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HYPOTHESIS POSTULATION: THE WHAT, WHY, HOW AND WHICH? By Dr. Peter James Kpolovie Department of Psychology, Guidance and Counselling, Faculty of Education, University of Port Harcourt Abstract The great need for refocusing of education in Nigeria in this century and beyond can best be met with execution of more and more quantitative empirical research. Execution of such research demands postulation and testing of apposite hypotheses. Unfortunately however, it doubtlessly seems that many educational practitioners and researchers have lost or are loosing focus on the enormous role of hypothesis in education and knowledge advancement. Therefore, this paper has thoroughly presented the meaning, the eight uses, the five characteristics and the two types as well as the two forms of hypothesis in addition to the seven steps for testing it. When educational researchers and practitioners acquire and apply the mastery knowledge of hypothesis as lucidly elucidated in this article, the quality of their research works will be tremendously improved and this will absolutely be reflected in refocusing of education in Nigeria.

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Introduction There is a great need to refocus education in Nigeria. Refocusing education in Nigeria in the 21st century can best be accomplished with execution of more and more quantitative empirical research. “Research can satisfactorily be defined as the logical, systematic and objective collection, analysis, synthesis, evaluation and recording of accurate and controlled observations for the development of generalizations, principles or theories that are ultimately aimed at description, explanation, prediction and control of natural phenomena to meet specific needs of man” Kpolovie (2010, 3). Execution of research necessarily demands postulation and testing of apposite hypotheses. Unfortunately however, a critical examination of educational journal articles tends to show that great majority of the articles are not based on empirical works that duly tested appropriate hypotheses. The number of position papers (several of which do not truly qualify for any scholarly position) tends to far outweigh well researched articles that formulated and tested the right hypotheses on the basis of relevant data collection and analyses. For instance, several of the position papers utterly fail to meet the basic requirements for “review articles”, “theoretical articles”, “methodological articles” or “case studies” as specified in the publication manual of the American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association, 2002, 7–9). Furthermore, some of the position papers do not even set forth “a set of principles, a description of policy, or (workable) recommendations for action on a specific issue” which is a compulsory requirement as defined in the New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language, Read (2004, 985). Even some of the articles that claim to report empirical studies demonstrate that substandard hypotheses were formulated as they do not meet the fundamental requirements for international best practices. For instance, a statement that contains only one variable, or a proposition which cannot serve the various uses of hypothesis or a postulation that does not contain the characteristics of hypothesis as thoroughly articulated in this paper; cannot and should never be scholarly considered as a hypothesis. It doubtlessly seems that many educational practitioners and researchers have lost or are losing focus on the enormous role of hypothesis in education and knowledge advancement. In order to refocus education in Nigeria in the current century and beyond through empirical research, this article has proffered and lucidly elucidated answers to the ever fresh important questions of ‘what, why, how and which?’ about hypothesis. In other words, in this paper, the meaning, uses, characteristics and types of hypothesis as well as the steps for testing it are thoroughly rationalized.

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The definition here deals with ‘What?’ about hypothesis. Hypothesis is a tentative proposition about the nature and workability of a phenomenon in terms of independent and dependent variables, and which is subject to refutation or rejection by empirical evidence via statistical testing and criticism by rational argument. It can also be seen as a tentative solution to the research problem or answer to the research question, and which its tenability or otherwise is to be tested statistically after due collection and analyses of requisite data for the investigation. Simply put, hypothesis is a rational guess about the relationship between two variables or among more than two variables in a given population in order to arrive at empirical solution to the problem under investigation on the basis of testing its tenability statistically. In the words of Jackson (2006, 8), hypothesis is “a prediction regarding the outcome of a study, often involving the relationship between two variables.” Hypothesis is formulated to adequately cover the research problem under study; such that valid, reliable and dependable solutions to the problem can be attained after due subjection of data collected to the appropriate statistical tests. This accounts for why problem identification and hypothesis formulation constitute the first step in the scientific approach to knowledge acquisition. That is, no researchable problem can conclusively be said to have been identified without postulation of the apposite hypotheses in the scientific quest for knowledge discovery (Kpolovie, 2010; Best and Kahn, 2007; Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2008; Banyard and Grayson, 2000; Fraenkel and Wallen, 2003 and Kpolovie, 2011). Formulation of hypotheses that attempt to explain and predict relationships amongst variables of interest, and actually testing their authenticity statistically on the basis of adequate randomly collected data, is a very crucial aspect in every empirical research. In fact, hypothesis testing is the central theme in most research works in education and the behavioural sciences as it is in the pure sciences. Hypothesis testing is so crucial in research because it is the systematic procedure for deciding whether the results of a research, which investigates a randomly drawn sample, support a particular theory or practical innovation in the entire population. In research, data on the variables of interest are collected mainly from a representative sample of the population. Data in research are not just collected for their own sake. Hypothesis testing is the most important reason for which data are collected in research. This accounts for the indispensability of hypothesis testing in research, as data obtained from a representative sample must be subjected to statistical hypothesis testing, for accurate, valid and reliable generalizations to be made to the population (Kpolovie, 2011; Howitt and Cramer, 2008; Babbie, 2007; Graziano and Raulin, 2007 and Koul, 2009). Ary, Jacobs and Razavieh (2002, 97) have therefore posited that: The hypothesis is a powerful tool in scientific inquiry. It enables researchers to relate theory to observation and observation to

