Research & Impact Services
A design is used to structure the research, to show how all of the major parts of the research project; the samples or groups, measures, treatments or programs, and methods of assignment, work together to try to address the central research questions.
Obtaining advice on research design is important for anyone wanting to apply for funding, as funding streams have particular requirements and it is both efficient and helpful to find out about these from experienced researchers.
Research, design and development is the key to this process. The process of research design will examine all the potential risks, ethical issues, peer review requirements and hurdles you will need to overcome to get the research project from the planning stage to the implementation stage and beyond. Good project management is the key to success and the process should map out deadlines for completion of key stages.
When designing research projects, researchers should ensure that:
- The proposed research addresses pertinent question(s) and is designed either to add to existing knowledge about the subject in question or to develop methods for research into it;
- The design of the study is appropriate for the question(s) being asked and addresses the most important potential sources of bias;
- The design and conduct of the study, including how data will be gathered, analysed and managed, are set out in detail in a pre-specified research plan or protocol;
- All necessary skills and experience will be available to carry out the proposed research, in the proposed research team or through collaboration with specialists in relevant fields;
- Sufficient resources will be available to carry out the proposed research and that these resources will meet the relevant standards;
- Any issues relating to the above are resolved as far as possible prior to the start of the research.
It may also be appropriate to undertake a risk assessment of the planned study to determine:
- Whether there are any ethical issues and whether ethics review is required;
- The potential for risks to the University, the research or the health, safety or well-being of researcher or research participants;
- What legal requirements govern the research.
Where the design has been approved by ethics, regulatory or peer review, researchers should ensure that any subsequent alterations to the design are subject to appropriate review to determine that they will not compromise the integrity of the research or any terms of consent previously given.
- Skip to main content
- Skip to primary sidebar
- Skip to footer
- Solutions Industries Gaming Automotive Sports and events Education Government Travel & Hospitality Financial Services Healthcare Cannabis Technology Use Case NPS+ Communities Audience Contactless surveys Mobile LivePolls Member Experience GDPR Positive People Science 360 Feedback Surveys
- Resources Blog eBooks Survey Templates Case Studies Training Help center
Home Market Research Research Tools and Apps
Research Design: What it is, Elements & Types
Can you imagine doing research without a plan? Probably not. When we discuss a strategy to collect, study, and evaluate data, we talk about research design. This design addresses problems and creates a consistent and logical model for data analysis. Let’s learn more about it.
What is Research Design?
The process of research design, research design elements, characteristics of research design.
- Qualitative research
- Quantitative research
Qualitative Research vs Quantitative Research
Benefits of research design.
Research design is the framework of research methods and techniques chosen by a researcher to conduct a study. The design allows researchers to sharpen the research methods suitable for the subject matter and set up their studies for success.
Creating a research topic explains the type of research (experimental, survey research , correlational , semi-experimental, review) and its sub-type (experimental design, research problem , descriptive case-study).
There are three main types of designs for research:
- Data collection
- Data Analysis
The research problem an organization faces will determine the design, not vice-versa. The design phase of a study determines which tools to use and how they are used.
The research design process is a systematic and structured approach to conducting research. The process is essential to ensure that the study is valid, reliable, and produces meaningful results.
- Consider your aims and approaches: Determine the research questions and objectives, and identify the theoretical framework and methodology for the study.
- Choose a type of Research Design: Select the appropriate research design, such as experimental, correlational, survey, case study, or ethnographic, based on the research questions and objectives.
- Identify your population and sampling method: Determine the target population and sample size, and choose the sampling method, such as random, stratified random sampling , or convenience sampling.
- Choose your data collection methods: Decide on the methods, such as surveys, interviews, observations, or experiments, and select the appropriate instruments or tools for collecting data.
- Plan your data collection procedures: Develop a plan for data collection, including the timeframe, location, and personnel involved, and ensure ethical considerations.
LEARN ABOUT: Best Data Collection Tools
- Decide on your data analysis strategies: Select the appropriate data analysis techniques, such as statistical analysis , content analysis, or discourse analysis, and plan how to interpret the results.
The process of research design is a critical step in conducting research. By following the steps of research design, researchers can ensure that their study is well-planned, ethical, and rigorous.
Impactful research usually creates a minimum bias in data and increases trust in the accuracy of collected data. A design that produces the slightest margin of error in experimental research is generally considered the desired outcome. The essential elements are:
- Accurate purpose statement
- Techniques to be implemented for collecting and analyzing research
- The method applied for analyzing collected details
- Type of research methodology
- Probable objections to research
- Settings for the research study
- Measurement of analysis
A proper design sets your study up for success. Successful research studies provide insights that are accurate and unbiased. You’ll need to create a survey that meets all of the main characteristics of a design. There are four key characteristics:
- Neutrality: When you set up your study, you may have to make assumptions about the data you expect to collect. The results projected in the research should be free from research bias and neutral. Understand opinions about the final evaluated scores and conclusions from multiple individuals and consider those who agree with the results.
- Reliability: With regularly conducted research, the researcher expects similar results every time. You’ll only be able to reach the desired results if your design is reliable. Your plan should indicate how to form research questions to ensure the standard of results.
- Validity: There are multiple measuring tools available. However, the only correct measuring tools are those which help a researcher in gauging results according to the objective of the research. The questionnaire developed from this design will then be valid.
- Generalization: The outcome of your design should apply to a population and not just a restricted sample . A generalized method implies that your survey can be conducted on any part of a population with similar accuracy.
The above factors affect how respondents answer the research questions, so they should balance all the above characteristics in a good design. If you want, you can also learn about Selection Bias through our blog.
Research Design Types
A researcher must clearly understand the various types to select which model to implement for a study. Like research itself, the design of your analysis can be broadly classified into quantitative and qualitative.
It determines relationships between collected data and observations based on mathematical calculations. Statistical methods can prove or disprove theories related to a naturally existing phenomenon. Researchers rely on qualitative observation research methods that conclude “why” a particular theory exists and “what” respondents have to say about it.
LEARN ABOUT: Qualitative Research Questions and Questionnaires
It is for cases where statistical conclusions to collect actionable insights are essential. Numbers provide a better perspective for making critical business decisions. Quantitative research methods are necessary for the growth of any organization. Insights drawn from complex numerical data and analysis prove to be highly effective when making decisions about the business’s future.
