‘The foundation of the hypothetico-deductive approach is the hypothesis, so it is important to know what makes good hypotheses and how they can be formulated.’ (Walliman 2001, p.173)

Researchers work on two levels of reality, the operational level and the conceptual level. On the operational level, they work with events in observable terms, involving the reality necessary to carry out the research. On a conceptual level, events are defined in terms of underlying communality with other events on a more abstract level. (…) The formulation of the hypothesis is usually made on a conceptual level, in order to enable the results of the research to be generalized beyond the specific conditions of the particular study.’ (Walliman 2001, pp.175-176)

‘It is one of the fundamental criteria of a hypothesis that it is testable. However, a hypothesis formulated on a conceptual level cannot be directly tested; it is too abstract. It is therefore necessary to convert it to an operational level. This is called operationalization. (…) Often, the first step is to break down the main hypothesis into two or more sub-hypotheses. (…) The operationalization of the sub-hypotheses follows four steps in the progression from the most abstract to the most concrete expressions by defining concepts, indicators, variables and values.

  • Concepts  The building blocks of the hypothesis which are usually abstract and cannot be directly measured.(poverty)
  • Indicators Phenomena which point to the existence of the concepts. (poor living conditions)
  • Variables The components of the indicators which can be measured. (provision of sanitary facilities)
  • Values The actual units or methods of measurement of the variables (number of people per bathroom)’ (Walliman 2001, p.177)

‘If your research problem does not lend itself to being formulated in a hypothesis, do not worry: there are plenty of alternatives, many of which involve a completely different research approach to that of the hypothetico-deductive method.’ (Walliman 2001, p.179)


‘Research into society, design, history, philosophy and many other subjects usually cannot provide the full criteria for the formulation of hypotheses and their testing, and it is inappropriate to try to fit such research into this method. (…) In all research projects, on whatever subject, there is a need to clearly define and delineate the research problem.’ (Walliman 2001, p.179)

‘Question or questions The method of investigating the problem may be expressed through asking a question or a series of questions, the answers to which require scrutiny of the problem from one or more directions. (…)

Propositions Focusing a research study on a proposition, rather than on a hypothesis, allows the study to concentrate on particular relationships between events, without having to comply with the rigorous characteristics required of hypotheses. (…)

Statement of intent to critically investigate and evaluate Not all research needs to answer a question or to test a hypothesis. Especially at master’s degree level or in smaller studies, a more exploratory approach may be used. The subject and scope of the exploration can be expressed in a statement of intent.’ (Walliman 2001, pp.180-181)


Walliman, N. (2001) Your Research Project: A Step-by-Step Guide for the First-Time Researcher SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, California

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