Orientation Observation In-depth interviews Document analysis and semiology Conversation and discourse analysis Secondary Data Surveys Experiments Ethics Research outcomes



Social Research Glossary

About Researching the Real World



© Lee Harvey 2012–2020

Page updated 29 April, 2020

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2020, Researching the Real World, available at
All rights belong to author.


A Guide to Methodology

8. Surveys

8.1 Introduction to surveys
8.2 Methodological approaches
8.3 Doing survey research

8.3.1 Aims and purpose
8.3.2 Background to the research
8.3.3 Feasibility
8.3.4 Hypotheses
8.3.5 Operationalisation
8.3.6 How will data be collected and what are the key relationships
8.3.7 Designing the research instrument
8.3.8 Pilot survey
8.3.9 Sampling
8.3.10 Questionnaire distribution and interviewing
8.3.11 Coding data
8.3.12.Response rate

8.4 Statistical analysis
8.5 Summary and conclusion

Activity 8.3.4

8.3.4 Hypotheses
A hypothesis is a specific statement about the research area that can be tested using empirical data (see Section When constructing hypotheses, it is usually easier to have a general hypothesis that sums up the aim of the research plus a few sub-hypotheses.

The background research will usually provide an ‘informed notion’ about the relationships that will be central to the research. This informed notion guides the construction of hypotheses. The general hypothesis is normally more specific than the research aim (Section 8.3.1) and outlines precisely the nature of the main relationship under investigation.

The sub-hypotheses break down the general hypothesis into more manageable chunks. Hypotheses normally address the extent to which one factor is dependent upon one or more independent factors. (Section

An example of a general hypothesis about soap-opera viewing might be as follows:

The amount of time people spend watching soap operas depends on the time soap operas are broadcast and the extent to which viewers identify with the characters.

The dependent factor (or variable) in this hypothesis is the amount of time people spend watching soap operas. There are two independent variables, first, the time soap operas are broadcast and, second, identification with characters.

An example of a specific hypothesis (one of many to examine the general hypothesis) would perhaps be:

Women identify with the domestic issues faced by female characters in soap opera X

How this would be explored would depend on how the concepts in the hypothesis are operationalised, which is explored in the next Section (8.3.5).

Activity 8.3.4
Write down a general hypothesis that takes account of the research aim in Activity 8.3.1. Suggest some sub-hypotheses that break down this general hypothesis.

Next 8.3.5 Operationalisation