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theory. Today the use of hypothesis enables people, in the search for knowledge, to employ both the ideas of the inductive philosophers, with their emphasis on observation, and the logic of the deductive philosophers, with their emphasis on reason. The use of hypotheses has united experience and reason to produce a powerful tool for seeking knowledge. Uses of Hypothesis in Research Specifying the necessity of good hypothesis in research, Howell (2002, 96) posited that: “We do not go around obtaining sampling distributions, either mathematically or empirically, simply because they are interesting to look at. We have important reasons for doing so. The usual reason is that we want to test some hypothesis.” Stressing the indispensability of hypothesis in research and statistical analysis, Kpolovie (2011, 38) averred that: “Hypothesis formulation as well as testing is so central and crucial in the making of conclusive conclusions, inferences and generalizations from the sample studied to the population to the extent that an empirical research cannot be considered to have been well executed without hypothesis”. He rationalized that hypothesis is used in research for the following eight major reasons which serve as the ‘Why?’ of hypothesis postulation. i. Proposition of relationship between two variables

Scientific investigation deals with at least one independent variable and one dependent variable. The nature of the relationship that exists between the independent and dependent variables is tentatively proposed with hypothesis. The most accurate prediction and explanation of the phenomenon of interest in a research is succinctly expressed by the researcher from the beginning of the study with hypothesis. In other words, hypothesis provides the best tentative solution to the problem under investigation. At the end of data collection and analysis, the tenability of the hypothesis is determined. Thus, with the use of hypothesis, the researcher is able to bring together information for making tentative rational statement about the relationship that exists between the dependent and independent variables in such a way that allows for rejection or otherwise on the basis of unbiased data collected and analyzed at the end of the investigation. ii. Hypothesis provides direction to research

An excellently formulated hypothesis provides a direction on the type of data to be collected, the population and sample to be studied, the research design to apply and the method of data analysis that is most suitable for the study. On the basis of the postulated hypothesis, the investigator becomes certain of whether to collect nominal, ordinal, interval or ratio data for the study. The population to which findings of the research are to be appropriately generalized, is specified in the hypothesis. Decision on or choice of the most suitable research design for an investigation can best be made on the basis of the hypothesis that guides the work.

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Whether the hypothesis is stated in terms of ‘difference’ or ‘relationship’ is a clue to the type of research design that could possibly be applied. The appropriate statistical test for data analysis in a research depends on the way that hypothesis for the study is formulated. It is with the hypothesis that the scope of an investigation is best known, as it prevents the work from being too broad by restricting it to only the variables under investigation and the population from which the sample was randomly drawn. iii. Hypothesis conveys empirically testable rational statement Hypothesis is an embodiment of a rational proposition or statement that is directly testable by the researcher on the basis of empirical data and statistical inference. Hypothesis is the only type of statement in research that automatically calls for collection and analysis of relevant data for the testing of its authenticity. The title of a study, purpose of the study, literature review, research question, significance of the study, and so on, do not lend themselves individually or collectively to statistical tests on the basis of data collected for tenability. It is the hypothesis alone that is testable to ascertain the degree or extent to which the occurrence of the phenomenon under study in the population is not merely by chance. While testing a hypothesis provides answer to the corresponding research question and meets the purpose of the investigation; answering a research question alone cannot serve as hypothesis testing and therefore can never meet the purpose of the study that calls for determination of characteristics of a phenomenon in the entire population from the sample characteristics. The fact remains that for the purpose of a research work that studies sample, randomly drawn from the population to be met, hypothesis must be tested. iv. Hypothesis determines the quality of a research Hypothesis is the main determinant of the quality of a research because the findings, conclusions and generalizations of a research cannot be more or better than what was proposed in the hypothesis. A work with poorly stated hypothesis is bound to produce correspondingly poor, unauthentic, invalid and ungeneralizable results. For instance, if an amateur researcher states hypothesis that is not testable in an investigation, then certainly, the work cannot produce valid or tenable result. Furthermore, a work with wrongly stated hypothesis that does not contain any or one of the variables under investigation, or does not propose a relationship between the two variables, cannot in any way yield result that conclusively states that there is a relationship between the independent and dependent variables in the population at a given level of significance or certainty from the sample studied. This accounts for why well-informed academic project, thesis or dissertation supervisors, external examiners, or research assessors can on the basis of excellently postulated hypotheses conclude rightly that the researcher has sufficient knowledge in the area or field that the investigation is embarked upon.

