Formulation of Hypothesis & Examples - Quiz & Worksheet

  • Quiz & Worksheet - Formulating the Research Hypothesis and Null Hypothesis Quiz

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Starting off with a research question provides a researcher with:

A strong foundation and a question to answer

Their hypothesis

Their null hypothesis

Accurate information about how to accomplish the experiment

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1. a hypothesis is:.

A research question

A description of an event

An educated prediction

A sentence proving a phenomenon

A psychological diagnosis

2. Which of the following has NOT been operationalized?

Test scores

Amount of light

About This Quiz & Worksheet

Most of the questions on the quiz will ask you to finish the sentence with the correct term. Some of the other questions will ask you to identify the correct characteristic of these two related types of hypotheses.

Quiz & Worksheet Goals

The assessment will test you on the following definitions of:

  • Null hypothesis
  • Research questions
  • Observed events

Skills Practiced

The quiz will help you practice the following skills:

  • Reading comprehension - ensure that you draw the most important information from the related research and null hypotheses lesson
  • Making connections - use understanding of the concept of research and null hypotheses to understand why they are paired
  • Defining key concepts -ensure that you can accurately define main phrases, such as hypothesis and null hypothesis

Additional Learning

We also have a partner lesson titled Formulating the Research Hypothesis and the Null Hypothesis. This corresponding lesson covers these topics:

  • Understanding research questions
  • Describing the reasons for operationalizing terms
  • Exploring the role of the hypothesis
  • Detailing the reason for null hypotheses

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Student resources, multiple choice quizzes.

Try these quizzes to test your understanding.

1. A hypothesis is ______.

  • a wished-for result that the researcher concludes the research with
  • a complicated set of sentences that pulls variables into proposed complex relationships
  • a conjecture that is grounded in support background originating from secondary research

2. A hypothesis is NOT ______.

  • an informed assumption about a certain phenomenon, predicting a factor or interpreting an observation
  • a guess that directs the course of a research
  • an educated claim

3. A hypothesis is an educated guess.

4. A hypothesis is the same as a proposition.

5. A hypothesis has to be developed at the upfront of every research.

6. In conclusive research designs, hypothesis emerges at the research findings’ stage.

7. When conducting exploratory research, it is difficult to formulate hypothesis for testing based on existing knowledge.

8. The null hypothesis is the the statement originally proposed by the researcher as the suggested answer to the research question.

9. The smaller the p -value, the more likely that H₁ is false, providing stronger support for refuting it and enhancing the probability of accepting Hₒ as correct.

10. Analysing the data collected from the selected sample using appropriate statistical methods to determine the sample mean is NOT the last key step in hypothesis testing.

11. There are mainly two possible decision scenarios in hypothesis testing.

12. The smaller the p -value, the more likely that Hₒ is false, providing stronger support for refuting it and enhancing the probability of accepting H₁ as correct.

13. The null hypothesis is the hypothesis that advances an indifferent proposition whereby empirical data examination results in no statistical significance between the two research variables in question.

14. The probability value equates the level of significance for which the researcher would only just reject H₁.

15. In conducting research, it is often possible to collect data about the whole population of interest.

16. In hypothesis formulation, the default is the null hypothesis where any statistical significance is assumed to happen merely due to chance.

17. Three possible decision scenarios can take place in making hypothesis testing decisions.

Formulating Hypothesis

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How to Write a Great Hypothesis

Hypothesis Definition, Format, Examples, and Tips

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

quiz on formulating hypothesis

Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.

quiz on formulating hypothesis

Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz

  • The Scientific Method

Hypothesis Format

Falsifiability of a hypothesis.

  • Operationalization

Hypothesis Types

Hypotheses examples.

  • Collecting Data

A hypothesis is a tentative statement about the relationship between two or more variables. It is a specific, testable prediction about what you expect to happen in a study. It is a preliminary answer to your question that helps guide the research process.

Consider a study designed to examine the relationship between sleep deprivation and test performance. The hypothesis might be: "This study is designed to assess the hypothesis that sleep-deprived people will perform worse on a test than individuals who are not sleep-deprived."

At a Glance

A hypothesis is crucial to scientific research because it offers a clear direction for what the researchers are looking to find. This allows them to design experiments to test their predictions and add to our scientific knowledge about the world. This article explores how a hypothesis is used in psychology research, how to write a good hypothesis, and the different types of hypotheses you might use.

