Looking at Research Questions and Hypotheses

Author: Dr Rijo Mathew Choorakuttil, Director and Founder, AMMA Center for Diagnosis and Preventive Medicine, Kochi, Kerala.

The importance of research in health care cannot be denied. Research helps us find the answers to vexing questions, expands the boundaries of our knowledge, leads to newer, more improved interventions and generally raises the bar for health care. When it is well done, research is a win-win for the health care practitioner, for the patient who receives care and for society as well.

Considering the importance of research, we will work our way through a predominantly “jargon-free” series focused on “Research Methods” with a primary focus on post graduate students, senior residents and post-doctoral fellows of Radiology and Imaging and other medical disciplines and practitioners at the primary and secondary levels.

The series will look to integrate the reading of research with the practice of research.  

We start this series with a look at Research Hypotheses and Research Questions.

The research hypothesis and the research question are arguably the most important part of any research project. However, developing or creating the research question is often the most neglected part of any research project. The development of the research question is often a passing mention in courses on research methods that focus a lot more on study designs, methods, statistics and the art of writing up results. None of which is useful unless you build a very good research question.

You may consider the hypothesis and the question as the foundation or the cornerstone on which the entire research project is built. Spending a considerable amount of time on the research question is a good idea if you are a PG who has to do a dissertation, a beginner wanting to make a mark, a mid-level professional or even a senior professional. My mentor used to tell me “Meditate for at least 3 months on your research question. Tear it apart, tease it out, stand it on its head, bounce it off the wall, kick it around. Understand it completely. If you do that, you will have no confusion on your methods, results or interpretation”.

Why is a research question important?

  • We can only answer a question that is clear. If the question is not clear, how can we answer it?
  • Logically, it also means that we can only understand answers that come from a clear question. How can we believe or interpret the results if the question itself is vague? Do the answers come from the question or was the question tailor made to the answers obtained? This becomes important as you read reports or research papers. Are they clear about what they were studying? You may not want to read further if the question or hypothesis is not clear.

We have created a short presentation that focuses on some of the important elements of a hypothesis and a research question.

View the Presentation