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Hypothesis embodies the essence of research

The essence of research in the discovery of knowledge is encapsulated in hypothesis. It is the hypothesis that shows that research is not concerned merely with whether there is a difference between two groups of individuals or objects with respect to a given attribute, but with whether such difference is significant statistically. Hypothesis reveals that knowledge discovery is concerned with whether a statistically significant relationship actually exists between two variables, and not with whether there is a relationship between the two variables. That there is a difference between two groups with respect to psychological construct, or that a relationship exists between the two variables, cannot be considered conclusively as a newly discovered knowledge or an expansion of knowledge because such ‘difference’ or ‘relationship’ found within the sample drawn for the study could most probably be as just a function of sampling error, measurement error or chance occurrence in the parent population. Rather, what counts validly as discovery or expansion of knowledge is when the ‘difference’ or ‘relationship’ is statistically significant at a predetermined level of significance. This accounts for why statement of hypothesis usually contains explicitly or implicitly, the term ‘significant’ or the phrase, ‘statistically significant’. vi. Hypothesis stimulates research endeavour Hypothesis stimulates research endeavour that culminates in accumulation of new knowledge because hypothesis proposes tentative explanations for phenomena. Hypotheses enable the researcher to, either inductively or deductively, postulate explanations for the phenomena of interest and finally verify the credibility or authenticity of such explanations. Accumulation of inductive explanations for phenomena with hypotheses testing could eventually result in postulation of theory about the phenomena. Conversely, accumulated deductive explanations of phenomena with hypotheses prove the workability of the different aspects of a theory in real life or practical setting. With hypothesis, the researcher is stimulated to relate theory to observations and observations to theory, and successfully unite experience with reason to produce knowledge. vii. Hypothesis facilitates the research report writing In writing of a research report, the results and conclusions are written around the hypothesis. In other words, hypotheses serve as the basis for the findings and conclusions, as well as the basis around which research results, discussions, conclusions and generalizations of the research are reported. The last chapter of a research dissertation or thesis, as well as the entire summary of the research work into articles for publication in journals; are usually written around each of the hypotheses. viii. Hypothesis testing is the core of inferential statistics Inferential statistics are used for the main purpose of hypothesis testing. It is for the