Here is a chart that highlights the major differences between qualitative and quantitative research:
LEARN ABOUT: Descriptive Analysis
In summary or analysis , step of qualitative research is more exploratory and focuses on understanding the subjective experiences of individuals, while quantitative research is more focused on objective data and statistical analysis.
LEARN ABOUT: Qualitative Interview
You can further break down the types of research design into five categories:
1. Descriptive: In a descriptive composition, a researcher is solely interested in describing the situation or case under their research study. It is a theory-based design method created by gathering, analyzing, and presenting collected data. This allows a researcher to provide insights into the why and how of research. Descriptive design helps others better understand the need for the research. If the problem statement is not clear, you can conduct exploratory research.
2. Experimental: Experimental research establishes a relationship between the cause and effect of a situation. It is a causal research design where one observes the impact caused by the independent variable on the dependent variable. For example, one monitors the influence of an independent variable such as a price on a dependent variable such as customer satisfaction or brand loyalty. It is an efficient research method as it contributes to solving a problem.
The independent variables are manipulated to monitor the change it has on the dependent variable. Social sciences often use it to observe human behavior by analyzing two groups. Researchers can have participants change their actions and study how the people around them react to understand social psychology better.
3. Correlational research: Correlational research is a non-experimental research technique. It helps researchers establish a relationship between two closely connected variables. There is no assumption while evaluating a relationship between two other variables, and statistical analysis techniques calculate the relationship between them. This type of research requires two different groups.
LEARN ABOUT: Statistical Analysis Methods
A correlation coefficient determines the correlation between two variables whose values range between -1 and +1. If the correlation coefficient is towards +1, it indicates a positive relationship between the variables, and -1 means a negative relationship between the two variables.
4. Diagnostic research: In diagnostic design, the researcher is looking to evaluate the underlying cause of a specific topic or phenomenon. This method helps one learn more about the factors that create troublesome situations.
This design has three parts of the research:
- Inception of the issue
- Diagnosis of the issue
- Solution for the issue
5. Explanatory research : Explanatory design uses a researcher’s ideas and thoughts on a subject to further explore their theories. The study explains unexplored aspects of a subject and details the research questions’ what, how, and why.
KEEP LEARNING: Descriptive Research vs Correlational Research & Population vs Sample
There are several benefits of having a well-designed research plan. Including:
- Clarity of research objectives: Research design provides a clear understanding of the research objectives and the desired outcomes.
- Increased validity and reliability: To ensure the validity and reliability of results, research design help to minimize the risk of bias and helps to control extraneous variables.
- Improved data collection: Research design helps to ensure that the proper data is collected and data is collected systematically and consistently.
- Better data analysis: Research design helps ensure that the collected data can be analyzed effectively, providing meaningful insights and conclusions.
- Improved communication: A well-designed research helps ensure the results are clean and influential within the research team and external stakeholders.
- Efficient use of resources: reducing the risk of waste and maximizing the impact of the research, research design helps to ensure that resources are used efficiently.
A well-designed research plan is essential for successful research, providing clear and meaningful insights and ensuring that resources must be practical.
LEARN ABOUT: 12 Best Tools for Researchers
QuestionPro offers a comprehensive solution for researchers looking to conduct research. With its user-friendly interface, robust data collection and analysis tools, and the ability to integrate results from multiple sources, QuestionPro provides a versatile platform for designing and executing research projects.
Our robust suite of research tools provides you with all you need to derive research results. Our online survey platform includes custom point-and-click logic and advanced question types. Uncover the insights that matter the most.
FREE TRIAL LEARN MORE
MORE LIKE THIS
Data Processing: What is, Types, Stages, & Methods to Follow
Nov 24, 2023
Target Group vs Target Audience: Strategic Marketing Success
Credible Intervals: Defining & Unveiling Statistical Insights
Nov 23, 2023
Text Analysis Tools: Exploring the 10 Best Tools of 2023
Nov 22, 2023
- Academic Research
- Artificial Intelligence
- Brand Awareness
- Case Studies
- Consumer Insights
- Customer effort score
- Customer Engagement
- Customer Experience
- Customer Loyalty
- Customer Research
- Customer Satisfaction
- Employee Benefits
- Employee Engagement
- Employee Retention
- Friday Five
- General Data Protection Regulation
- Insights Hub
- Market Research
- Mobile diaries
- Mobile Surveys
- New Features
- Online Communities
- Question Types
- QuestionPro Products
- Release Notes
- Research Tools and Apps
- Revenue at Risk
- Survey Templates
- Training Tips
- Video Learning Series
- What’s Coming Up
- Workforce Intelligence
Have a language expert improve your writing
Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.
- Knowledge Base
- What Is a Research Design | Types, Guide & Examples
What Is a Research Design | Types, Guide & Examples
Published on June 7, 2021 by Shona McCombes . Revised on May 31, 2023 by Pritha Bhandari.
A research design is a strategy for answering your research question using empirical data. Creating a research design means making decisions about:
- Your overall research objectives and approach
- Whether you’ll rely on primary research or secondary research
- Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects
- Your data collection methods
- The procedures you’ll follow to collect data
- Your data analysis methods
A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research objectives and that you use the right kind of analysis for your data.
Table of contents
Step 1: consider your aims and approach, step 2: choose a type of research design, step 3: identify your population and sampling method, step 4: choose your data collection methods, step 5: plan your data collection procedures, step 6: decide on your data analysis strategies, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research design.
Before you can start designing your research, you should already have a clear idea of the research question you want to investigate.
There are many different ways you could go about answering this question. Your research design choices should be driven by your aims and priorities—start by thinking carefully about what you want to achieve.
The first choice you need to make is whether you’ll take a qualitative or quantitative approach.
Qualitative research designs tend to be more flexible and inductive , allowing you to adjust your approach based on what you find throughout the research process.
Quantitative research designs tend to be more fixed and deductive , with variables and hypotheses clearly defined in advance of data collection.
It’s also possible to use a mixed-methods design that integrates aspects of both approaches. By combining qualitative and quantitative insights, you can gain a more complete picture of the problem you’re studying and strengthen the credibility of your conclusions.
Practical and ethical considerations when designing research
As well as scientific considerations, you need to think practically when designing your research. If your research involves people or animals, you also need to consider research ethics .
- How much time do you have to collect data and write up the research?
- Will you be able to gain access to the data you need (e.g., by travelling to a specific location or contacting specific people)?
