6 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2015 Last revised: 19 Feb 2016
Date Written: 2005
Periodically, social scientists debate the strengths and weaknesses of hypothesis testing (for which researchers pose the question, e.g., "Are my group means the same or different?") compared with effects estimation (motivated by the question, "How large is the difference between my group means?"). As is often the case, the extreme positions are clear but they approach ideology, and a moderate stance seems the more constructive prescription.
The testing of null hypotheses affords researchers many advantages (Abelson 1997; Cortina and Dunlap 1997; Frick 1996; Greenwald et al. 1996; Hagen 1997; Harris 1997; Mulaik, Raju, and Harshman 1997). Of primary importance, the test of a null hypothesis is conducted in the context of a simple decision rule and provides a dichotomous outcome (Greenwald et al. 1996, 177). While critics would argue that hypothesis tests provide less information compared to alternative techniques, supporters argue that the binary decisions nevertheless enable scholarly progress and theory testing, which "requires nothing more than a binary decision about the relation between two variables" (Chow 1988, 105; Wainer 1999).
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