Whether you're writing a scientific paper or an essay for your literature class, the premise of your essay may be to form a hypothesis to construct your piece around. A hypothesis is a statement that demonstrates a prediction that you think will happen based off of well-researched evidence or experimentation. Though it sounds somewhat straightforward, coming up with the appropriate hypothesis for a paper can actually be a rather difficult task, and writing that hypothesis so that it aligns with the rest of your essay can also be challenging.

A Hypothesis for an Experiment vs. a Hypothesis for a Paper

Typically, a hypothesis connects directly with a scientific experiment. After conducting some brief research and making subtle observations, students in science classes usually write a hypothesis and test it out with an experiment. Perhaps they submit lab notes with their hypothesis but not much else. However, a hypothesis can actually be much longer when it's for an essay.

When you write a hypothesis for a paper, you should still be doing an experiment to prove that your hypothesis is true. However, it doesn't necessarily have to link to something completely scientific, and the experiment does not always need to be in a lab. Your hypothesis could be about an author's impact on literature, how demographics are changing the language of a country or how parents should expose their children to more peanut butter. To prove that a hypothesis like that is true, you won't be doing it with a Bunson burner and a flask. You'll be doing it through research, interviews and solid data that can support your point.

How to Decide on a Hypothesis

To decide on your hypothesis, your teacher may give you a topic or ask that you find one that you're interested in. The first step, then, is to do some research. Your goal is to find something that must be testable, yet you are able to prove even before testing it.

A hypothesis, therefore, should be an educated guess that essentially states, "If I (do this), then (this) will happen." It should show your ability to predict the relationship between two or more variables. Likewise, even though your guess is educated and likely to prove your hypothesis, your hypothesis should also be something that can be proven false. Some things you can do to help decide your hypothesis are:

  • Conduct observations
  • Evaluate observations closely.
  • Look for a potential problem.
  • Think of explanations of why that problem exists.
  • See if you can prove and disprove your explanation.

Writing Your Hypothesis

Once you've decided on what you think you want your hypothesis to be, you want to make sure it fits the general hypothesis structure, "If (I do this), then (this) will happen." If you can fit your hypothesis into that, then you're that much closer to being able to write it. It's always a good idea to look at some examples so that you know whether or not you're on the right track:

"As children become more dependent on electronics, their attention spans will decrease."

"As more traditional jobs become automated, people will need to find more creative ways to make money."

These are strong hypotheses because they can be tested, explained and proved to be true, but they can also be proven false, which is essential to any hypothesis you write.

"As pollution levels increase, it is inevitable that more people will die of cancer that's directly related to the pollutants."

"Girls who grow up with older brothers will be more likely to marry over the age of 30."

These are okay hypotheses, but there are a few problems with them. They are either too vague, too specific or too generalized, which makes them difficult to prove. Also, using terms like, "more likely" isn't definite, and therefore, hard to prove as well. The writer is not directly linking one variable to another. These hypotheses also cannot necessarily be falsified, simply because there's not enough of a solid statement to prove them wrong or right the first place.

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