The Hypothesis in the Scientific Method

In the scientific method , whether it involves research in psychology, biology, or some other area, a hypothesis represents what the researchers think will happen in an experiment. The scientific method involves the following steps:

  • Forming a question
  • Performing background research
  • Creating a hypothesis
  • Designing an experiment
  • Collecting data
  • Analyzing the results
  • Drawing conclusions
  • Communicating the results

The hypothesis is a prediction, but it involves more than a guess. Most of the time, the hypothesis begins with a question which is then explored through background research. At this point, researchers then begin to develop a testable hypothesis.

Unless you are creating an exploratory study, your hypothesis should always explain what you  expect  to happen.

In a study exploring the effects of a particular drug, the hypothesis might be that researchers expect the drug to have some type of effect on the symptoms of a specific illness. In psychology, the hypothesis might focus on how a certain aspect of the environment might influence a particular behavior.

Remember, a hypothesis does not have to be correct. While the hypothesis predicts what the researchers expect to see, the goal of the research is to determine whether this guess is right or wrong. When conducting an experiment, researchers might explore numerous factors to determine which ones might contribute to the ultimate outcome.

In many cases, researchers may find that the results of an experiment  do not  support the original hypothesis. When writing up these results, the researchers might suggest other options that should be explored in future studies.

In many cases, researchers might draw a hypothesis from a specific theory or build on previous research. For example, prior research has shown that stress can impact the immune system. So a researcher might hypothesize: "People with high-stress levels will be more likely to contract a common cold after being exposed to the virus than people who have low-stress levels."

In other instances, researchers might look at commonly held beliefs or folk wisdom. "Birds of a feather flock together" is one example of folk adage that a psychologist might try to investigate. The researcher might pose a specific hypothesis that "People tend to select romantic partners who are similar to them in interests and educational level."

Elements of a Good Hypothesis

So how do you write a good hypothesis? When trying to come up with a hypothesis for your research or experiments, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your hypothesis based on your research on a topic?
  • Can your hypothesis be tested?
  • Does your hypothesis include independent and dependent variables?

Before you come up with a specific hypothesis, spend some time doing background research. Once you have completed a literature review, start thinking about potential questions you still have. Pay attention to the discussion section in the  journal articles you read . Many authors will suggest questions that still need to be explored.

How to Formulate a Good Hypothesis

To form a hypothesis, you should take these steps:

  • Collect as many observations about a topic or problem as you can.
  • Evaluate these observations and look for possible causes of the problem.
  • Create a list of possible explanations that you might want to explore.
  • After you have developed some possible hypotheses, think of ways that you could confirm or disprove each hypothesis through experimentation. This is known as falsifiability.

In the scientific method ,  falsifiability is an important part of any valid hypothesis. In order to test a claim scientifically, it must be possible that the claim could be proven false.

Students sometimes confuse the idea of falsifiability with the idea that it means that something is false, which is not the case. What falsifiability means is that  if  something was false, then it is possible to demonstrate that it is false.

One of the hallmarks of pseudoscience is that it makes claims that cannot be refuted or proven false.

The Importance of Operational Definitions

A variable is a factor or element that can be changed and manipulated in ways that are observable and measurable. However, the researcher must also define how the variable will be manipulated and measured in the study.

Operational definitions are specific definitions for all relevant factors in a study. This process helps make vague or ambiguous concepts detailed and measurable.

For example, a researcher might operationally define the variable " test anxiety " as the results of a self-report measure of anxiety experienced during an exam. A "study habits" variable might be defined by the amount of studying that actually occurs as measured by time.

These precise descriptions are important because many things can be measured in various ways. Clearly defining these variables and how they are measured helps ensure that other researchers can replicate your results.

Replicability

One of the basic principles of any type of scientific research is that the results must be replicable.

Replication means repeating an experiment in the same way to produce the same results. By clearly detailing the specifics of how the variables were measured and manipulated, other researchers can better understand the results and repeat the study if needed.

Some variables are more difficult than others to define. For example, how would you operationally define a variable such as aggression ? For obvious ethical reasons, researchers cannot create a situation in which a person behaves aggressively toward others.

