What is the purpose of a hypothesis

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And what function do hypotheses have in empirical social research?

This material is suitable for working out a definition and, above all, the function of hypotheses in empirical social research. The various areas of application of hypotheses in empirical social research can be dealt with here.

One understands by hypotheses assumptions
  • either about the failure of a result on a certain question - for all respondents or only a certain subgroup
  • or about connections between two characteristics.


"In empirical social research, a hypothesis is understood to be an assumption that is to be tested on the basis of empirical data. In the context of" quantitative "(standardized) social research, one primarily means an assumption that can be subjected to a statistical test. that there is a connection between two characteristics, or that there is a difference between groups. [...] "[1]

Hypotheses can be based on the results of either a survey approved (-> verified) or refuted (-> falsified).

Function of hypotheses in empirical studies

In empirical social research, hypotheses play an important role, especially when planning the survey. At the beginning of every survey project - usually before the questionnaire is drawn up - one has guesses and expectations as to what results and relationships there might be in the survey results. On the basis of these assumptions, one formulates suitable hypotheses in advance, which one then wants to investigate later with the help of the data collected.

"The hypotheses - or the research-guiding model - form the frame of reference for research; they are the reason why certain questions are asked. Their purpose is to provide answers that serve as data for testing the hypotheses." [2]

When carrying out a survey project, hypotheses therefore help
  1. to focus the survey,
  2. structure the survey,
  3. find the "right" questions for the questionnaire
  4. and to prevent losing track of the data collected when evaluating the data.
Hypotheses ensure a good structure of the survey, make it possible to arrive at results in a reasonable amount of time and always keep a "common thread" during the evaluation.

  1. ILMES - Internet lexicon of the methods of empirical social research.
  2. Kromrey, H .: Empirical Social Research. Models and methods of standardized data collection and data evaluation, 11th revised. Stuttgart: Lucius & Lucius Verlag 2006, p. 347.