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Lesson Navigation IconOnline Guidelines for Academic Research and Writing

Unit Navigation IconThe academic research process

LO Navigation IconThe purpose of academic research and writing

LO Navigation IconThe process of academic research

LO Navigation IconTopic selection, posing problems and questions

LO Navigation IconTheory, hypothesis, and operationalization

LO Navigation IconData collection and data analysis

LO Navigation IconInterpretation

Unit Navigation IconOrganization and project management

Unit Navigation IconLiterature research and application

Unit Navigation IconWriting an academic paper

Unit Navigation IconHow do I create a good poster?

Unit Navigation IconPresentation skills

Unit Navigation IconLearning techniques and exam preparation

Unit Navigation IconBibliography

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Theory, hypothesis, and operationalization

Approach, theory, model

First, you have to determine the general state of knowledge (or state of the art) as regards a certain objective. Are there already relevant attempts of explanation (models, theories, approaches, debates)? Many times there are theories already existing that provide a basis for discussing or looking at a certain problem.

When choosing a certain approach to explain complex circumstances, specific aspects of your problem area will be highlighted more prominently. Deciding on an approach means considering which questions can then be answered best. After choosing an approach it is necessary to use its related methods consequently.


Examples for approaches: «Education is an important prerequisite for a society's economic development» or «Earnings from tourism support national economy.»

Hypotheses and presumptions

Hypotheses are assumptions that could explain reality or - in other words - that could be the answer to your question. Such an assumption is based on the current state of research; it therefore delivers an answer that is theoretically possible («proposed solution») and applies at least to some extent to the question posed. When dealing with complex topics it is sometimes easier to develop a number of subordinate working hypotheses from just a few main hypotheses.


Example for a hypothesis: «Tourism offers children the possibility to earn money instead of going to school» or «The more tourists the fewer the children are going to school.»

Not all research projects are conducted by means of methods to test hypotheses. In social research, for example, there are reconstructive or interpretive methods as well. Here you try to explain and understand people's actions based on their interpretation of certain issues (Bohnsack 2000: 12–13). However, also with such an approach researchers use hypotheses or presumptions to structure their work. The point is not to finally acknowledge or reject those hypotheses. You rather search for explanations that are plausible and comprehensible.


Example for a presumption: «In developing countries parents are skeptical about their children working for the tourism industry.»

However, most of the time one again acts on theses or presumptions. The point is not to finally acknowledge or reject those assumptions. One rather searches for explanations that are plausible and comprehensible.


Example for an explanation: «Parents don't worry about their children not going to school; they are afraid of losing their status when earning less than their children.»


It is necessary to operationalize the terms used in scientific research (that means particularly the central terms of a hypothesis). In order to guarantee the viability of a research method you have to define first which data will be collected by means of which methods. Research operations have to be specified to comprehend a subject matter in the first place (Bopp 2000: 21). In order to turn the operationalized term into something manageable you determine its exact meaning during a research process.


Example for an operationalization: «When compared to other areas, tourist destinations are areas where children are less likely to go to school.»

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