- Do you have the necessary research skills (e.g., statistical analysis or interview techniques)?
- Will you need ethical approval ?
At each stage of the research design process, make sure that your choices are practically feasible.
Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.
Within both qualitative and quantitative approaches, there are several types of research design to choose from. Each type provides a framework for the overall shape of your research.
Types of quantitative research designs
Quantitative designs can be split into four main types.
- Experimental and quasi-experimental designs allow you to test cause-and-effect relationships
- Descriptive and correlational designs allow you to measure variables and describe relationships between them.
With descriptive and correlational designs, you can get a clear picture of characteristics, trends and relationships as they exist in the real world. However, you can’t draw conclusions about cause and effect (because correlation doesn’t imply causation ).
Experiments are the strongest way to test cause-and-effect relationships without the risk of other variables influencing the results. However, their controlled conditions may not always reflect how things work in the real world. They’re often also more difficult and expensive to implement.
Types of qualitative research designs
Qualitative designs are less strictly defined. This approach is about gaining a rich, detailed understanding of a specific context or phenomenon, and you can often be more creative and flexible in designing your research.
The table below shows some common types of qualitative design. They often have similar approaches in terms of data collection, but focus on different aspects when analyzing the data.
Your research design should clearly define who or what your research will focus on, and how you’ll go about choosing your participants or subjects.
In research, a population is the entire group that you want to draw conclusions about, while a sample is the smaller group of individuals you’ll actually collect data from.
Defining the population
A population can be made up of anything you want to study—plants, animals, organizations, texts, countries, etc. In the social sciences, it most often refers to a group of people.
For example, will you focus on people from a specific demographic, region or background? Are you interested in people with a certain job or medical condition, or users of a particular product?
The more precisely you define your population, the easier it will be to gather a representative sample.
- Sampling methods
Even with a narrowly defined population, it’s rarely possible to collect data from every individual. Instead, you’ll collect data from a sample.
To select a sample, there are two main approaches: probability sampling and non-probability sampling . The sampling method you use affects how confidently you can generalize your results to the population as a whole.
Probability sampling is the most statistically valid option, but it’s often difficult to achieve unless you’re dealing with a very small and accessible population.
For practical reasons, many studies use non-probability sampling, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations and carefully consider potential biases. You should always make an effort to gather a sample that’s as representative as possible of the population.
Case selection in qualitative research
In some types of qualitative designs, sampling may not be relevant.
For example, in an ethnography or a case study , your aim is to deeply understand a specific context, not to generalize to a population. Instead of sampling, you may simply aim to collect as much data as possible about the context you are studying.
In these types of design, you still have to carefully consider your choice of case or community. You should have a clear rationale for why this particular case is suitable for answering your research question .
For example, you might choose a case study that reveals an unusual or neglected aspect of your research problem, or you might choose several very similar or very different cases in order to compare them.
Data collection methods are ways of directly measuring variables and gathering information. They allow you to gain first-hand knowledge and original insights into your research problem.
You can choose just one data collection method, or use several methods in the same study.
Surveys allow you to collect data about opinions, behaviors, experiences, and characteristics by asking people directly. There are two main survey methods to choose from: questionnaires and interviews .
Observational studies allow you to collect data unobtrusively, observing characteristics, behaviors or social interactions without relying on self-reporting.
Observations may be conducted in real time, taking notes as you observe, or you might make audiovisual recordings for later analysis. They can be qualitative or quantitative.
Other methods of data collection
There are many other ways you might collect data depending on your field and topic.
If you’re not sure which methods will work best for your research design, try reading some papers in your field to see what kinds of data collection methods they used.
If you don’t have the time or resources to collect data from the population you’re interested in, you can also choose to use secondary data that other researchers already collected—for example, datasets from government surveys or previous studies on your topic.
With this raw data, you can do your own analysis to answer new research questions that weren’t addressed by the original study.
Using secondary data can expand the scope of your research, as you may be able to access much larger and more varied samples than you could collect yourself.
However, it also means you don’t have any control over which variables to measure or how to measure them, so the conclusions you can draw may be limited.
A faster, more affordable way to improve your paper
Scribbr’s new AI Proofreader checks your document and corrects spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes with near-human accuracy and the efficiency of AI!
Proofread my paper
As well as deciding on your methods, you need to plan exactly how you’ll use these methods to collect data that’s consistent, accurate, and unbiased.
Planning systematic procedures is especially important in quantitative research, where you need to precisely define your variables and ensure your measurements are high in reliability and validity.
Some variables, like height or age, are easily measured. But often you’ll be dealing with more abstract concepts, like satisfaction, anxiety, or competence. Operationalization means turning these fuzzy ideas into measurable indicators.
If you’re using observations , which events or actions will you count?
If you’re using surveys , which questions will you ask and what range of responses will be offered?
You may also choose to use or adapt existing materials designed to measure the concept you’re interested in—for example, questionnaires or inventories whose reliability and validity has already been established.
Reliability and validity
Reliability means your results can be consistently reproduced, while validity means that you’re actually measuring the concept you’re interested in.
For valid and reliable results, your measurement materials should be thoroughly researched and carefully designed. Plan your procedures to make sure you carry out the same steps in the same way for each participant.
If you’re developing a new questionnaire or other instrument to measure a specific concept, running a pilot study allows you to check its validity and reliability in advance.
As well as choosing an appropriate sampling method , you need a concrete plan for how you’ll actually contact and recruit your selected sample.
That means making decisions about things like:
- How many participants do you need for an adequate sample size?
- What inclusion and exclusion criteria will you use to identify eligible participants?
- How will you contact your sample—by mail, online, by phone, or in person?
If you’re using a probability sampling method , it’s important that everyone who is randomly selected actually participates in the study. How will you ensure a high response rate?
If you’re using a non-probability method , how will you avoid research bias and ensure a representative sample?
It’s also important to create a data management plan for organizing and storing your data.
Will you need to transcribe interviews or perform data entry for observations? You should anonymize and safeguard any sensitive data, and make sure it’s backed up regularly.
Keeping your data well-organized will save time when it comes to analyzing it. It can also help other researchers validate and add to your findings (high replicability ).
On its own, raw data can’t answer your research question. The last step of designing your research is planning how you’ll analyze the data.
