I am editing a dissertation that has a single research question with multiple subquestions, and where every question has a null and alternative hypotheses. The current numbering and lettering scheme looks like this:

RQ  SQ1  SQ2  SQ3
Ho  H1o  H2o  H3o
Ha  H1a  H2a  H3a

An anonymous reviewer (name and role unknown) insists that the RQ must be numbered, even though there is only one RQ.

The reviewer offered no suggestions, and I was unable to find guidance in the APA manual, in the university's style guide, or by searching online such as at Purdue OWL on how to number for this specific situation.

  1. Is it feasible to use RQ0, as in:
RQ0  SQ1  SQ2  SQ3
H0o  H1o  H2o  H3o
H0a  H1a  H2a  H3a
  1. If it's not feasible, then we could abandon the subquestions, and bump all questions "up" to RQ, which (to me) seems an unnecessary and misleading contrivance.
     RQ1  RQ2  RQ3  RQ4
     H1o  H2o  H3o  H4o
     H1a  H2a  H3a  H4a

So what would be another feasible solution?


I can't tell whether this would work, but here's a possible way out:

Number all your research questions, as follows:

Question 1.1 (~RQ)

Question 2.1 (~SQ1)

Question 2.2 (~SQ2)


You can treat this as a hierarchical outline, for example, within 2.1 you could have (a), (b), etc.

  • It will make the hypotheses a bit "noisy" but it preserves a semblance of hierarchy. – RJo Nov 21 '16 at 18:14

Similarly to @Aparente's scheme, I would suggest using a . delineated numbering scheme to regularize all of your headings. This would look like:

1.0 Research question (RQ) 
        1.0.1 Null Hypothesis (Ho)
        1.0.2 Alternative Hypothesis (Ha)
    1.1 Sub-question 1 (SQ1)
        1.1.1 H1o
        1.1.2 H1a
    1.2 SQ2
        1.2.1 H2o
        1.2.2 H2a

and so forth. It's a little odd that there will never be a 2.X, but it should satisfy your reviewer while preserving and regularizing the hierarchy (sub-questions remain subordinate to the main question).

Edited—I figured out the formatting.

  • This is also a good suggestion that could be useful in a context other than for this specific dissertation. Re: the "editor" ... it's just an anonymous reviewer with an anonymous role. It's a total mystery as to whether they are within bounds or out of bounds with their comment; i.e., should they be commenting on style (as they did in this case) or content? We'll never know. – RJo Nov 21 '16 at 18:54

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