Is it possible to form a hypothesis in a qualitative research proposal?

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  • #4572
    Santosh Mishra
    Participant

    I am planning to look into the attitude and belief of teacher trainees in a pre-service training programme meant for language teachers. As the research committee in the university demands a proposal before allowing a student to pursue research, I wanted to know if it is feasible to come up with a hypothesis at this stage. thank you.

     

     

    Regards

     

     

    Santosh

     

    The EFL University, Hyderabad

     

     

    #4591

    My general answer is: Yes! Hypothesizing relates to our theories (formalized beliefs) about the world, and, following Popper, we need to confront these theories with “data” (our beliefs could be wrong!). Using qualitative methods for generating data is one way of doing that.

    Kristian

    #4590
    Santosh Mishra
    Participant

    Dear Kristian,

    The problem in this case is that the area I am working on does not have much of literature to allow me to have hypothesis. Thus, they (what I think) can be, at most, projected as assumptions. Don’t you think so?

    #4589

    Good point. Your projected assumptions could provide you with some suggestions for hypotheses to investigate. You could, in your proposal, call them “working hypotheses”. For example, you could make some thoughts about what exactly “attitudes” and “beliefs” does to the group, you are studying. Is attitudes/beliefs the object of study (what needs to be explained) or does it produce some effects / have influence on some other factors (what it explains).

    Thinking along these lines may help you with some preliminary thoughts about the mechanisms, you are to study. I hope I am specific enough. My contention is, though, that for a proposal you will need to give the reader the feeling that you have thought about how to hypothesize the object under study.

    Kristian

    #4588

    Hello there!

    I deeply recommend NOT to come up with a hypothesis before recolecting data. In qualitative designs, theory is not a “starting point” but an “arrival point”. In other words, you are not to confront theory, you are going to generate new concepts without any frames.

    #4587
    Santosh Mishra
    Participant

    Dear Pablo,

    You are absolutely right in the sense that qualitative designs are better off with no hypothesis to start with. There are proven theories to support this. But I also agree with Kristian’s suggestion that I can go ahead with a working hypothesis. Thank you.

    Santosh

    #4586

    I agree with Kristian as well. I hope you enjoy your research !

    #4585

    Thanks Kristian, Pablo and Santosh. I was looking for an answer to the EXACT SAME QUESTION (word for word) that Santosh had. Because I submitted a series of research questions in a qualitative research study, and wanted to know if I may now use the answers to those research questions to come up with a research hypothesis.

    Thank you all.

    I am going to do what Santosh says he will.

    Regards.
    Probal

    #4584
    Santosh Mishra
    Participant

    Dear Probal,

    There is a wonderful book that discusses the issue in detail. It is by Susan Gass & Alison McKey (2nd Language Research Methodology). Please check the book on net. Thank you.

    Santosh

    #4583
    Conor Horan
    Participant

    If I may add a ‘correctors’ perspective – Pablo is spot on! If I saw a ‘hypothesis’ in a qualitative proposal the first question I would ask you is why you are ‘testing’ something as opposed to ‘building’ theory.

    It would indicate to me as a corrector that you need to come to terms more with philosophy of research – especially deductive and inductive reasoning (maybe – but I don’t wish that on anyone!). Hypothesises are for ‘testing’ something to confirm it with a certainty – so it tends to be more quantitative. In a qualitative theory building piece of work you often see a research question written as a ‘problematic’ (Creswell) with broad sub-objectives. The problem with writing a problematic for a proposal is that it’s often left too broad. Lessons can be learnt from both ways but mainly in a qualitative work it’s called a ‘problematic’ as you are aiming to theory build.

    #4582
    Santosh Mishra
    Participant

    I agree with Mr. Horan and would like to stick to CYCLICAL DATA ANALYSIS- a process where data collection is followed by some type of data analysis and hypothesis-formation, leading to subsequent and more focused rounds of data collection where hypotheses are tested and further refined, with the process continuing until a rich and full picture of the data is obtained.

    Thank you

    Santosh

    #4581

    Dear Santosh,

    Thanks. I will check out the book on Amazon.

    Regards.
    Probal

    #4580

    as iam researching on the time machine concept

    #4579

    Dear Conor,

    I am not quite sure whether your comment is to me or to Santosh. As I see it, there is no logical necessity between “working with hypothesis” and the method one adopts for answering the hypothesis. Hypotheses do not necessarily (in a logical manner) involve quantitative methods.

    As I see it, working with hypotheses is simply a way of stating that our formalized ideas about the world, our theories we may call them, can be wrong. Working with hypotheses is thus not about “confirming” statements, but putting them to the test. I believe this is the essence of the ideas of one of greatest thinkers in the 20th century, Karl Popper. I may be wrong. I may then ask: What prevents research involving qualitative methods from putting widespread beliefs to the test?

    I agree with you that “problematiques” are important–but I do not see any logical reason why that shouldn’t count for research done with quantitative methods. Within sociological research in stratification, one pronounced problematic is that social inequalities in educational attainment is more or less constant across countries and cohorts. This is an interesting problematic! How do we explain that? My point here is that this problematic is a consequence of massive quantitative research on the topic. Now it is up for qualitative researchers to frame theories that may explain why this is so. Why? Because it is an interesting “problematique”.

    A final remark. I believe that if Santosh is about to write a research proposal, my general contention is that it signals rigor and clarity if the proposal involves some kind of working hypotheses. That said, these hypotheses may be vague–but framing a part of a proposal with working hypotheses is likely to enhance one’s likelihood of “getting the money”. So, for strategic reasons (and not logical or scientific) one may frame the proposal in terms of working hypotheses.

    Kristian

    #4578
    Conor Horan
    Participant

    HI Kristian,
    Yeah my reply was for everyone…not sure if I clicked the incorrect reply button.

    There’s a number of issues raised in your reply that revolve around ‘semantics’ in relation to the argument of quanitative versus qualitative research. Of course when you get deeper into the debate one realises you can’t do one without the other and that there is no delineation between the two. Some researchers however have exceptionally strong opinions about this. This debate also can be found in the deudctive versus inductive reasoning debate – which is the theory testing versus theory building issue I raised above.

    The semantical issue is using a ‘hypothesis’. Of course to answer ones hypothesis both quantitative and qualitative data can be used, however when you use that word is that by testing a hypothesis you want an outcome that is certain, generalisbale and possibly allowing you to predict an answer for the future through verification/falsification (Popper) etc. Thus the testing and then confirming TENDS to be more associated with hypothesis (as it’s hypothetico-deductive)

    You ask – ‘What prevents research involving qualitative methods from putting widespread beliefs to the test?’.. qualitative methods can contribute to answering a tested hypothesis… however doing a qualitative piece of research around complex widespread beliefs at an exploratory level – it would be hard to justify using a hypothesis unless you reduce it down to testable assumptions. The all may contribute to understanding a complex social issue but your epistemological approach assumes a single answer that has been tested and verified. Each hypothesis reflects a reduced perspective of the complex social issue. For this reason it tends to be verified quanititatively.

    Santosh’s proposal could look at a social issue but to use a hypothesis he would need to reduce that social issue down to testable hypotheses. If he was looking at individuals lived experiences – subjective realities – I would deduct marks if the word ‘hypothesis’ was used.

    I recommend Burrel & Morgan 1979 Sociological Paradigms and Organisation

    Hope that helps.

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