How are Hypotheses Developed?
Lesson 2:

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Quiz Yourself

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The diagram below describes the scientific process in greater detail. Note the addition of several new terms.

  • Research questions focus on an area where knowledge is incomplete. Specific research questions are proposed by scientists operating within a particular theoretical framework.
  • Hypotheses are tentative explanations that could answer the research question. Scientists use the prevailing theory as well as the results from particular experiments as a guide in developing hypotheses.
  • Specific predictions are then developed by deductive reasoning. These predictions are based on a particular hypothesis and should be testable by experiment.
  • Finally, experiments are performed to test the specific predictions. The experimental process will be covered closely in the next lesson.

This is a very generalized model of the scientific process. All studies are not developed in exactly this format, but most studies include some of the elements described above.

EXAMPLE - Are athletics detrimental or beneficial? (continued)

Let's return to our example. Scientists working within the theory that athletics are detrimental might ask research questions relating to the swollen heart of athletes. Here's how that might work:

  • Research question: How do athletics impact cardiovascular health?
  • Hypothesis: The enlarged heart of athletes contributes to health problems.
    • Notice that this hypothesis is developed by combining the overall theoretical framework (athletics are bad) with some specific experimental results (athletes have enlarged hearts).
  • Specific prediction: Athletes have a greater risk of heart attacks than the general population.
    • Notice that this prediction can be directly tested by experiment.
  • Experiment: The rate of heart attacks is measured in athletes and non-athletes.

Note that the scientific process is a continuous process. The specific result obtained from an experiment can be used to modify the hypothesis. For example, scientists might refine their initial hypothesis to state "The enlarged heart of elderly athletes contributes to health problems." Again, specific predictions could be made and these predictions tested by experiment.

If experimental testing repeatedly does not support the hypotheses that are developed within the theoretical framework, then the overall theoretical framework may be questioned. Scientists might then begin to develop a new theoretical framework.

In the example of athletics, the theory that athletics are detrimental to health was not supported by experimental evidence. Thus, a new theoretical construct was developed. Today, the general theory about exercise and health is that exercise is required for proper health. Exercise scientists develop hypotheses using this theory as a guide.

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