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. Based on that probability, we can then decide which of these two hypotheses to accept, and which to reject. Research Questions: Less Certainty; More Room to Move Hypotheses specify the results you expect to find from your research. But suppose that your preliminary reading and research do not give you the certainty to make a prediction? In that case, you are left with not a prediction but a research question. Open-ended research questions ask simply whether there is a relationship between variables. For example: RQ 1 : Is there a relationship between involvement in video gaming and academic performance? Closed-ended research questions focus on a direction of relationship. For example: RQ 2 : Does academic performance decline as involvement in video gaming increases? Starting with an open-ended research question, such as RQ 1 above, is appropriate for the exploratory study you would conduct when you don’t have a lot of evidence as to what might be going on. With additional evidence, you can question the direction of the relationship between variables as in RQ 2 above. With even more evidence, you may be able to predict a relationship and to write that prediction in the form of a hypothesis. Preferring a hypothesis over a research question gives you the advantage of focusing your study because you have said with some level of confidence “I know what’s going on.” Your study then simply becomes an exercise in determining whether or not your hypothesis is supported. A research question, on the other hand, is more speculative. You sense that something is going on, but you may need to be more open-minded in your research design in order to capture relationships you had not anticipated. Questioning the Questions Hypotheses have the advantage of focusing your research, but you may not be able to focus your research initially, or indeed want to. For some researchers, the specificity of hypothesis testing is its own weakness. Researchers out of the ethnomethodology and phenomenology traditions especially would argue that complex human behavior cannot be simplified into variables as we did with our hypothetical video game study. They may further argue that finding a relationship between two variables provides no explanation of why the relationship exits and oversimplifies complex relationships by focusing on a few variables rather than on the multitude of influences on human behavior. Fundamentally, they are interested in rich description that provides
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understanding rather than a simple “yes, there is a relationship” answer to their questions. We will examine such approaches to communication more fully in Chapter 11 . Starting With No Questions A specific question or hypothesis focuses your study and helps define your research priorities and methods, but it may blind you to relevant phenomena outside your immediate focus. Another approach, therefore, is to begin your study with no prior assumptions (in itself an assumption that you have selected an appropriate starting point). For example, as organization culture researchers Evered and Reis (1981) describe their process of finding out about a new organization, “We were
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