To measure this variable, the researcher must devise a measurement that assesses aggressive behavior without harming others. The researcher might utilize a simulated task to measure aggressiveness in this situation.

Hypothesis Checklist

  • Does your hypothesis focus on something that you can actually test?
  • Does your hypothesis include both an independent and dependent variable?
  • Can you manipulate the variables?
  • Can your hypothesis be tested without violating ethical standards?

The hypothesis you use will depend on what you are investigating and hoping to find. Some of the main types of hypotheses that you might use include:

  • Simple hypothesis : This type of hypothesis suggests there is a relationship between one independent variable and one dependent variable.
  • Complex hypothesis : This type suggests a relationship between three or more variables, such as two independent and dependent variables.
  • Null hypothesis : This hypothesis suggests no relationship exists between two or more variables.
  • Alternative hypothesis : This hypothesis states the opposite of the null hypothesis.
  • Statistical hypothesis : This hypothesis uses statistical analysis to evaluate a representative population sample and then generalizes the findings to the larger group.
  • Logical hypothesis : This hypothesis assumes a relationship between variables without collecting data or evidence.

A hypothesis often follows a basic format of "If {this happens} then {this will happen}." One way to structure your hypothesis is to describe what will happen to the  dependent variable  if you change the  independent variable .

The basic format might be: "If {these changes are made to a certain independent variable}, then we will observe {a change in a specific dependent variable}."

A few examples of simple hypotheses:

  • "Students who eat breakfast will perform better on a math exam than students who do not eat breakfast."
  • "Students who experience test anxiety before an English exam will get lower scores than students who do not experience test anxiety."​
  • "Motorists who talk on the phone while driving will be more likely to make errors on a driving course than those who do not talk on the phone."
  • "Children who receive a new reading intervention will have higher reading scores than students who do not receive the intervention."

Examples of a complex hypothesis include:

  • "People with high-sugar diets and sedentary activity levels are more likely to develop depression."
  • "Younger people who are regularly exposed to green, outdoor areas have better subjective well-being than older adults who have limited exposure to green spaces."

Examples of a null hypothesis include:

  • "There is no difference in anxiety levels between people who take St. John's wort supplements and those who do not."
  • "There is no difference in scores on a memory recall task between children and adults."
  • "There is no difference in aggression levels between children who play first-person shooter games and those who do not."

Examples of an alternative hypothesis:

  • "People who take St. John's wort supplements will have less anxiety than those who do not."
  • "Adults will perform better on a memory task than children."
  • "Children who play first-person shooter games will show higher levels of aggression than children who do not." 

Collecting Data on Your Hypothesis

Once a researcher has formed a testable hypothesis, the next step is to select a research design and start collecting data. The research method depends largely on exactly what they are studying. There are two basic types of research methods: descriptive research and experimental research.

Descriptive Research Methods

Descriptive research such as  case studies ,  naturalistic observations , and surveys are often used when  conducting an experiment is difficult or impossible. These methods are best used to describe different aspects of a behavior or psychological phenomenon.

Once a researcher has collected data using descriptive methods, a  correlational study  can examine how the variables are related. This research method might be used to investigate a hypothesis that is difficult to test experimentally.

Experimental Research Methods

Experimental methods  are used to demonstrate causal relationships between variables. In an experiment, the researcher systematically manipulates a variable of interest (known as the independent variable) and measures the effect on another variable (known as the dependent variable).

Unlike correlational studies, which can only be used to determine if there is a relationship between two variables, experimental methods can be used to determine the actual nature of the relationship—whether changes in one variable actually  cause  another to change.

The hypothesis is a critical part of any scientific exploration. It represents what researchers expect to find in a study or experiment. In situations where the hypothesis is unsupported by the research, the research still has value. Such research helps us better understand how different aspects of the natural world relate to one another. It also helps us develop new hypotheses that can then be tested in the future.