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purpose of hypothesis testing that each statistical test was developed and is in use. It is on this basis that Colman (2003, 704) defined statistical test strictly as “a procedure for deciding whether or not to reject the null hypothesis and conclude that an observed difference or relationship is not due to chance”. The entire logic of inferential statistics revolves round hypothesis testing. In empirical research, each hypothesis has a statistical test that is most suitable for testing its tenability. For example, when a hypothesis involves comparison of two independent samples with respect to an attribute, the independent samples t-test is used. When the hypothesis compares the same group of individuals with regard to their performance in two different measures, the correlated samples t-test is most appropriate. When the hypothesis involves comparison of three or more groups with respect to an attribute, ANOVA becomes most suitable. If a hypothesis seeks to establish the main effects and interaction effect of two or more independent variables contemporaneously on a dependent variable, two-way ANOVA is necessitated. For a hypothesis that is on the magnitude and nature of relationship between two variables, product moment correlation becomes most handy. When the hypothesis expresses determination of the effect of an independent variable on a dependent variable, with the effect of pretest or any other covariate removed; the statistical analysis automatically called for, is ANCOVA. If the hypothesis is postulated in a way that elicits the magnitude and direction of relationship between two variables, when the influence of a third or nuisance variable is held constant, adjusted for or removed; partial correlation is necessarily required. When relationship among three or more variables is hypothesized; application of multiple correlation is called for. Whenever prediction of a criterion variable on a predictor variable is hypothesized, simple regression inferential statistical technique becomes most appropriate. Multiple regression is used when the hypothesis is aimed at predicting a group of individuals’ performance in one variable on the basis of their performance in other two or more variables, taken together. Therefore, hypothesis is a precondition for application of statistical or inferential tests in research. Characteristics of Hypothesis Since hypothesis is a very crucial tool for execution of research, great care must be taken in stating it so that it can maximally serve all the eight purposes that have been explained for which hypothesis is used. Characteristics of hypothesis deal with the very pertinent issue of the ‘How?’ on statement of hypothesis. An excellently postulated hypothesis must possess certain basic characteristics. According to Kpolovie (2011), only a statement which has the five characteristics outlined hereunder that can be considered as a hypothesis. i. Testability

Testability is the most important characteristic that a good hypothesis must possess. A hypothesis is said to be testable when it is empirically verifiable. This demands that it must be carefully stated in such a way that enough unbiased data

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or observations can be collected and statistically analyzed to either nullify it or support it in virtually an unquestionable manner for decisions, conclusions and inferences to be confidently made. A testable hypothesis must contain or relate only variables that are operationally defined definitively and measured validly and reliably by the researcher. If a variable in the hypothesis cannot be reliably and validly measured, then quantitative data cannot be gathered for testing the tenability of the relationship or difference proposed in the hypothesis. The indicators of each of the variables in a hypothesis must have been defined operationally by the researcher, who must actually obtain all the necessary data and measure the variables subsequently. Recall that operational definition is that which clearly states the procedures for necessarily measuring the variable in question in a reliable, valid, and an unbiased and unambiguous way. A good hypothesis must not use any variable that would be difficult or impossible to define in terms of identifiable and observable behaviour, and measured accurately. A hypothesis must be stated in a way that automatically lends itself to statistical testing on the basis of adequate data collection. A hypothesis stated only in the alternative or research form cannot be tested. Therefore, it must also be stated in the null form. ii. Formulation of provisional relationship between variables

Each hypothesis must formulate provisional relationship between variables. The relationship that the researcher expects between the independent and dependent variables must be stated in every hypothesis. The quality that sets a hypothesis apart from all other propositions is that it provisionally conjectures a specific relationship between at least two variables in an empirically verifiable manner. This implies that a hypothesis must have at least one independent variable and one dependent variable as well as one deductive or inductive proposition, expectation, suspicion or belief about the relationship between the two variables. The crucial decision on whether to reject the proposition as false or retain (accept) it as the truth, must wait for collection of empirical observations or data and subjection of the data to the necessary statistical analyses at a given alpha (significance level) that will reveal reasonably unquestionable preponderance of evidence. iii. Mutually exclusive propositions Hypothesis must be stated in two mutually exclusive propositions, called (a) alternative hypothesis or research hypothesis (H1) and (b) null hypothesis (H0). While the alternative or research hypothesis states that there is a significant relationship between two variables of interest, the null hypothesis states that there is no significant relationship between the two variables. In other words, while the research hypothesis proposes that a valid relationship exists between the two variables under study, the null hypothesis proposes that valid relationship does not exist between the two variables that are under investigation. In terms of difference, the research hypothesis postulates that there is a significant difference between two or more groups with respect to a variable; the null hypothesis posits that there is no

