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Week 9- The null hypothesis

“What role does the null hypothesis REALLY play in the scientific process?

A hypothesis is a statement that you think is true, but you haven’t got the evidence to support it yet, it must always be testable, the null hypothesis is a hypothesis, which the researcher tries to disprove, reject or nullify however when first learning about scientific processes back in high school, the null hypothesis was never mentioned, we got taught about the hypothesis (H1) and then told in our experimental write up to signify whether or not this had been supported. It was only when starting university that the null hypothesis was ever brought into discussion, and at first, was a topic I found hard to grasp. Explained simply, it is a complete opposition to the hypothesis. The hypothesis states that there will be a reaction between A and B, whereas the null hypothesis simply states that there will be no reaction at all. The concept of making a null hypothesis always seemed pointless to me until I started researching into it, and asking questions about the true reasons behind it.

After viewing a PowerPoint in which it was argued that the null hypothesis was simply an out for scientists whose research experiments failed, I realised that there could be a point behind this theory. If a scientist spends years of his life researching into a certain field and then it becomes apparent that there is no relation between his research, he may feel that the whole of his research and the processes behind it have been wasted, therefore by having the ability to say that he has matched the null hypothesis, will provide some stability to his research.

However, research has shown that accepting the null hypothesis is actually a positive result, and that seeing the null hypothesis as a failure of an experiment is bad science, even if the hypothesis is refuted, the scientific world has still benefited from learning something new. For example, the null hypothesis ‘the world is flat’ had to be rejected when it was proven otherwise, thus, the scientific world has learnt that the world is not indeed flat.

Finally, Karl Popper (1959) stated that ‘we cannot conclusively affirm a hypothesis, but we can conclusively negate it. The validity of knowledge is tied to the probability of falsification.




Comments on: "Week 9- The null hypothesis" (11)

  1. I like how you have chosen to discuss the null hypothesis. I think it is fair to say that many people, when they first come across the null hypothesis struggle to grasp the need for its presence. Like you mentioned it is not a bad experiment if the null hypothesis cannot be rejected. The null hypothesis is there to allow researchers to question different things. It is important to mention that the null hypothesis can never be proven, it is there to allow the comparisons to take place and in the long run, to allow for further in depth research in different fields of research. (www.wikipedia.org.uk).

    The null hypothesis is interesting because not everything in the world is simple. By not being able to reject the null hypothesis then it allows for a possible different approach to the research which is being studied. It may require more research, a more in depth study may be needed but it is important to remember that a researcher wants the best possible outcome, the best possible research which they can produce and this may well involve many null hypothesis not being rejected.

    Those who choose to ignore the null hypothesis are showing poor practice and this could lead to adverse effects with future research. (http://www.experiment-resources.com/null-hypothesis.html)

  2. So is the null hypothesis as equally as important as the hypothesis? I’d like to agree, after all you made some valid points. If the researchers have to accept the null hypothesis, they have still had an impact into the research area.
    But surely the aim of the research is to find an effect. If the original hypothesis suggests there would be a difference, the whole aim of the research is to find exactly that. The point of a null hypothesis is to distrust it and try to falsify it. So by finding there is no difference, it would require further research and often, this leads to the same conclusion. This means a lot of time, money and effort has been wasted on, what potentially is, nothing.
    Not that I agree with the above point, I just have to argue!

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  4. A very interesting topic for this week really got me thinking about the idea of the point of a null hypothesis, which until now I hadn’t really considered. It can be considered that null hypotheses are used to compare results against the hypothesis, for example in cases when results are perhaps found due to chance; this is why a hypothesis is sometimes referred to as the alternative hypothesis. Together they are used in comparisons, using statistics to find any significance and the means of the research.
    Researchers often use a null hypothesis to state that there is no relationship between two variables, so there is no effect, therefore any results found will go against the null hypothesis, so it therefore looks as if the researcher has found more results than they necessarily have!
    Overall I really enjoyed your blog this week, and you raised a look of points which engage the reader and provoke further reading!

  5. In reply to AlHoward, i do agree that the point of research often seems to find an effect, and up until doing research in this topic area, would have written an entire blog on how pointless the null hypothesis is, it wasn’t until this research was conducted that i saw that the null hypothesis still serves a point in which to prove an effect, in fact if the null hypothesis has to be accepted then in a certain way, an effect has been found, it has found that A has no effect on B. Further research can then be conducted into why this may of happened, and if there are any tweaks that can be done to the research in order for an causal relationship to happen, as in A effects B in a certain way.
    To believe that the null hypothesis is completely pointless in the scientific world (I’m not saying you have stated this, again i am arguing a point) shows bad science and can also show ignorance in the face of research results being published. http://www.experiment-resources.com/null-hypothesis.html 🙂

  6. I must disagree that the purpose of the null hypothesis is just an “out”, I’ve never really thought of it that way and it’s a great idea, but surely can’t be the sole purpose if it. I believe you should have mentioned falsification in this blog – yes you mentioned Popper at the end, but he should have been involved a bit more. Farmer (2008) says: “The main goal of hypothesis testing is to tell us whether we have enough evidence to reject the null hypothesis.” So, if it is the MAIN goal of hypothesis testing, it can’t just be an out.
    Well done on your blog, i think this was a brave topic as it confuses a LOT of people and you explained what it is very well and gave an interesting read.


  7. Quite a long first sentence there – many commas. Anyway regardless of that this blog gave alot of information on the null hypothosis itself and helped me to actually understand what it is in simpler terms. Thanks for that! I like the for and against argument and found the length of the blog appropriate and easily readable. Even though you have included evidence of research (Popper) it did just seem abit thrown in at the end, saying that though at least it`s there and has a link so we can do our own research/reading. I did quite like this blog.

  8. Personally, i didn’t think grammar mattered in blogs. As stated in the document on blackboard, blogs will not be marked on grammar or spelling, hense why it is still essential for everyone to participate in blogs regardless of their ability or their dyslexical disadvantages.

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