Thompson WH, Skau S. On the scope of scientific hypotheses .  R Soc Open Sci . 2023;10(8):230607. doi:10.1098/rsos.230607

Taran S, Adhikari NKJ, Fan E. Falsifiability in medicine: what clinicians can learn from Karl Popper [published correction appears in Intensive Care Med. 2021 Jun 17;:].  Intensive Care Med . 2021;47(9):1054-1056. doi:10.1007/s00134-021-06432-z

Eyler AA. Research Methods for Public Health . 1st ed. Springer Publishing Company; 2020. doi:10.1891/9780826182067.0004

Nosek BA, Errington TM. What is replication ?  PLoS Biol . 2020;18(3):e3000691. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3000691

Aggarwal R, Ranganathan P. Study designs: Part 2 - Descriptive studies .  Perspect Clin Res . 2019;10(1):34-36. doi:10.4103/picr.PICR_154_18

Nevid J. Psychology: Concepts and Applications. Wadworth, 2013.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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Formulating Hypothesis

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Hypothesis Testing | A Step-by-Step Guide with Easy Examples

Published on November 8, 2019 by Rebecca Bevans . Revised on June 22, 2023.

Hypothesis testing is a formal procedure for investigating our ideas about the world using statistics . It is most often used by scientists to test specific predictions, called hypotheses, that arise from theories.

There are 5 main steps in hypothesis testing:

  • State your research hypothesis as a null hypothesis and alternate hypothesis (H o ) and (H a  or H 1 ).
  • Collect data in a way designed to test the hypothesis.
  • Perform an appropriate statistical test .
  • Decide whether to reject or fail to reject your null hypothesis.
  • Present the findings in your results and discussion section.

Though the specific details might vary, the procedure you will use when testing a hypothesis will always follow some version of these steps.

Table of contents

Step 1: state your null and alternate hypothesis, step 2: collect data, step 3: perform a statistical test, step 4: decide whether to reject or fail to reject your null hypothesis, step 5: present your findings, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about hypothesis testing.

After developing your initial research hypothesis (the prediction that you want to investigate), it is important to restate it as a null (H o ) and alternate (H a ) hypothesis so that you can test it mathematically.

The alternate hypothesis is usually your initial hypothesis that predicts a relationship between variables. The null hypothesis is a prediction of no relationship between the variables you are interested in.

  • H 0 : Men are, on average, not taller than women. H a : Men are, on average, taller than women.

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For a statistical test to be valid , it is important to perform sampling and collect data in a way that is designed to test your hypothesis. If your data are not representative, then you cannot make statistical inferences about the population you are interested in.

There are a variety of statistical tests available, but they are all based on the comparison of within-group variance (how spread out the data is within a category) versus between-group variance (how different the categories are from one another).

If the between-group variance is large enough that there is little or no overlap between groups, then your statistical test will reflect that by showing a low p -value . This means it is unlikely that the differences between these groups came about by chance.

Alternatively, if there is high within-group variance and low between-group variance, then your statistical test will reflect that with a high p -value. This means it is likely that any difference you measure between groups is due to chance.

Your choice of statistical test will be based on the type of variables and the level of measurement of your collected data .

  • an estimate of the difference in average height between the two groups.
  • a p -value showing how likely you are to see this difference if the null hypothesis of no difference is true.

Based on the outcome of your statistical test, you will have to decide whether to reject or fail to reject your null hypothesis.

In most cases you will use the p -value generated by your statistical test to guide your decision. And in most cases, your predetermined level of significance for rejecting the null hypothesis will be 0.05 – that is, when there is a less than 5% chance that you would see these results if the null hypothesis were true.

In some cases, researchers choose a more conservative level of significance, such as 0.01 (1%). This minimizes the risk of incorrectly rejecting the null hypothesis ( Type I error ).

The results of hypothesis testing will be presented in the results and discussion sections of your research paper , dissertation or thesis .

In the results section you should give a brief summary of the data and a summary of the results of your statistical test (for example, the estimated difference between group means and associated p -value). In the discussion , you can discuss whether your initial hypothesis was supported by your results or not.

In the formal language of hypothesis testing, we talk about rejecting or failing to reject the null hypothesis. You will probably be asked to do this in your statistics assignments.

However, when presenting research results in academic papers we rarely talk this way. Instead, we go back to our alternate hypothesis (in this case, the hypothesis that men are on average taller than women) and state whether the result of our test did or did not support the alternate hypothesis.

If your null hypothesis was rejected, this result is interpreted as “supported the alternate hypothesis.”

These are superficial differences; you can see that they mean the same thing.

You might notice that we don’t say that we reject or fail to reject the alternate hypothesis . This is because hypothesis testing is not designed to prove or disprove anything. It is only designed to test whether a pattern we measure could have arisen spuriously, or by chance.