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significant difference between the two or more groups with respect to a variable. The only difference between these mutually exclusive ways of stating hypothesis is that while the research hypothesis (H1) cannot be tested statistically, the null hypothesis (H0) can directly be tested statistically and its tenability can be either ‘rejected’ or ‘not rejected’. When the null hypothesis, on the basis of inferential statistics, is rejected; it means that the corresponding alternative or research hypothesis is upheld, tenable, valid or accepted. Conversely, when the null hypothesis is retained or not rejected (is accepted) on the basis of the appropriate inferential statistics, it means that the available evidence is not sufficient to warrant its rejection, therefore the alternative hypothesis cannot be tenable, valid or acceptable without further observations or data collection and subsequent analysis. In short, when the null hypothesis is retained, it means simply that the study is inconclusive. Simply put, the two mutually exclusive statements of a hypothesis are used so that when the testable null hypothesis is rejected, the research or alternative hypothesis is accepted; and when the null hypothesis is ‘accepted’ (this is colloquially used to actually mean ‘fails to be rejected’), the alternative hypothesis is rejected, at least until when further empirical evidence will prove otherwise. The stating of one hypothesis in both the research form and the null form is anchored on the principle that what the researcher actually wants to ascertain or prove is the alternative hypothesis that there is a significant ‘relationship’ or ‘difference’, but since this cannot be inferentially or statistically tested as all the possible evidence cannot be or have not been gathered; the null hypothesis of ‘no significant relationship’ or ‘no significant difference’ that can be tested with inferential statistics is used so that its rejection will automatically confirm the authenticity, validity, credibility and tenability of the corresponding research hypothesis. On the other hand, if the null hypothesis is not rejected, it means that the proposed ‘relationship’ or ‘difference’ is not statistically significant on the basis of the quantum of observations made and data collected from the sample. This does not absolutely mean that there is no element of relationship or difference at all in the observation made, but that the study is inconclusive. In other words, it means that the evidence gathered is not statistically preponderant or overwhelmingly large enough to reject the null hypothesis. The logic of formulating a single hypothesis in both the research form and null form for the latter to be rejected in favour of the former is in order to authenticate the true existence of a relationship or difference, is analogous to our legal system which rejects the innocence of a person accused of criminal acts only when his or her evidence of guilt is proved beyond all reasonable doubts. This is a scenario that a null hypothesis is rejected. Conversely, when the null hypothesis is retained or not rejected, the analogy with criminal trials in the legal system is like where lack of evidence of guilt beyond all reasonable doubts against an accused, results in a verdict of ‘not guilty’. Though the accused here is declared ‘not guilty’, it does not prove that he or she is absolutely innocent of all the charges.

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On the logic of confirmation and disconfirmation or acceptance and rejection of a hypothesis, Frank and Althoen (1994, 328) likened statement of hypothesis in both the research and null forms to legal proceedings during criminal trials thus: A prosecutor suspects that a defendant is guilty of a crime, but under the American system of criminal justice the accused person is presumed innocent. In order to obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must therefore ‘disconfirm’ the hypothesis of innocence in favor of the alternative proposition that the defendant is guilty. To accomplish this, the prosecution presents ‘factual’ evidence that is both implausible under the hypothesis of innocence and consistent with the hypothesis of guilt. If the prosecution fails, the defendant is found “not guilty”. That is, the jury ‘rejects’ the hypothesis of ‘guilt’. This does not in any way imply that the jury ‘accepts’ the hypothesis of ‘innocence’. It means only that the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction. iv. Clarity Hypothesis must be stated in utmost clarity, without the least element of ambiguity in proposing the relationship between the variables under investigation. It must be stated in as simple and as concisely as possible. It must be a complete, yet simple, clear and concise declaration that relates the independent and dependent variables of interest. Terms or words employed in postulation of a hypothesis should be the simplest acceptable to best convey the intended meaning that provides the essential explanation of the phenomenon being investigated. Avoid use of constructs that are vague, ambiguous, clumsy, not measurable, and which require assumptions in the statement of hypothesis. One hypothesis should be stated to cover each of the relationships that are being investigated in the work. One hypothesis should not be compounded with any complexity of combining two or more relationships that the research is on. Hypothesis must be stated specifically such that only one relationship is covered by each hypothesis. v. Consistency with existing body of knowledge

Hypothesis should be stated in a way that is consistent with existing body of knowledge. Statement of good hypothesis requires the researcher to compulsorily study existing theoretical and empirical literature on the variables of interest very widely and thoroughly. When hypothesis is formulated on the basis of such extensive review, the likelihood that it would be outright contradiction of theories and previously well-established knowledge, on the one hand; and that it would be on what has been over investigated conclusively in the population that the work covers, on the other hand, will be less. It must however be noted, and emphatically too, that it is from exhaustive review of related literature, that the researcher can spot knowledge gap or an aspect of the phenomenon that urgently needs to be investigated and which existing theories and or empirical works have left to be filled. Hypothesis should not be totally contrary to what is known about the nature of a