Quantitative data analysis
In quantitative research, you’ll most likely use some form of statistical analysis . With statistics, you can summarize your sample data, make estimates, and test hypotheses.
Using descriptive statistics , you can summarize your sample data in terms of:
- The distribution of the data (e.g., the frequency of each score on a test)
- The central tendency of the data (e.g., the mean to describe the average score)
- The variability of the data (e.g., the standard deviation to describe how spread out the scores are)
The specific calculations you can do depend on the level of measurement of your variables.
Using inferential statistics , you can:
- Make estimates about the population based on your sample data.
- Test hypotheses about a relationship between variables.
Regression and correlation tests look for associations between two or more variables, while comparison tests (such as t tests and ANOVAs ) look for differences in the outcomes of different groups.
Your choice of statistical test depends on various aspects of your research design, including the types of variables you’re dealing with and the distribution of your data.
Qualitative data analysis
In qualitative research, your data will usually be very dense with information and ideas. Instead of summing it up in numbers, you’ll need to comb through the data in detail, interpret its meanings, identify patterns, and extract the parts that are most relevant to your research question.
Two of the most common approaches to doing this are thematic analysis and discourse analysis .
There are many other ways of analyzing qualitative data depending on the aims of your research. To get a sense of potential approaches, try reading some qualitative research papers in your field.
If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
- Simple random sampling
- Stratified sampling
- Cluster sampling
- Likert scales
- Null hypothesis
- Statistical power
- Probability distribution
- Effect size
- Poisson distribution
- Optimism bias
- Cognitive bias
- Implicit bias
- Hawthorne effect
- Anchoring bias
- Explicit bias
A research design is a strategy for answering your research question . It defines your overall approach and determines how you will collect and analyze data.
A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research aims, that you collect high-quality data, and that you use the right kind of analysis to answer your questions, utilizing credible sources . This allows you to draw valid , trustworthy conclusions.
Quantitative research designs can be divided into two main categories:
- Correlational and descriptive designs are used to investigate characteristics, averages, trends, and associations between variables.
- Experimental and quasi-experimental designs are used to test causal relationships .
Qualitative research designs tend to be more flexible. Common types of qualitative design include case study , ethnography , and grounded theory designs.
The priorities of a research design can vary depending on the field, but you usually have to specify:
- Your research questions and/or hypotheses
- Your overall approach (e.g., qualitative or quantitative )
- The type of design you’re using (e.g., a survey , experiment , or case study )
- Your data collection methods (e.g., questionnaires , observations)
- Your data collection procedures (e.g., operationalization , timing and data management)
- Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical tests or thematic analysis )
A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population . Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research. For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.
In statistics, sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population.
Operationalization means turning abstract conceptual ideas into measurable observations.
For example, the concept of social anxiety isn’t directly observable, but it can be operationally defined in terms of self-rating scores, behavioral avoidance of crowded places, or physical anxiety symptoms in social situations.
Before collecting data , it’s important to consider how you will operationalize the variables that you want to measure.
A research project is an academic, scientific, or professional undertaking to answer a research question . Research projects can take many forms, such as qualitative or quantitative , descriptive , longitudinal , experimental , or correlational . What kind of research approach you choose will depend on your topic.
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
McCombes, S. (2023, May 31). What Is a Research Design | Types, Guide & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved November 24, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/methodology/research-design/
Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, guide to experimental design | overview, steps, & examples, how to write a research proposal | examples & templates, ethical considerations in research | types & examples, what is your plagiarism score.
Organizing Academic Research Papers: Types of Research Designs
- Purpose of Guide
- Design Flaws to Avoid
- Glossary of Research Terms
- Narrowing a Topic Idea
- Broadening a Topic Idea
- Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
- Academic Writing Style
- Choosing a Title
- Making an Outline
- Paragraph Development
- Executive Summary
- Background Information
- The Research Problem/Question
- Theoretical Framework
- Citation Tracking
- Content Alert Services
- Evaluating Sources
- Primary Sources
- Secondary Sources
- Tertiary Sources
- What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
- Qualitative Methods
- Quantitative Methods
- Using Non-Textual Elements
- Limitations of the Study
- Common Grammar Mistakes
- Avoiding Plagiarism
- Footnotes or Endnotes?
- Further Readings
- Annotated Bibliography
- Dealing with Nervousness
- Using Visual Aids
- Grading Someone Else's Paper
- How to Manage Group Projects
- Multiple Book Review Essay
- Reviewing Collected Essays
- About Informed Consent
- Writing Field Notes
- Writing a Policy Memo
- Writing a Research Proposal
Before beginning your paper, you need to decide how you plan to design the study .
The research design refers to the overall strategy that you choose to integrate the different components of the study in a coherent and logical way, thereby, ensuring you will effectively address the research problem; it constitutes the blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of data. Note that your research problem determines the type of design you can use, not the other way around!
General Structure and Writing Style
Action research design, case study design, causal design, cohort design, cross-sectional design, descriptive design, experimental design, exploratory design, historical design, longitudinal design, observational design, philosophical design, sequential design.
Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. Part 1, What Is Research Design? The Context of Design. Performance Studies Methods Course syllabus . New York University, Spring 2006; Trochim, William M.K. Research Methods Knowledge Base . 2006.
The function of a research design is to ensure that the evidence obtained enables you to effectively address the research problem as unambiguously as possible. In social sciences research, obtaining evidence relevant to the research problem generally entails specifying the type of evidence needed to test a theory, to evaluate a program, or to accurately describe a phenomenon. However, researchers can often begin their investigations far too early, before they have thought critically about about what information is required to answer the study's research questions. Without attending to these design issues beforehand, the conclusions drawn risk being weak and unconvincing and, consequently, will fail to adequate address the overall research problem.
Given this, the length and complexity of research designs can vary considerably, but any sound design will do the following things:
- Identify the research problem clearly and justify its selection,
- Review previously published literature associated with the problem area,
- Clearly and explicitly specify hypotheses [i.e., research questions] central to the problem selected,
- Effectively describe the data which will be necessary for an adequate test of the hypotheses and explain how such data will be obtained, and
- Describe the methods of analysis which will be applied to the data in determining whether or not the hypotheses are true or false.
Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. Part 1, What Is Research Design? The Context of Design. Performance Studies Methods Course syllabus . New Yortk University, Spring 2006.