If we reject the null hypothesis based on our research (i.e., we find that it is unlikely that the pattern arose by chance), then we can say our test lends support to our hypothesis . But if the pattern does not pass our decision rule, meaning that it could have arisen by chance, then we say the test is inconsistent with our hypothesis .

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

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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.

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).

Null and alternative hypotheses are used in statistical hypothesis testing . The null hypothesis of a test always predicts no effect or no relationship between variables, while the alternative hypothesis states your research prediction of an effect or relationship.

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Formulating Hypotheses for Different Study Designs

Durga prasanna misra.

1 Department of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, India.

Armen Yuri Gasparyan

2 Departments of Rheumatology and Research and Development, Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust (Teaching Trust of the University of Birmingham, UK), Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, UK.

Olena Zimba

3 Department of Internal Medicine #2, Danylo Halytsky Lviv National Medical University, Lviv, Ukraine.

Marlen Yessirkepov

4 Department of Biology and Biochemistry, South Kazakhstan Medical Academy, Shymkent, Kazakhstan.

Vikas Agarwal

George d. kitas.

5 Centre for Epidemiology versus Arthritis, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.

Generating a testable working hypothesis is the first step towards conducting original research. Such research may prove or disprove the proposed hypothesis. Case reports, case series, online surveys and other observational studies, clinical trials, and narrative reviews help to generate hypotheses. Observational and interventional studies help to test hypotheses. A good hypothesis is usually based on previous evidence-based reports. Hypotheses without evidence-based justification and a priori ideas are not received favourably by the scientific community. Original research to test a hypothesis should be carefully planned to ensure appropriate methodology and adequate statistical power. While hypotheses can challenge conventional thinking and may be controversial, they should not be destructive. A hypothesis should be tested by ethically sound experiments with meaningful ethical and clinical implications. The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has brought into sharp focus numerous hypotheses, some of which were proven (e.g. effectiveness of corticosteroids in those with hypoxia) while others were disproven (e.g. ineffectiveness of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin).

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DEFINING WORKING AND STANDALONE SCIENTIFIC HYPOTHESES

Science is the systematized description of natural truths and facts. Routine observations of existing life phenomena lead to the creative thinking and generation of ideas about mechanisms of such phenomena and related human interventions. Such ideas presented in a structured format can be viewed as hypotheses. After generating a hypothesis, it is necessary to test it to prove its validity. Thus, hypothesis can be defined as a proposed mechanism of a naturally occurring event or a proposed outcome of an intervention. 1 , 2

Hypothesis testing requires choosing the most appropriate methodology and adequately powering statistically the study to be able to “prove” or “disprove” it within predetermined and widely accepted levels of certainty. This entails sample size calculation that often takes into account previously published observations and pilot studies. 2 , 3 In the era of digitization, hypothesis generation and testing may benefit from the availability of numerous platforms for data dissemination, social networking, and expert validation. Related expert evaluations may reveal strengths and limitations of proposed ideas at early stages of post-publication promotion, preventing the implementation of unsupported controversial points. 4

Thus, hypothesis generation is an important initial step in the research workflow, reflecting accumulating evidence and experts' stance. In this article, we overview the genesis and importance of scientific hypotheses and their relevance in the era of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

DO WE NEED HYPOTHESES FOR ALL STUDY DESIGNS?

Broadly, research can be categorized as primary or secondary. In the context of medicine, primary research may include real-life observations of disease presentations and outcomes. Single case descriptions, which often lead to new ideas and hypotheses, serve as important starting points or justifications for case series and cohort studies. The importance of case descriptions is particularly evident in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic when unique, educational case reports have heralded a new era in clinical medicine. 5

Case series serve similar purpose to single case reports, but are based on a slightly larger quantum of information. Observational studies, including online surveys, describe the existing phenomena at a larger scale, often involving various control groups. Observational studies include variable-scale epidemiological investigations at different time points. Interventional studies detail the results of therapeutic interventions.