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phenomenon; rather it should be consistent with previous knowledge so that it will be worth pursuing. Probably, it would be unprofitable to hypothesize an absence of relationship between two variables that existing preponderance of evidence supports the presence of such relationship. It is of great importance to formulate truly revolutionary hypothesis for reorganization of the existing knowledge into a more satisfactory whole or theory as renowned scientists like Newton, Einstein, Darwin and Copernicus did. Conclusively, hypothesis could be formulated on the basis of grand theory or mini-theory as well as from prior empirical observation, playful speculation, scientific hunches, serendipity, unbridled conjecture, and whimsical inspiration that are affectionately known in some scientific circles as Scientific Wild Intuitive Guesswork (SWIG). Types of Hypothesis There are two types of hypothesis, the research hypothesis (H1) and the null hypothesis (H0). Each of these is very briefly explained here to adequately address the question of ‘Which?’ about hypothesis. The Research Hypothesis The research hypothesis is also known as the alternative hypothesis, as it is indeed the alternative to the null hypothesis. Research hypothesis is stated in positive or affirmative terms about the proposed or expected ‘relationship’ or ‘difference’ that exists between independent and dependent variables for the explanation of the phenomenon under study. Statement of hypothesis in this form restricts or limits the focus of the study to a definite target and determines the observations that will most probably be made. The research hypothesis is actually the statement that assertively expresses the ‘relationship’ or ‘difference’ between variables that the researcher truly expects to find as a result of the research. However, the researcher cannot collect all the evidence, which might be infinite in the population, to prove its authenticity or validity because observations or data are collected from a randomly drawn sample instead. Also, research hypothesis cannot be tested because the affirmative proposition does not lend itself automatically to inferential statistical analysis that could eliminate the possibility of chance occurrence of the said ‘relationship’ or ‘difference’ between the variables. Generally, it is technically and classically necessary to preferably reformulate the research hypothesis in the null form that allows for statistical testing. The research hypothesis can be stated in two possible ways, either a nondirectional form or a directional form. As the term implies, a nondirectional research hypothesis simply states that a relationship or difference exists between the variables of interest, without specifying the nature or direction of the expected relationship or difference. An example of a nondirectional research hypothesis is: There is a significant difference between male and female final year students’ performance in mathematics. The side that the proposed difference will favour is not indicated, as it can go either way. Directional research hypothesis, on the other

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hand, is a statement or proposition that specifies the nature or direction of the expected relationship or difference between the variables of interest in the investigation. Example of directional research hypothesis can be given as: Male final year students perform significantly better than their female counterparts in mathematics. It can also take the other way round that: Female final year students perform significantly better in mathematics than their male counterparts. You can see that in this case (directional H1), the side that the expected gender difference in mathematics performance favours, is specified in the proposition. The Null Hypothesis The null hypothesis is postulated in negative, no or not terms with regard to the relationship or difference between the independent and dependent variables of interest in the population, and that any such relationship or difference found in the sample is attributable exclusively to chance or sampling error. Simply put, the null hypothesis is formulated as a direct negation of the ‘relationship; or ‘difference’ that the researcher actually expects as a result of the investigation. With the null hypothesis, the researcher is able to ascertain whether apparent relationships or differences observed in the sample are indeed genuine or are most likely due to chance. Null hypothesis is anchored on the fact or principle that results of a study could easily have occurred by chance; and therefore subject the data collected to inferential statistical test to either rule out the possibility of chance or retain the chance probability with a given percentage of certainty. If the statistical tests indicate that data collected and analyzed have preponderance of evidence that is overwhelmingly large enough or sufficiently adequate to prove beyond all reasonable doubts that the observed relationship or difference is credible, valid, genuine, authentic and certainly not a function of chance occurrence, then the null hypothesis is rejected. Rejection of the ‘no’ proposition (i.e., the H0) means automatically that its corresponding alternative or research hypothesis is accepted. Statement of null hypothesis is so important that Cohen (2008, 125) personified it and stated that “whenever you run an experiment… and write up the results and send them to a journal to be published, the first person to see your article (no matter which journal you send it to) is Dr. Null.” This implies that the first requirement of an experimental investigation is how well the null hypothesis is stated before results of the study can be published. Aron, Aron and Coups (2006) also emphasized the indispensability of null hypothesis in every empirical investigation as it entails the best and most appropriate way that data collected can be summarized and generalized to the population from which sample was drawn. In a situation that the statistical tests reveal that the data collected and analyzed are not sufficient or not large enough to rule out possibility of chance in determination of the observed relationship or difference; the null hypothesis is retained (not rejected). This implies that the corresponding research hypothesis is not sustainable or tenable in the population on the basis of the data obtained from the random sample that was drawn. In other words, the observed difference or

