I am a finance student.

I am learning the impact of bribery laws on dependent variable Y. The literature supports both sides: some studies support that Y will increase after the laws, others support that Y will decrease after the laws. I am wondering how to generate the hypothesis in this case?

What I did so far is: "Hypothesis: There is an association between bribery laws and Y".


I appreciate all suggestions so far, so I try to clarify the question more.

For example, in my case, there is a variable called Y = A - B. In literature, A and B are supposed to decrease after the law. That is why I have such a type of confused hypothesis formulation.

  • 3
    Maybe you can distinguish under which conditions there will be a rise, and which conditions there will be a drop, if this is applicable. I am not aware of your particular context so it's hard to say more.
    – YiFan
    Aug 16 at 6:56
  • Thanks @YiFan for your suggestion
    – Louise
    Aug 16 at 10:12
  • 1
    So, both A and B are expected to decrease? If so they Y depends on which decreases more. Is that the right interpretation? And, of course A and B need to be "measurable" in the same terms. Simply different scaling would change the interpretation of Y.
    – Buffy
    Aug 16 at 13:19
  • @Buffy . Yes, you are correct that " Y depends on which decreases more " and " A and B are measured in the same terms "
    – Louise
    Aug 16 at 13:21

At least in my field (one of the social sciences) there are two (and potentially a third one, as per the comment by @YiFan ) options:

(1) Pose "competing hypotheses" and write sth like: "Because there is conflicting evidence on the relationship between X and Y, I pose two competing hypotheses: H1a - X positively influences Y; H1b - X negatively influences Y.

(2) Pose a question instead and write sth like: "Because there is conflicting evidence on the relationship between X and Y, I pose the following question: RQ1: What is the influence of X on Y?"

I personally prefer (2), but that may be a matter of taste.

(3) And of course maybe the literature isn't as inconsistent as it seems first, and you can rather specify a hypothesis on the condition under which X influences Y in a specific way, as per @YiFan 's comment

  • 1
    Thanks @damian, I learnt three ways of making hypotheses from you and YiFan, personally I will use the method 1 because I have a couple of hypotheses and it seems to be a list of hypotheses together
    – Louise
    Aug 16 at 10:12
  • 1
    This seems strange to me. Your (2) doesn't have a hypothesis at all. There is nothing to "test". I think instead, that the entire question is premature for any answer and more needs to be examined first. In particular, why is it that two studies came to different (vastly) conclusions? They aren't both correct, so something failed in at least one of them. Look at that first. If a student came to me with this sort of outline, I'd send them back to work to refine it.
    – Buffy
    Aug 16 at 12:50

I hate to jump in to this because it isn't my main "lane", but I have supervised theses based on statistical reasoning, though mostly about learning outcomes of pedagogy.

But, I suggest that your question isn't ready for prime time and you need to look at those prior studies to get a better idea about what is going on. They can't all be correct if they can be compared. But perhaps they can't be compared at all.

In particular, I'd ask if the background is the same in the various studies. An outcome in one region of the world might be different than in another. Are the definitions of terms in the studies the same? I have my doubts.

I'll suggest, also, that you first need to examine why those other studies might have come to different results and also examine any assumptions that were made. The next step, before you could form an hypothesis is to look to which set of studies has an underlying structure most similar to yours.

And, of course, the very nature of the question is a bit suspect. Were these before-after studies of the situation (before the laws, then after)? Or are they just guesses/opinions and not true "studies" with a scientific basis. This suggests that you need to get a really firm grasp of the methodologies of the various studies and whether that affected the outcomes in some way.

Something is wrong. First figure out what. Then you have the basis for making an hypothesis that might be tested and finding a methodology for doing so. Otherwise it seems to be nothing more than spinning wheels; going through the motions. That gives you only meaningless "answers".

Sorry to seem harsh, but social science gets a bad name when it is done poorly.

Replying to the changed question. I'd suggest that you make hypotheses about A and B separately, not about Y. If you can properly test those, perhaps quantitatively then you can, perhaps form conclusions about Y from the results. For example "H: Given treatment T, A will decrease by at least 10%" or something like that.

If done carefully you avoid the dilemma, but it still requires figuring out why the previous studies diverge. That might help you quantify the hypothesis also.

  • Thank you so much for your comment, I just edited the question to be more clear. Please let me know if you think what I need to do to improve this question, I am willing to learn and improve. Yes, and I am examining the before-after studies of the situation.
    – Louise
    Aug 16 at 13:16
  • I am happy to listen to the hash notice because it is a good way for me to improve myself. Thanks a heap.
    – Louise
    Aug 16 at 13:17
  • 1
    Actually, I wasn't "harshing" on you, but another answer forced me to jump in. I was only howling at the moon as us old "dogs" sometimes do.
    – Buffy
    Aug 16 at 13:22
  • thank you for your updated answer.
    – Louise
    Aug 16 at 14:12

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