Year 11 Modern History
Creating an hypothesis
A good hypothesis must do a number of things:
It must propose a reason or reasons for an event
It should be specific to a time and a place
It should be an informed judgment, not your first thoughts on the subject
It must be debateable—therefore not a mere statement of fact
It must be something which can be supported by evidence—facts, specific
Here’s an example:
Why did Jack and Jill go up the hill? (an event)
To fetch a pail of water (a reason)
While this doesn’t have a specific time, if we reword it, it is an acceptable tentative
hypothesis: Jack and Jill went up that hill on that occasion to get a bucketful of water.
It proposes a reason for a specific journey up a particular hill by a known group of
people. It can be investigated. It is debateable (not necessarily true)---we may
discover alternative explanations for their hill climbing. We will change our
hypothesis if we discover evidence (ascertainable facts) which supports a different
Is it necessarily true?
Might Jack and Jill have said they were going for a pail of water when they really had
another reason to go up the hill? Are they an item? Perhaps they needed the exercise.
Maybe they wanted to gather wildflowers. Or it could be they had to escape the rising
floodwaters in the valley….
Is it true?
Just asking them may not be enough. Perhaps we should find out where they usually
get their water. Did they have an empty bucket with them? Is there a water supply
available on the top of the hill? It all sounds pretty suspicious…
Is it the whole truth?
If our research shows that they went up the hill to get the water to drink from a spring
before it passed through the more densely settled lowlands where it gets polluted, and
that they made a small fortune fetching it and selling it to others who were lazier or
less able-bodied, we might be on to something.
Why are you studying Modern History with the Virtual
We at the VSS want to know the answer to this as it will help us plan for the future,
and help us create a course that satisfies your needs. To come up with any hypothesis,
we first break the question into a set subquestions:
o Why students want to learn about history
o Why students choose Modern rather than Ancient
o Why your school doesn’t have enough students interested in the
subject and/or a teacher who can teach the subject
o Why you were interested in learning via the internet
o What you want to do after Year 12 and how Modern History could
Our hypothesis might be that
Most students chose to study Modern History with the VSS in 2001 because they
hoped to develop IT skills while learning about how the world they live in came to be
the way it is; they come from schools with enrolments below 500 because they live in
relatively isolated areas.
There are a lot of areas we’d have to research before we could be sure our hypothesis
is correct. If your school has more than 500 students, or if you live in an urban area
like Nyanda (Salisbury, Brisbane) or Mackay you might be attacking this hypothesis
already. However, at least we have outlined our first thoughts so we can begin
investigating methodically, and we feel perfectly free to modify our hypothesis to fit
whatever evidence we uncover.
Check our hypothesis against this list of requirements:
Does it propose a reason or reasons for an event?
Is it specific to a time and a place?
Is it an informed judgment, not our first thoughts on the subject?
Is it debateable—therefore not a mere statement of fact?
Is it something which can be supported by evidence—facts?
If it does meet all those criteria, we’re ready to begin our research.
Can you spot why these statements are not acceptable
France was partially responsible for the outbreak of war.
Germany caused the war because they are always troublemakers.
The British usually stayed out of affairs on the Continent.
The war began in late summer 1914.
Secretly the Kaiser wanted a war because he wanted to prove Germany’s power.
Austria-Hungary and Turkey were crumbling empires in 1914.