Definition and Purpose
The essentials of action research design follow a characteristic cycle whereby initially an exploratory stance is adopted, where an understanding of a problem is developed and plans are made for some form of interventionary strategy. Then the intervention is carried out (the action in Action Research) during which time, pertinent observations are collected in various forms. The new interventional strategies are carried out, and the cyclic process repeats, continuing until a sufficient understanding of (or implement able solution for) the problem is achieved. The protocol is iterative or cyclical in nature and is intended to foster deeper understanding of a given situation, starting with conceptualizing and particularizing the problem and moving through several interventions and evaluations.
What do these studies tell you?
- A collaborative and adaptive research design that lends itself to use in work or community situations.
- Design focuses on pragmatic and solution-driven research rather than testing theories.
- When practitioners use action research it has the potential to increase the amount they learn consciously from their experience. The action research cycle can also be regarded as a learning cycle.
- Action search studies often have direct and obvious relevance to practice.
- There are no hidden controls or preemption of direction by the researcher.
What these studies don't tell you?
- It is harder to do than conducting conventional studies because the researcher takes on responsibilities for encouraging change as well as for research.
- Action research is much harder to write up because you probably can’t use a standard format to report your findings effectively.
- Personal over-involvement of the researcher may bias research results.
- The cyclic nature of action research to achieve its twin outcomes of action (e.g. change) and research (e.g. understanding) is time-consuming and complex to conduct.
Gall, Meredith. Educational Research: An Introduction . Chapter 18, Action Research. 8th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2007; Kemmis, Stephen and Robin McTaggart. “Participatory Action Research.” In Handbook of Qualitative Research . Norman Denzin and Yvonna S. Locoln, eds. 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2000), pp. 567-605.; Reason, Peter and Hilary Bradbury. Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2001.
A case study is an in-depth study of a particular research problem rather than a sweeping statistical survey. It is often used to narrow down a very broad field of research into one or a few easily researchable examples. The case study research design is also useful for testing whether a specific theory and model actually applies to phenomena in the real world. It is a useful design when not much is known about a phenomenon.
- Approach excels at bringing us to an understanding of a complex issue through detailed contextual analysis of a limited number of events or conditions and their relationships.
- A researcher using a case study design can apply a vaiety of methodologies and rely on a variety of sources to investigate a research problem.
- Design can extend experience or add strength to what is already known through previous research.
- Social scientists, in particular, make wide use of this research design to examine contemporary real-life situations and provide the basis for the application of concepts and theories and extension of methods.
- The design can provide detailed descriptions of specific and rare cases.
- A single or small number of cases offers little basis for establishing reliability or to generalize the findings to a wider population of people, places, or things.
- The intense exposure to study of the case may bias a researcher's interpretation of the findings.
- Design does not facilitate assessment of cause and effect relationships.
- Vital information may be missing, making the case hard to interpret.
- The case may not be representative or typical of the larger problem being investigated.
- If the criteria for selecting a case is because it represents a very unusual or unique phenomenon or problem for study, then your intepretation of the findings can only apply to that particular case.
Anastas, Jeane W. Research Design for Social Work and the Human Services . Chapter 4, Flexible Methods: Case Study Design. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999; Stake, Robert E. The Art of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 1995; Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research: Design and Theory . Applied Social Research Methods Series, no. 5. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2003.
Causality studies may be thought of as understanding a phenomenon in terms of conditional statements in the form, “If X, then Y.” This type of research is used to measure what impact a specific change will have on existing norms and assumptions. Most social scientists seek causal explanations that reflect tests of hypotheses. Causal effect (nomothetic perspective) occurs when variation in one phenomenon, an independent variable, leads to or results, on average, in variation in another phenomenon, the dependent variable.
Conditions necessary for determining causality:
- Empirical association--a valid conclusion is based on finding an association between the independent variable and the dependent variable.
- Appropriate time order--to conclude that causation was involved, one must see that cases were exposed to variation in the independent variable before variation in the dependent variable.
- Nonspuriousness--a relationship between two variables that is not due to variation in a third variable.
- Causality research designs helps researchers understand why the world works the way it does through the process of proving a causal link between variables and eliminating other possibilities.
- Replication is possible.
- There is greater confidence the study has internal validity due to the systematic subject selection and equity of groups being compared.
- Not all relationships are casual! The possibility always exists that, by sheer coincidence, two unrelated events appear to be related [e.g., Punxatawney Phil could accurately predict the duration of Winter for five consecutive years but, the fact remains, he's just a big, furry rodent].
- Conclusions about causal relationships are difficult to determine due to a variety of extraneous and confounding variables that exist in a social environment. This means causality can only be inferred, never proven.
- If two variables are correlated, the cause must come before the effect. However, even though two variables might be causally related, it can sometimes be difficult to determine which variable comes first and therefore to establish which variable is the actual cause and which is the actual effect.
Bachman, Ronet. The Practice of Research in Criminology and Criminal Justice . Chapter 5, Causation and Research Designs. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 2007; Causal Research Design: Experimentation. Anonymous SlideShare Presentation ; Gall, Meredith. Educational Research: An Introduction . Chapter 11, Nonexperimental Research: Correlational Designs. 8th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2007; Trochim, William M.K. Research Methods Knowledge Base . 2006.
Often used in the medical sciences, but also found in the applied social sciences, a cohort study generally refers to a study conducted over a period of time involving members of a population which the subject or representative member comes from, and who are united by some commonality or similarity. Using a quantitative framework, a cohort study makes note of statistical occurrence within a specialized subgroup, united by same or similar characteristics that are relevant to the research problem being investigated, r ather than studying statistical occurrence within the general population. Using a qualitative framework, cohort studies generally gather data using methods of observation. Cohorts can be either "open" or "closed."
- Open Cohort Studies [dynamic populations, such as the population of Los Angeles] involve a population that is defined just by the state of being a part of the study in question (and being monitored for the outcome). Date of entry and exit from the study is individually defined, therefore, the size of the study population is not constant. In open cohort studies, researchers can only calculate rate based data, such as, incidence rates and variants thereof.
- Closed Cohort Studies [static populations, such as patients entered into a clinical trial] involve participants who enter into the study at one defining point in time and where it is presumed that no new participants can enter the cohort. Given this, the number of study participants remains constant (or can only decrease).
- The use of cohorts is often mandatory because a randomized control study may be unethical. For example, you cannot deliberately expose people to asbestos, you can only study its effects on those who have already been exposed. Research that measures risk factors often relies on cohort designs.