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relationship was not significant statistically. Such study could be said to be inconclusive, as obtaining and analyzing more and more data from the population might indicate otherwise. So, what the investigator hoped to show as posited in his or her research hypothesis is yet to be ascertained or authenticated. To further illustrate null hypothesis, if a researcher wishes to show the effect of a specific experimental treatment, the investigator randomly draws two samples of equal mean from the population. Using research hypothesis, he/she postulates that: At the end of the experiment, there will be a significant difference in the means of the sample which received the experimental treatment and the sample that did not receive. Recall that this is stated in a nondirectional form. Formulating the research hypothesis in a directional form is: At the end of the experiment, the mean of the sample that received experimental treatment will be significantly greater than the mean of the sample that served as control group. Now, recasting the research hypothesis in the null form for nondirectional will be thus: At the end of the experiment, there will be no significant difference in the means of the sample which received the experimental treatment and the sample that did not receive the treatment. Then in a directional form, the null hypothesis will be: At the end of the experiment, the mean of the sample that received experimental treatment will not be significantly greater than the mean of the sample that served as control group. If on the basis of the observations made and data collected and statistically analyzed, the nondirectional null hypothesis is rejected, then the nondirectional research hypothesis is sustained. If the directional null hypothesis is rejected, it automatically means acceptance of the directional research hypothesis. Conversely, if the nondirectional null hypothesis is retained, then the nondirectional alternative hypothesis is not sustained for lack of significant evidence. If the directional null hypothesis failed to be rejected, then the directional research hypothesis is rejected, at least temporarily, on the basis of lack of statistical significance with the data collected. It is the null hypothesis that is, as a matter of necessity, subjected to inferential statistical analysis for testing its tenability; which will definitely be either rejected or retained. The research hypothesis cannot be directly tested statistically as pointed out earlier. It must also be emphasized that in statement of a null hypothesis, ‘no’ or ‘not’, denoting negativity or nullity, and ‘significant’ should necessarily be used. The term ‘significant’ has to be used because in research or hypothesis testing, the investigator is not concerned merely with whether a relationship or difference exists between the variables of interest, but crucially with whether the magnitude of the relationship or difference is large enough to exclude the possibility that it was caused by chance or sampling error. It is only when the relationship or difference is overwhelmingly large enough to exclude every plausible explanation other than the manipulation or condition of the independent variable, that the difference or relationship is said to be significant, and again at a specified probability level. Sampling error refers to the inevitability of variations in the means of several

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samples of the same size, each drawn randomly from the same population with respect to any specific variable that is normally distributed in the population. There are two forms of null hypothesis, namely, nondirectional and directional. A nondirectional null hypothesis states that a relationship or difference does not exist in the variables under study in the population. It does not lean to any direction. For example: there is no significant difference between male and female final year students’ performance in mathematics. A directional null hypothesis indicates that a specific nature or direction of relationship or difference does not exist in the variables of interest in the population. For example, male final year students do not perform betters significantly in mathematics than their female counterparts. Put the other way round, it will be: female final year students do not perform significantly better in mathematics than their male counterparts. Generally, in research, one hypothesis is not stated in both the nondirectional and the directional forms. The researcher chooses to formulate a hypothesis either in the nondirectional form or in the directional form. But the two types of hypothesis (research, H1 and null, H0) should be stated for each hypothesis. There should be consistency in the use of the research hypothesis and the null hypothesis. When the research hypothesis is formulated in the nondirectional form, the null hypothesis too must be postulated in the nondirectional form. If the research hypothesis is proposed in the directional form, postulation of the null hypothesis too must correspondingly be in the directional form. Each of the two forms that hypothesis could be stated (nondirectional or directional) has its special implication in determination of the critical value at which its tenability is tested. Steps for Testing Hypothesis Hypothesis testing requires observing the following steps carefully as presented in Kpolovie (2011, 57-58). Step 1: Restate the research question of the investigation as both research hypothesis and null hypothesis Step 2: Choose the most appropriate statistical test for the analysis of data collected. Such statistical test should be in line with the hypothesis as well as the research method or design employed for the investigation. Step 3: Choose the level of significance at which tenability of the null hypothesis will be tested. A 0.05 or 0.01 level of significance is conventionally appropriate in most cases. Step 4: Execute the statistical data analysis to obtain the sample characteristics for the variables under investigation. Step 5: Obtain the critical value for the statistics at the chosen level of significance and the appropriate degrees of freedom. Critical values are found in