Secondary research is based on already published literature and does not directly involve human or animal subjects. Review articles are generated by secondary research. These could be systematic reviews which follow methods akin to primary research but with the unit of study being published papers rather than humans or animals. Systematic reviews have a rigid structure with a mandatory search strategy encompassing multiple databases, systematic screening of search results against pre-defined inclusion and exclusion criteria, critical appraisal of study quality and an optional component of collating results across studies quantitatively to derive summary estimates (meta-analysis). 6 Narrative reviews, on the other hand, have a more flexible structure. Systematic literature searches to minimise bias in selection of articles are highly recommended but not mandatory. 7 Narrative reviews are influenced by the authors' viewpoint who may preferentially analyse selected sets of articles. 8

In relation to primary research, case studies and case series are generally not driven by a working hypothesis. Rather, they serve as a basis to generate a hypothesis. Observational or interventional studies should have a hypothesis for choosing research design and sample size. The results of observational and interventional studies further lead to the generation of new hypotheses, testing of which forms the basis of future studies. Review articles, on the other hand, may not be hypothesis-driven, but form fertile ground to generate future hypotheses for evaluation. Fig. 1 summarizes which type of studies are hypothesis-driven and which lead on to hypothesis generation.

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STANDARDS OF WORKING AND SCIENTIFIC HYPOTHESES

A review of the published literature did not enable the identification of clearly defined standards for working and scientific hypotheses. It is essential to distinguish influential versus not influential hypotheses, evidence-based hypotheses versus a priori statements and ideas, ethical versus unethical, or potentially harmful ideas. The following points are proposed for consideration while generating working and scientific hypotheses. 1 , 2 Table 1 summarizes these points.

Points to be considered while evaluating the validity of hypotheses
Backed by evidence-based data
Testable by relevant study designs
Supported by preliminary (pilot) studies
Testable by ethical studies
Maintaining a balance between scientific temper and controversy

Evidence-based data

A scientific hypothesis should have a sound basis on previously published literature as well as the scientist's observations. Randomly generated (a priori) hypotheses are unlikely to be proven. A thorough literature search should form the basis of a hypothesis based on published evidence. 7

Unless a scientific hypothesis can be tested, it can neither be proven nor be disproven. Therefore, a scientific hypothesis should be amenable to testing with the available technologies and the present understanding of science.

Supported by pilot studies

If a hypothesis is based purely on a novel observation by the scientist in question, it should be grounded on some preliminary studies to support it. For example, if a drug that targets a specific cell population is hypothesized to be useful in a particular disease setting, then there must be some preliminary evidence that the specific cell population plays a role in driving that disease process.

Testable by ethical studies

The hypothesis should be testable by experiments that are ethically acceptable. 9 For example, a hypothesis that parachutes reduce mortality from falls from an airplane cannot be tested using a randomized controlled trial. 10 This is because it is obvious that all those jumping from a flying plane without a parachute would likely die. Similarly, the hypothesis that smoking tobacco causes lung cancer cannot be tested by a clinical trial that makes people take up smoking (since there is considerable evidence for the health hazards associated with smoking). Instead, long-term observational studies comparing outcomes in those who smoke and those who do not, as was performed in the landmark epidemiological case control study by Doll and Hill, 11 are more ethical and practical.

Balance between scientific temper and controversy

Novel findings, including novel hypotheses, particularly those that challenge established norms, are bound to face resistance for their wider acceptance. Such resistance is inevitable until the time such findings are proven with appropriate scientific rigor. However, hypotheses that generate controversy are generally unwelcome. For example, at the time the pandemic of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and AIDS was taking foot, there were numerous deniers that refused to believe that HIV caused AIDS. 12 , 13 Similarly, at a time when climate change is causing catastrophic changes to weather patterns worldwide, denial that climate change is occurring and consequent attempts to block climate change are certainly unwelcome. 14 The denialism and misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic, including unfortunate examples of vaccine hesitancy, are more recent examples of controversial hypotheses not backed by science. 15 , 16 An example of a controversial hypothesis that was a revolutionary scientific breakthrough was the hypothesis put forth by Warren and Marshall that Helicobacter pylori causes peptic ulcers. Initially, the hypothesis that a microorganism could cause gastritis and gastric ulcers faced immense resistance. When the scientists that proposed the hypothesis themselves ingested H. pylori to induce gastritis in themselves, only then could they convince the wider world about their hypothesis. Such was the impact of the hypothesis was that Barry Marshall and Robin Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2005 for this discovery. 17 , 18

