The Presence of Hypotheses in the Scientific Literature

TitleThe Presence of Hypotheses in the Scientific Literature
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsDesbiens, NA
JournalJournal of Philosophy Science and Law
Date Published07/2006
Publication LanguageEnglish
ISSN Number1549-8549
KeywordsAuthorship , Bias in Research , MEDICINE , research integrity , SCIENCE
AbstractThe statement of a hypothesis is felt to be a crucial component of properly conducted research.(U.S.E.P.A, 2005) (A.A.A.S., 1990) Once a hypothesis has been conceived, a researcher can then design a study that attempts to support or refute it and determine the level of precision needed to do so, after which the number of study units required can be determined. (Moher 1994, 122) Without a clear statement of the hypothesis, there is risk that investigators will search for associations first and then discuss their “statistically significant” findings later—a process that has a high probability of inflating associations and leading to irreproducible results. (Cui 2002, 347) These are major issues, since validity and reproducibility of findings are undeniable hallmarks of the scientific method. It has been recently demonstrated that the explicit statement of hypotheses is uncommon in the scientific medical literature. (Desbiens 2004, 319) An exception is in the reporting of randomized control trials, where hypotheses are prevalent by dint of prominent medical journals requiring sample size calculations as recommended by several organizations including the CONsolidated Standards Of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) group. (Altman et al. 2001, 663) Based on a previous study, experience with the literature, and the fact that guidelines for the reporting of the general scientific literature are less prevalent than for the scientific medical literature, we hypothesized that the explicit statement of hypotheses in the general scientific literature would occur in less than a fifth of articles. We did not think that journal type, length of report or field of science would affect our findings.
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