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statistical tables. Step 6: Decision-making: compare the calculated value of the statistics and its critical value. Reject the null hypothesis if the calculated value is equal to or greater than the critical value; or retain the null hypothesis if the calculated value is less or smaller than the critical value. Where the data are analyzed with statistical software like SPSS, the decision rule is: whenever the probability of the test result is equal to or less than the chosen level of significance, reject the null hypothesis (i.e., reject H0 if p < .05 or if p < .01, as the case may be). Conversely, whenever the probability of the statistical test result is greater than the chosen significance level, retain the null hypothesis (i.e., retain H0 if p > .05 or if p > .01), depending on the chosen alpha for the investigation. Step 7: Briefly interpret the decision to show the side or direction that it favours, and report it. Summary This article has exhaustively elucidated the meaning (what), uses (why), characteristics (how) and types (which) of hypothesis as well as the steps for testing it. Hypothesis is defined as a tentative proposition about the nature and workability of a phenomenon in terms of independent and dependent variables, and which is subject to refutation or rejection by empirical evidence via statistical testing and criticism by rational argument. Hypothesis is stated for the purposes of (a) proposing relationship between two variables, (b) providing direction to research, (c) conveying empirically testable rational statement, (d) determining the quality of a research, (e) encapsulating the essence of research, (f) stimulating research endeavour, (g) facilitating research report writing and (h) applying of the most suitable inferential statistics. The characteristics that a hypothesis must possess are testability, provisional relationship between variables, mutually exclusive propositions, clarity and consistency with existing body of knowledge. There are two types of hypothesis; the research hypothesis and the null hypothesis, each of which could either be stated in the directional form or nondirectional form. Seven steps for testing of hypothesis are also given. When educational researchers and practitioners acquire and apply the mastery knowledge of hypothesis as thoroughly presented in this paper, the quality of their research works will be tremendously improved and this will absolutely be reflected in refocusing education in Nigeria in the current century and beyond. References American Psychological Association (2002) Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Aron, A; Aron, E. N.; and Coups, E. J. (2006) Statistics for psychology. India: Pearson

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Education, Inc. Ary, D.; Jacobs, L.C.; and Razavieh, A. (2002) Introduction to research in education. Canada: Wadsworth Group, Thomson Learning Inc. Babbie, E. (2007) The practice of social research. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning Banyard, P. and Grayson, A. (2000) Introducing psychological research. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Best, J. W. and Kahn, J. V. (2007) Research in education. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall (Pearson Education, Inc.). Cohen, B. H. (2008) Explaining psychological statistics. New Jersey: Johon Wiley and Sons, Inc. Cohen, L.; Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2008) Research methods in education. London: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group Colman, A. M. (2003) Press. Oxford dictionary of psychology. Oxford: Oxford University

Fraenkel, J. R. and Wallen, N. E. (2003), How to design and evaluate research in education. Boston: McGraw Hill. Frank, H.; and Althoen, S. C. (1994). Statistics: Concepts and applications. Great Britain: Cambridge University Press. Graziano, A. M. and Raulin, M. L. (2007) Research methods: A process of inquiry. Boston: Pearson Education Inc. Howell, D. C. (2002). Statistical methods for psychology. Australia: Thomson Wadswoth. Howitt, D and Cramer, D. (2008), Introduction to statistics in psychology. Harlow: Pearson Prentice Hall. Jackson, S. L. (2006) Research methods and statistics: A critical thinking approach. Australia: Thomson Wadsworth. Koul, L. (2009) Methodology of educational research. New Delhi: Vikas’ Publishing House Pvt Ltd. Kpolovie, P. J. (2010) Advanced research methods. New Owerri: Springfield Publishers Ltd. Kpolovie, P. J. (2011) Statistical techniques for advanced research. New Owerri: Springfield Publishers Ltd. Read, A. W. (2004) The new international Webster’s comprehensive dictionary of the English Language (encyclopedic edition). USA: Typhoon International.

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