DISTINGUISHING THE MOST INFLUENTIAL HYPOTHESES

Influential hypotheses are those that have stood the test of time. An archetype of an influential hypothesis is that proposed by Edward Jenner in the eighteenth century that cowpox infection protects against smallpox. While this observation had been reported for nearly a century before this time, it had not been suitably tested and publicised until Jenner conducted his experiments on a young boy by demonstrating protection against smallpox after inoculation with cowpox. 19 These experiments were the basis for widespread smallpox immunization strategies worldwide in the 20th century which resulted in the elimination of smallpox as a human disease today. 20

Other influential hypotheses are those which have been read and cited widely. An example of this is the hygiene hypothesis proposing an inverse relationship between infections in early life and allergies or autoimmunity in adulthood. An analysis reported that this hypothesis had been cited more than 3,000 times on Scopus. 1

LESSONS LEARNED FROM HYPOTHESES AMIDST THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The COVID-19 pandemic devastated the world like no other in recent memory. During this period, various hypotheses emerged, understandably so considering the public health emergency situation with innumerable deaths and suffering for humanity. Within weeks of the first reports of COVID-19, aberrant immune system activation was identified as a key driver of organ dysfunction and mortality in this disease. 21 Consequently, numerous drugs that suppress the immune system or abrogate the activation of the immune system were hypothesized to have a role in COVID-19. 22 One of the earliest drugs hypothesized to have a benefit was hydroxychloroquine. Hydroxychloroquine was proposed to interfere with Toll-like receptor activation and consequently ameliorate the aberrant immune system activation leading to pathology in COVID-19. 22 The drug was also hypothesized to have a prophylactic role in preventing infection or disease severity in COVID-19. It was also touted as a wonder drug for the disease by many prominent international figures. However, later studies which were well-designed randomized controlled trials failed to demonstrate any benefit of hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19. 23 , 24 , 25 , 26 Subsequently, azithromycin 27 , 28 and ivermectin 29 were hypothesized as potential therapies for COVID-19, but were not supported by evidence from randomized controlled trials. The role of vitamin D in preventing disease severity was also proposed, but has not been proven definitively until now. 30 , 31 On the other hand, randomized controlled trials identified the evidence supporting dexamethasone 32 and interleukin-6 pathway blockade with tocilizumab as effective therapies for COVID-19 in specific situations such as at the onset of hypoxia. 33 , 34 Clues towards the apparent effectiveness of various drugs against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in vitro but their ineffectiveness in vivo have recently been identified. Many of these drugs are weak, lipophilic bases and some others induce phospholipidosis which results in apparent in vitro effectiveness due to non-specific off-target effects that are not replicated inside living systems. 35 , 36

Another hypothesis proposed was the association of the routine policy of vaccination with Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) with lower deaths due to COVID-19. This hypothesis emerged in the middle of 2020 when COVID-19 was still taking foot in many parts of the world. 37 , 38 Subsequently, many countries which had lower deaths at that time point went on to have higher numbers of mortality, comparable to other areas of the world. Furthermore, the hypothesis that BCG vaccination reduced COVID-19 mortality was a classic example of ecological fallacy. Associations between population level events (ecological studies; in this case, BCG vaccination and COVID-19 mortality) cannot be directly extrapolated to the individual level. Furthermore, such associations cannot per se be attributed as causal in nature, and can only serve to generate hypotheses that need to be tested at the individual level. 39

IS TRADITIONAL PEER REVIEW EFFICIENT FOR EVALUATION OF WORKING AND SCIENTIFIC HYPOTHESES?

Traditionally, publication after peer review has been considered the gold standard before any new idea finds acceptability amongst the scientific community. Getting a work (including a working or scientific hypothesis) reviewed by experts in the field before experiments are conducted to prove or disprove it helps to refine the idea further as well as improve the experiments planned to test the hypothesis. 40 A route towards this has been the emergence of journals dedicated to publishing hypotheses such as the Central Asian Journal of Medical Hypotheses and Ethics. 41 Another means of publishing hypotheses is through registered research protocols detailing the background, hypothesis, and methodology of a particular study. If such protocols are published after peer review, then the journal commits to publishing the completed study irrespective of whether the study hypothesis is proven or disproven. 42 In the post-pandemic world, online research methods such as online surveys powered via social media channels such as Twitter and Instagram might serve as critical tools to generate as well as to preliminarily test the appropriateness of hypotheses for further evaluation. 43 , 44

Some radical hypotheses might be difficult to publish after traditional peer review. These hypotheses might only be acceptable by the scientific community after they are tested in research studies. Preprints might be a way to disseminate such controversial and ground-breaking hypotheses. 45 However, scientists might prefer to keep their hypotheses confidential for the fear of plagiarism of ideas, avoiding online posting and publishing until they have tested the hypotheses.

