Transform research questions to testable hypotheses
A hypothesis is a declarative sentence that predicts the results of a research study based on existing scientific
knowledge and stated assumptions. It is a prediction that answers the research question. Hypotheses are
statements that, if true, would explain the researchers’ observations. A hypothesis specifies a relationship
between two or more variables. In practice-based research, a hypothesis typically involves a prediction
that a program or a treatment will cause or otherwise be related to a specified outcome. For example,
“Patients who receive medication counseling will have greater adherence to the medication regimen” is a
hypothesis. It identifies medication counseling and adherence as two variables whose relationship can be observed and measured. Acknowledging the assumptions associated with the hypotheses is a prerequisite for all studies. Assumptions that are not recognized or acknowledged can lead to research plans and designs that are overly simplified or overly complex and possibly even unnecessary.17 Interesting research questions always challenge assumptions, and the presence of assumptions confirms that a study poses a sound research question. It is helpful to think about an investigation in terms of a working model. The dependent variable is the focus of the activity or project. It is the circumstance or problem that is to be affected or changed—in this case, medication adherence. Independent variables, such as medication counseling, are causal factors that appear to influence the issue or problem. They are precursors of the dependent variable. Correlates are variables that can influence the dependent variable and the independent variable and should be noted.
Research is structured to examine variables that are critical to the model and feasible to investigate given the time, resources, and characteristics of the participants. It is the researcher’s responsibility to describe precisely how the variables of interest will be measured. For example, counseling might be measured as being present or absent, the amount of time spent, or the number of points discussed. The outcome—adherence—might be measured by the number of doses missed as reported by the patient, refills that were obtained according to the dispensing record, the proportion of timely doses as measured by an automated pill dispenser, or one of many other options.