A hypothesis is an explanation for a phenomenon based on a conjecture about the relationship between the phenomenon and one or more causal factors. In sociology, the hypothesis will often predict how one form of human behavior influences another. For example, a hypothesis might be in the form of an “if, then statement.” Let’s relate this to our topic of crime: If crime unemployment increases, then the crime rate will increase.
In scientific research, we formulate hypotheses to include an independent variables (IV), which are the cause of the change, and a dependent variable (DV), which is the effect, or thing that is changed. In the example above, unemployment is the independent variable and the crime rate is the dependent variable.
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In a sociological study, the researcher would establish one form of human behavior as the independent variable and observe the influence it has on a dependent variable. How does gender (the independent variable) affect rate of income (the dependent variable)? How does one’s religion (the independent variable) affect family size (the dependent variable)? How is social class (the dependent variable) affected by level of education (the independent variable)?