SUGGESTIONS ON GENERATING AND PUBLISHING HYPOTHESES

Publication of hypotheses is important, however, a balance is required between scientific temper and controversy. Journal editors and reviewers might keep in mind these specific points, summarized in Table 2 and detailed hereafter, while judging the merit of hypotheses for publication. Keeping in mind the ethical principle of primum non nocere, a hypothesis should be published only if it is testable in a manner that is ethically appropriate. 46 Such hypotheses should be grounded in reality and lend themselves to further testing to either prove or disprove them. It must be considered that subsequent experiments to prove or disprove a hypothesis have an equal chance of failing or succeeding, akin to tossing a coin. A pre-conceived belief that a hypothesis is unlikely to be proven correct should not form the basis of rejection of such a hypothesis for publication. In this context, hypotheses generated after a thorough literature search to identify knowledge gaps or based on concrete clinical observations on a considerable number of patients (as opposed to random observations on a few patients) are more likely to be acceptable for publication by peer-reviewed journals. Also, hypotheses should be considered for publication or rejection based on their implications for science at large rather than whether the subsequent experiments to test them end up with results in favour of or against the original hypothesis.

Points to be considered before a hypothesis is acceptable for publication
Experiments required to test hypotheses should be ethically acceptable as per the World Medical Association declaration on ethics and related statements
Pilot studies support hypotheses
Single clinical observations and expert opinion surveys may support hypotheses
Testing hypotheses requires robust methodology and statistical power
Hypotheses that challenge established views and concepts require proper evidence-based justification

Hypotheses form an important part of the scientific literature. The COVID-19 pandemic has reiterated the importance and relevance of hypotheses for dealing with public health emergencies and highlighted the need for evidence-based and ethical hypotheses. A good hypothesis is testable in a relevant study design, backed by preliminary evidence, and has positive ethical and clinical implications. General medical journals might consider publishing hypotheses as a specific article type to enable more rapid advancement of science.

Disclosure: The authors have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

Author Contributions:

  • Data curation: Gasparyan AY, Misra DP, Zimba O, Yessirkepov M, Agarwal V, Kitas GD.
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  • Published: 03 June 2024

A self-reinforcing cycle hypothesis in heart failure pathogenesis

  • Carlos Fernandez-Patron   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-8033-0645 1 ,
  • Gary D. Lopaschuk   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-1010-0454 2 &
  • Eugenio Hardy   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-8351-4255 3  

Nature Cardiovascular Research ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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  • Energy metabolism
  • Heart failure
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Multienzyme complexes

Heart failure is a progressive syndrome with high morbidity and mortality rates. Here, we suggest that chronic exposure of the heart to risk factors for heart failure damages heart mitochondria, thereby impairing energy production to levels that can suppress the heart’s ability to pump blood and repair mitochondria (both energy-consuming processes). As damaged mitochondria accumulate, the heart becomes deprived of energy in a ‘self-reinforcing cycle’, which can persist after the heart is no longer chronically exposed to (or after antagonism of) the risk factors that initiated the cycle. Together with other previously described pathological mechanisms, this proposed cycle can help explain (1) why heart failure progresses, (2) why it can recur after cessation of treatment, and (3) why heart failure is often accompanied by dysfunction of multiple organs. Ideally, therapy of heart failure syndrome would be best attempted before the self-reinforcing cycle is triggered or designed to break the self-reinforcing cycle.

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C.F.-P. conceived the hypothesis. C.F.-P. and E.H. conceived, wrote and edited the manuscript and drafted the figures. G.D.L. made key edits and additions to the intellectual content and figures. All authors contributed to the critical analysis of the literature.

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Fernandez-Patron, C., Lopaschuk, G.D. & Hardy, E. A self-reinforcing cycle hypothesis in heart failure pathogenesis. Nat Cardiovasc Res (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s44161-024-00480-6

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