- Because cohort studies measure potential causes before the outcome has occurred, they can demonstrate that these “causes” preceded the outcome, thereby avoiding the debate as to which is the cause and which is the effect.
- Cohort analysis is highly flexible and can provide insight into effects over time and related to a variety of different types of changes [e.g., social, cultural, political, economic, etc.].
- Either original data or secondary data can be used in this design.
- In cases where a comparative analysis of two cohorts is made [e.g., studying the effects of one group exposed to asbestos and one that has not], a researcher cannot control for all other factors that might differ between the two groups. These factors are known as confounding variables.
- Cohort studies can end up taking a long time to complete if the researcher must wait for the conditions of interest to develop within the group. This also increases the chance that key variables change during the course of the study, potentially impacting the validity of the findings.
- Because of the lack of randominization in the cohort design, its external validity is lower than that of study designs where the researcher randomly assigns participants.
Healy P, Devane D. “Methodological Considerations in Cohort Study Designs.” Nurse Researcher 18 (2011): 32-36; Levin, Kate Ann. Study Design IV: Cohort Studies. Evidence-Based Dentistry 7 (2003): 51–52; Study Design 101 . Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library. George Washington University, November 2011; Cohort Study . Wikipedia.
Cross-sectional research designs have three distinctive features: no time dimension, a reliance on existing differences rather than change following intervention; and, groups are selected based on existing differences rather than random allocation. The cross-sectional design can only measure diffrerences between or from among a variety of people, subjects, or phenomena rather than change. As such, researchers using this design can only employ a relative passive approach to making causal inferences based on findings.
- Cross-sectional studies provide a 'snapshot' of the outcome and the characteristics associated with it, at a specific point in time.
- Unlike the experimental design where there is an active intervention by the researcher to produce and measure change or to create differences, cross-sectional designs focus on studying and drawing inferences from existing differences between people, subjects, or phenomena.
- Entails collecting data at and concerning one point in time. While longitudinal studies involve taking multiple measures over an extended period of time, cross-sectional research is focused on finding relationships between variables at one moment in time.
- Groups identified for study are purposely selected based upon existing differences in the sample rather than seeking random sampling.
- Cross-section studies are capable of using data from a large number of subjects and, unlike observational studies, is not geographically bound.
- Can estimate prevalence of an outcome of interest because the sample is usually taken from the whole population.
- Because cross-sectional designs generally use survey techniques to gather data, they are relatively inexpensive and take up little time to conduct.
- Finding people, subjects, or phenomena to study that are very similar except in one specific variable can be difficult.
- Results are static and time bound and, therefore, give no indication of a sequence of events or reveal historical contexts.
- Studies cannot be utilized to establish cause and effect relationships.
- Provide only a snapshot of analysis so there is always the possibility that a study could have differing results if another time-frame had been chosen.
- There is no follow up to the findings.
Hall, John. “Cross-Sectional Survey Design.” In Encyclopedia of Survey Research Methods. Paul J. Lavrakas, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), pp. 173-174; Helen Barratt, Maria Kirwan. Cross-Sectional Studies: Design, Application, Strengths and Weaknesses of Cross-Sectional Studies . Healthknowledge, 2009. Cross-Sectional Study . Wikipedia.
Descriptive research designs help provide answers to the questions of who, what, when, where, and how associated with a particular research problem; a descriptive study cannot conclusively ascertain answers to why. Descriptive research is used to obtain information concerning the current status of the phenomena and to describe "what exists" with respect to variables or conditions in a situation.
- The subject is being observed in a completely natural and unchanged natural environment. True experiments, whilst giving analyzable data, often adversely influence the normal behavior of the subject.
- Descriptive research is often used as a pre-cursor to more quantitatively research designs, the general overview giving some valuable pointers as to what variables are worth testing quantitatively.
- If the limitations are understood, they can be a useful tool in developing a more focused study.
- Descriptive studies can yield rich data that lead to important recommendations.
- Appoach collects a large amount of data for detailed analysis.
- The results from a descriptive research can not be used to discover a definitive answer or to disprove a hypothesis.
- Because descriptive designs often utilize observational methods [as opposed to quantitative methods], the results cannot be replicated.
- The descriptive function of research is heavily dependent on instrumentation for measurement and observation.
Anastas, Jeane W. Research Design for Social Work and the Human Services . Chapter 5, Flexible Methods: Descriptive Research. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999; McNabb, Connie. Descriptive Research Methodologies . Powerpoint Presentation; Shuttleworth, Martyn. Descriptive Research Design , September 26, 2008. Explorable.com website.
A blueprint of the procedure that enables the researcher to maintain control over all factors that may affect the result of an experiment. In doing this, the researcher attempts to determine or predict what may occur. Experimental Research is often used where there is time priority in a causal relationship (cause precedes effect), there is consistency in a causal relationship (a cause will always lead to the same effect), and the magnitude of the correlation is great. The classic experimental design specifies an experimental group and a control group. The independent variable is administered to the experimental group and not to the control group, and both groups are measured on the same dependent variable. Subsequent experimental designs have used more groups and more measurements over longer periods. True experiments must have control, randomization, and manipulation.
- Experimental research allows the researcher to control the situation. In so doing, it allows researchers to answer the question, “what causes something to occur?”
- Permits the researcher to identify cause and effect relationships between variables and to distinguish placebo effects from treatment effects.
- Experimental research designs support the ability to limit alternative explanations and to infer direct causal relationships in the study.
- Approach provides the highest level of evidence for single studies.
- The design is artificial, and results may not generalize well to the real world.
- The artificial settings of experiments may alter subject behaviors or responses.
- Experimental designs can be costly if special equipment or facilities are needed.
- Some research problems cannot be studied using an experiment because of ethical or technical reasons.
- Difficult to apply ethnographic and other qualitative methods to experimental designed research studies.
Anastas, Jeane W. Research Design for Social Work and the Human Services . Chapter 7, Flexible Methods: Experimental Research. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999; Chapter 2: Research Design, Experimental Designs . School of Psychology, University of New England, 2000; Experimental Research. Research Methods by Dummies. Department of Psychology. California State University, Fresno, 2006; Trochim, William M.K. Experimental Design . Research Methods Knowledge Base. 2006; Rasool, Shafqat. Experimental Research . Slideshare presentation.
