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Research Methods in the Social Sciences

How to your assignments fit into a research proposal

The Research Question

Possible research question: Are females smarter than males? This question delineates the variables to be measured: gender and intelligence. Yet, it is unclear how they will be evaluated: What method will be used to define and measure intelligence?

Revised question: Do females age 18-35 score higher than adult males age 18-35 on the WAIS-III? (The WAIS-III is a standardized intelligence test.) This research question produces data that can be replicated.

The research question that guides the sciences and social sciences will enable you to do the following three things:

1) Post a problem.

2) Shape the problem into a testable hypothesis.

3) Report the results of the tested hypothesis.

Thompson Writing Program Duke University. (n.d.). What makes a good research question? Retrieved from

State Your Hypothesis

Hypotheses are specific predictions about the nature and direction of the relationship between two variables. For example, “Those politician who use negative advertising are more likely to be elected than those who do not.”

Strong hypotheses:

  • Give insight into a research question
  • Are testable and measurable by the proposed experiments

Make sure you:

  • Provide a rationale for your hypotheses—where did they come from, and why are they strong?

Provide alternative possibilities for the hypotheses that could be tested—why did you choose the ones you did over others.

Adapted from Danya International, Inc. (2003). The relationship between the research question, hypotheses, specific aims, and long-term goals of the project. Retrieved from


Participants: Who will you be studying?  What age group?  What gender?  What occupation?  What situation are they involved in?

Design:  Choose one of the research designs mentioned in this guide.

Measures & Procedure: How will you go about testing your hypothesis?  Be specific.  Choose an research instrument.