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PSC 352: Introduction to Comparative Politics

A selection of resources to help in the completion of the final research paper in Comparative Politics course sections.

What is the difference between a thesis & a hypothesis?

Both the hypothesis statement and the thesis statement answer the research question of the study.  When the statement is one that can be proved or disproved, it is an hypothesis statement.  If, instead, the statement specifically shows the intentions/objectives/position of the researcher, it is a thesis statement.

A hypothesis is a statement that can be proved or disproved.  It is typically used in quantitative research and predicts the relationship between variables.

A thesis statement is a short, direct sentence that summarizes the main point or claim of an essay or research paper. It is seen in quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research.  A thesis statement is developed, supported, and explained in the body of the essay or research report by means of examples and evidence.

Every research study should contain a concise and well-written thesis statement. If the intent of the study is to prove/disprove something, that research report will also contain an hypothesis statement.

Jablonski, Judith. What is the difference between a thesis statement and an hypothesis statement? Online Library. American Public University System. Jun 16, 2014. Web.

An Example

Let’s say you are interested in the conflict in Darfur, and you conclude that the issues you wish to address include the nature, causes, and effects of the conflict, and the international response. While you could address the issue of international response first, it makes the most sense to start with a description of the conflict, followed by an exploration of the causes, effects, and then to discuss the international response and what more could/should be done.

This hypothetical example may lead to the following title, introduction, and statement of questions:

Conflict in Darfur: Causes, Consequences, and International Response
      This paper examines the conflict in Darfur, Sudan. It is organized around the following questions: (1) What is the nature of the conflict in Darfur? (2) What are the causes and effects of the conflict? (3) What has the international community done to address it, and what more could/should it do?

Following the section that presents your questions and background, you will offer a set of responses/answers/(hypo)theses. They should follow the order of the questions. This might look something like this, “The paper argues/contends/ maintains/seeks to develop the position that...etc.” The most important thing you can do in this section is to present as clearly as possible your best thinking on the subject matter guided by course material and research. As you proceed through the research process, your thinking about the issues/questions will become more nuanced, complex, and refined. The statement of your theses will reflect this as you move forward in the research process.

So, looking to our hypothetical example on Darfur:

The current conflict in Darfur goes back more than a decade and consists of fighting between government-supported troops and residents of Darfur. The causes of the conflict include x, y, and z. The effects of the conflict have been a, b, and c. The international community has done 0, and it should do 1, 2, and 3.

Once you have setup your thesis you will be ready to begin amassing supporting evidence for you claims. This is a very important part of the research paper, as you will provide the substance to defend your thesis.

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