An exploratory design is conducted about a research problem when there are few or no earlier studies to refer to. The focus is on gaining insights and familiarity for later investigation or undertaken when problems are in a preliminary stage of investigation.
The goals of exploratory research are intended to produce the following possible insights:
- Familiarity with basic details, settings and concerns.
- Well grounded picture of the situation being developed.
- Generation of new ideas and assumption, development of tentative theories or hypotheses.
- Determination about whether a study is feasible in the future.
- Issues get refined for more systematic investigation and formulation of new research questions.
- Direction for future research and techniques get developed.
- Design is a useful approach for gaining background information on a particular topic.
- Exploratory research is flexible and can address research questions of all types (what, why, how).
- Provides an opportunity to define new terms and clarify existing concepts.
- Exploratory research is often used to generate formal hypotheses and develop more precise research problems.
- Exploratory studies help establish research priorities.
- Exploratory research generally utilizes small sample sizes and, thus, findings are typically not generalizable to the population at large.
- The exploratory nature of the research inhibits an ability to make definitive conclusions about the findings.
- The research process underpinning exploratory studies is flexible but often unstructured, leading to only tentative results that have limited value in decision-making.
- Design lacks rigorous standards applied to methods of data gathering and analysis because one of the areas for exploration could be to determine what method or methodologies could best fit the research problem.
Cuthill, Michael. “Exploratory Research: Citizen Participation, Local Government, and Sustainable Development in Australia.” Sustainable Development 10 (2002): 79-89; Taylor, P. J., G. Catalano, and D.R.F. Walker. “Exploratory Analysis of the World City Network.” Urban Studies 39 (December 2002): 2377-2394; Exploratory Research . Wikipedia.
The purpose of a historical research design is to collect, verify, and synthesize evidence from the past to establish facts that defend or refute your hypothesis. It uses secondary sources and a variety of primary documentary evidence, such as, logs, diaries, official records, reports, archives, and non-textual information [maps, pictures, audio and visual recordings]. The limitation is that the sources must be both authentic and valid.
- The historical research design is unobtrusive; the act of research does not affect the results of the study.
- The historical approach is well suited for trend analysis.
- Historical records can add important contextual background required to more fully understand and interpret a research problem.
- There is no possibility of researcher-subject interaction that could affect the findings.
- Historical sources can be used over and over to study different research problems or to replicate a previous study.
- The ability to fulfill the aims of your research are directly related to the amount and quality of documentation available to understand the research problem.
- Since historical research relies on data from the past, there is no way to manipulate it to control for contemporary contexts.
- Interpreting historical sources can be very time consuming.
- The sources of historical materials must be archived consistentally to ensure access.
- Original authors bring their own perspectives and biases to the interpretation of past events and these biases are more difficult to ascertain in historical resources.
- Due to the lack of control over external variables, historical research is very weak with regard to the demands of internal validity.
- It rare that the entirety of historical documentation needed to fully address a research problem is available for interpretation, therefore, gaps need to be acknowledged.
Savitt, Ronald. “Historical Research in Marketing.” Journal of Marketing 44 (Autumn, 1980): 52-58; Gall, Meredith. Educational Research: An Introduction . Chapter 16, Historical Research. 8th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2007.
A longitudinal study follows the same sample over time and makes repeated observations. With longitudinal surveys, for example, the same group of people is interviewed at regular intervals, enabling researchers to track changes over time and to relate them to variables that might explain why the changes occur. Longitudinal research designs describe patterns of change and help establish the direction and magnitude of causal relationships. Measurements are taken on each variable over two or more distinct time periods. This allows the researcher to measure change in variables over time. It is a type of observational study and is sometimes referred to as a panel study.
- Longitudinal data allow the analysis of duration of a particular phenomenon.
- Enables survey researchers to get close to the kinds of causal explanations usually attainable only with experiments.
- The design permits the measurement of differences or change in a variable from one period to another [i.e., the description of patterns of change over time].
- Longitudinal studies facilitate the prediction of future outcomes based upon earlier factors.
- The data collection method may change over time.
- Maintaining the integrity of the original sample can be difficult over an extended period of time.
- It can be difficult to show more than one variable at a time.
- This design often needs qualitative research to explain fluctuations in the data.
- A longitudinal research design assumes present trends will continue unchanged.
- It can take a long period of time to gather results.
- There is a need to have a large sample size and accurate sampling to reach representativness.
Anastas, Jeane W. Research Design for Social Work and the Human Services . Chapter 6, Flexible Methods: Relational and Longitudinal Research. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999; Kalaian, Sema A. and Rafa M. Kasim. "Longitudinal Studies." In Encyclopedia of Survey Research Methods . Paul J. Lavrakas, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), pp. 440-441; Ployhart, Robert E. and Robert J. Vandenberg. "Longitudinal Research: The Theory, Design, and Analysis of Change.” Journal of Management 36 (January 2010): 94-120; Longitudinal Study . Wikipedia.
This type of research design draws a conclusion by comparing subjects against a control group, in cases where the researcher has no control over the experiment. There are two general types of observational designs. In direct observations, people know that you are watching them. Unobtrusive measures involve any method for studying behavior where individuals do not know they are being observed. An observational study allows a useful insight into a phenomenon and avoids the ethical and practical difficulties of setting up a large and cumbersome research project.
- Observational studies are usually flexible and do not necessarily need to be structured around a hypothesis about what you expect to observe (data is emergent rather than pre-existing).
- The researcher is able to collect a depth of information about a particular behavior.
- Can reveal interrelationships among multifaceted dimensions of group interactions.
- You can generalize your results to real life situations.
- Observational research is useful for discovering what variables may be important before applying other methods like experiments.
- Observation researchd esigns account for the complexity of group behaviors.
- Reliability of data is low because seeing behaviors occur over and over again may be a time consuming task and difficult to replicate.
- In observational research, findings may only reflect a unique sample population and, thus, cannot be generalized to other groups.
- There can be problems with bias as the researcher may only "see what they want to see."
- There is no possiblility to determine "cause and effect" relationships since nothing is manipulated.
- Sources or subjects may not all be equally credible.
- Any group that is studied is altered to some degree by the very presence of the researcher, therefore, skewing to some degree any data collected (the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle).
