tests:

Null Hypothesis: It is denoted as H₀.

Alternative Hypothesis: IT is denoted as H₁ or Hₐ.

2. What are the two errors that can be found while performing the null Hypothesis test?

While performing the null hypothesis test there is a possibility of occurring two types of errors,

Type-1: The type-1 error is denoted by (α), it is also known as the significance level. It is the rejection of the true null hypothesis. It is the error of commission.

Type-2: The type-2 error is denoted by (β). (1 - β) is known as the power test. The false null hypothesis is not rejected. It is the error of the omission. 

3. What is the p-value in hypothesis testing?

During hypothetical testing in statistics, the p-value indicates the probability of obtaining the result as extreme as observed results. A smaller p-value provides evidence to accept the alternate hypothesis. The p-value is used as a rejection point that provides the smallest level of significance at which the null hypothesis is rejected. Often p-value is calculated using the p-value tables by calculating the deviation between the observed value and the chosen reference value. 

It may also be calculated mathematically by performing integrals on all the values that fall under the curve and areas far from the reference value as the observed value relative to the total area of the curve. The p-value determines the evidence to reject the null hypothesis in hypothesis testing.

4. What is a null hypothesis?

The null hypothesis in statistics says that there is no certain difference between the population. It serves as a conjecture proposing no difference, whereas the alternate hypothesis says there is a difference. When we perform hypothesis testing, we have to state the null hypothesis and alternative hypotheses such that only one of them is ever true. 

By determining the p-value, we calculate whether the null hypothesis is to be rejected or not. If the difference between groups is low, it is merely by chance, and the null hypothesis, which states that there is no difference among groups, is true. Therefore, we have no evidence to reject the null hypothesis.


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