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Hypothesizing Real World Issues

A Lesson by Nick Santucci

Introduction: Do you remember a science lab sometime in your educational history when you had to predict the
outcome of the lab? In middle and high school, these were most likely “I think…because…” statements. These
statements, or hypotheses, served as your argument for what you felt the lab’s outcome would be. These sorts of
assertions are not limited to science; arguments, in general, are constructed with a specific hypothesis in mind, for a
hypothesis is the basis for any argument. Hypotheses essentially test ideas and can eventually evolve into a theory,
although the latter is quite uncommon. A concrete definition of “hypothesis” is a falsifiable statement about an
observable fact. Falsifiable means that it can be proven to be false. Therefore, the statement “The sky is blue” is not
a hypothesis because the statement reflects an undisputed fact (and thus not considered to be falsifiable). A
hypothesis must include two parts: a claim and a justification. The claim is just that – what are you arguing? The
justification is the “because” clause with essentially provides evidence that supports your claim. If you only have a
claim, it is not a hypothesis. In other words, you must be able to rationalize what you are arguing.

How to Construct a Hypothesis: Consider this section of the manual as the procedure section of your science lab.
Although there is no perfect way to create a hypothesis, here are some hints that may be of assistance to you:

1. Choose a broad topic that is of interest to you or somehow relevant to today’s society.

2. Begin to brainstorm what you already know about the topic of your choosing as well as what you would
like to know. This will help narrow your topic into something that can be more easily researched. Try to
narrow your topic to something that you yourself can try to prove/disprove, because you will need to test
your hypothesis.

3. Find readings that differ in perspectives (i.e. find sources that contradict each other).

4. Summarize both articles. Make sure in your summary that you include every main idea that the author
discussed in his/her reading.

5. Using the main ideas of the readings, which you can easily access in your summaries, construct an
original hypothesis. It should build on your authors’ ideas and be a falsifiable statement.

6. Now that you have a hypothesis, it is time to find a means to test it out. Testing your hypothesis may
require interviewing other people, or simply some type of observation. Make sure that you perform the
same test multiple times on different subjects in order to ensure the best results.

7. Now it is time to interpret your results. Do they support or negate your initial hypothesis?

8. Finally, analyze. This is the conclusion part of your science lab. Explain why your hypothesis was
right/wrong and why that may be. It is imperative to provide discussions of the texts you chose to
summarize and use for your project, and make a claim that will essentially sum up your project.

Case-Study: My topic of research was social networking on the internet, specifically interactions on Facebook. I
began the process by brainstorming a few ideas about what I knew about Facebook, and some of which could
potentially become an argument. I then ventured out to find readings about social networking sites. I read Neil
Postman’s “Technopoly” and Howard Reingold’s “Virtual Communities.” After reading and summarizing the very
pro-internet piece by Howard Rheingold, I felt that I finally had enough information to form a hypothesis. Based on
Rheingold’s reading, I hypothesized that Facebook users would add another user to their list of friends if they were
both apart of the same network, yet regardless of whether or not they knew each other. This is because there is an
inherent trust of users who are connected to the same network within a site. In order to test this hypothesis, I created
a fake Facebook profile, connected my character to a network and randomly added 50 users who were also
connected to that same network. The results were surprising to me and strongly disproved my original claim, for
only nine users out of the fifty I had initially “friended” added me to their contact base. This meant that the majority
of users had denied my friend request because they did not know me, and my hypothesis was ultimately falsified.
However, with the new information I had collected, I was able to form new ideas about online interactions – namely
that Facebook users normally deny other users’ friend requests if they do not know them, even if they are both apart
of the same network.

Your Assignment: In theory, the American government is held accountable by the people. But is this always the
case? The government can pick-and-choose what information it discloses to the American public, and there is not a
whole lot of transparency at the federal level. Should the public be entitled to the information that is deliberately
withheld? Isn’t the basis principle of American democracy government by the people?

Your assignment is to provide a testable claim to this theory (the federal government is held accountable by the
people). But, are Americans really holding their government accountable? In what ways (if any) is the reverse
happening? Is the government holding the people accountable for governmental decisions? Why might this be the
case? You should develop a claim and a justification to your claim (a hypothesis) and remember that the statement
must be falsifiable. Be creative with your approach and methods, and try to incorporate the above questions into
your analysis.