How to Write a Good Hypothesis

By Annie Mueller

A hypothesis for a project, a paper or a larger endeavor is key to guiding you in the right direction as you reach your conclusion. A good hypothesis has a few key characteristics that make it helpful, understandable and provable.

Step 1

Determine the topic and the application for your hypothesis. Are you interested in bone structure and want to conduct a science experiment? Or are you interested in political theory and want to write a paper? The topic determines what your hypothesis is about, and the application tells you how to word your hypothesis.

Step 2

Narrow your topic down from general to specific, broad to narrow. You want the particulars of the topic you wish to investigate and you want to bring the topic down to a size you can handle. Whether you are dealing in abstract ideas or with tangible research, you can't conquer the world all at once. Break it down into one-step-at-a-time sized pieces.

Step 3

A good hypothesis is your assumption or explanation of why or how something occurs. You are proposing an explanation or defending an argument. In order to determine your answer (your hypothesis), first determine your question. What question do you want to answer by this experiment, research or essay? Let's take for our purposes this (somewhat facetious) question: "Why do people get bad haircuts?"

Step 4

Decide what your answer to the question is. Why do people get bad haircuts? Is it because they can't afford to go to a great salon? Perhaps they don't know they have bad haircuts? Or is a bad haircut is only a matter of preference? Write down your best answer to the question you have proposed.

Step 5

A good hypothesis is simple and concise. Look at the answer you have written--that is--your current hypothesis. Is it wordy? Cluttered up with unnecessary adjectives? Confusing? Wishy washy? Reword as needed to form a statement that is brief and understandable. "People end up with really bad haircuts because they don't know that they have bad haircuts and don't know how to get good ones" can become "People have bad haircuts because they don't recognize good haircuts."

Step 6

A good hypothesis take a clear side. Your following research or writing will determine if the side you chose is the right one; at this point, the purpose of your hypothesis is to make your claim boldly. So don't tiptoe around. Decide what you think, and say it. If your current hypothesis is dancing around the real heart of what you think, trim it up and work it over until it says what you mean to say.

Step 7

A good hypothesis uses clearly defined terms. If any of the terms you are using in your hypothesis are ambiguous, either reword or include a brief clarification of what you mean by the particular term. "People have bad haircuts (unflattering or unkempt) because they don't recognize good haircuts."

Step 8

A good hypothesis is testable. If there's no way to go out and test the truth of the statement you are making, it won't work as a hypothesis. If you can test it, it will work. A testable hypothesis gives you direct guidance for your next steps in completing your project. Once you determine that your hypothesis is testable, you probably know how to test it. So your next move is to start testing and find out if your good hypothesis is good enough to become a theory.