Atkinson, Paul and Martyn Hammersley. “Ethnography and Participant Observation.” In Handbook of Qualitative Research . Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994), pp. 248-261; Observational Research. Research Methods by Dummies. Department of Psychology. California State University, Fresno, 2006; Patton Michael Quinn. Qualitiative Research and Evaluation Methods . Chapter 6, Fieldwork Strategies and Observational Methods. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002; Rosenbaum, Paul R. Design of Observational Studies . New York: Springer, 2010.
Understood more as an broad approach to examining a research problem than a methodological design, philosophical analysis and argumentation is intended to challenge deeply embedded, often intractable, assumptions underpinning an area of study. This approach uses the tools of argumentation derived from philosophical traditions, concepts, models, and theories to critically explore and challenge, for example, the relevance of logic and evidence in academic debates, to analyze arguments about fundamental issues, or to discuss the root of existing discourse about a research problem. These overarching tools of analysis can be framed in three ways:
- Ontology -- the study that describes the nature of reality; for example, what is real and what is not, what is fundamental and what is derivative?
- Epistemology -- the study that explores the nature of knowledge; for example, on what does knowledge and understanding depend upon and how can we be certain of what we know?
- Axiology -- the study of values; for example, what values does an individual or group hold and why? How are values related to interest, desire, will, experience, and means-to-end? And, what is the difference between a matter of fact and a matter of value?
- Can provide a basis for applying ethical decision-making to practice.
- Functions as a means of gaining greater self-understanding and self-knowledge about the purposes of research.
- Brings clarity to general guiding practices and principles of an individual or group.
- Philosophy informs methodology.
- Refine concepts and theories that are invoked in relatively unreflective modes of thought and discourse.
- Beyond methodology, philosophy also informs critical thinking about epistemology and the structure of reality (metaphysics).
- Offers clarity and definition to the practical and theoretical uses of terms, concepts, and ideas.
- Limited application to specific research problems [answering the "So What?" question in social science research].
- Analysis can be abstract, argumentative, and limited in its practical application to real-life issues.
- While a philosophical analysis may render problematic that which was once simple or taken-for-granted, the writing can be dense and subject to unnecessary jargon, overstatement, and/or excessive quotation and documentation.
- There are limitations in the use of metaphor as a vehicle of philosophical analysis.
- There can be analytical difficulties in moving from philosophy to advocacy and between abstract thought and application to the phenomenal world.
Chapter 4, Research Methodology and Design . Unisa Institutional Repository (UnisaIR), University of South Africa; Labaree, Robert V. and Ross Scimeca. “The Philosophical Problem of Truth in Librarianship.” The Library Quarterly 78 (January 2008): 43-70; Maykut, Pamela S. Beginning Qualitative Research: A Philosophic and Practical Guide . Washington, D.C.: Falmer Press, 1994; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy . Metaphysics Research Lab, CSLI, Stanford University, 2013.
- The researcher has a limitless option when it comes to sample size and the sampling schedule.
- Due to the repetitive nature of this research design, minor changes and adjustments can be done during the initial parts of the study to correct and hone the research method. Useful design for exploratory studies.
- There is very little effort on the part of the researcher when performing this technique. It is generally not expensive, time consuming, or workforce extensive.
- Because the study is conducted serially, the results of one sample are known before the next sample is taken and analyzed.
- The sampling method is not representative of the entire population. The only possibility of approaching representativeness is when the researcher chooses to use a very large sample size significant enough to represent a significant portion of the entire population. In this case, moving on to study a second or more sample can be difficult.
- Because the sampling technique is not randomized, the design cannot be used to create conclusions and interpretations that pertain to an entire population. Generalizability from findings is limited.
- Difficult to account for and interpret variation from one sample to another over time, particularly when using qualitative methods of data collection.
Rebecca Betensky, Harvard University, Course Lecture Note slides ; Cresswell, John W. Et al. “Advanced Mixed-Methods Research Designs.” In Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social and Behavioral Research . Abbas Tashakkori and Charles Teddle, eds. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2003), pp. 209-240; Nataliya V. Ivankova. “Using Mixed-Methods Sequential Explanatory Design: From Theory to Practice.” Field Methods 18 (February 2006): 3-20; Bovaird, James A. and Kevin A. Kupzyk. “Sequential Design.” In Encyclopedia of Research Design . Neil J. Salkind, ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010; Sequential Analysis . Wikipedia.
- << Previous: Purpose of Guide
- Next: Design Flaws to Avoid >>
- Last Updated: Jul 18, 2023 11:58 AM
- URL: https://library.sacredheart.edu/c.php?g=29803
- Library Catalog
- Databases A-Z
- Publication Finder
- Course Reserves
- Citation Linker
- Digital Commons
- Ask a Librarian
- Interlibrary Loan (ILL)
- Research Guides
- Databases by Subject
- Citation Help
Using the Library
- Reserve a Group Study Room
- Renew Books
- Honors Study Rooms
- Off-Campus Access
- Library Policies
- Library Technology
- Grad Students
- Online Students
- COVID-19 Updates
- Staff Directory
- News & Announcements
- Library Newsletter
- Interlibrary Loan
- Staff Site Login
FIND US ON
Educational resources and simple solutions for your research journey
What is research design? Understand types of research design, with examples
Have you been wondering “ what is research design ?” or “what are some research design examples ?” Are you unsure about the research design elements or which of the different types of research design best suit your study? Don’t worry! In this article, we’ve got you covered!
Table of Contents
What is research design?
Have you been wondering “ what is research design ?” or “what are some research design examples ?” Don’t worry! In this article, we’ve got you covered!
A research design is the plan or framework used to conduct a research study. It involves outlining the overall approach and methods that will be used to collect and analyze data in order to answer research questions or test hypotheses. A well-designed research study should have a clear and well-defined research question, a detailed plan for collecting data, and a method for analyzing and interpreting the results. A well-thought-out research design addresses all these features.
Research design elements
Research design elements include the following:
- Clear purpose: The research question or hypothesis must be clearly defined and focused.
- Sampling: This includes decisions about sample size, sampling method, and criteria for inclusion or exclusion. The approach varies for different research design types .
- Data collection: This research design element involves the process of gathering data or information from the study participants or sources. It includes decisions about what data to collect, how to collect it, and the tools or instruments that will be used.
- Data analysis: All research design types require analysis and interpretation of the data collected. This research design element includes decisions about the statistical tests or methods that will be used to analyze the data, as well as any potential confounding variables or biases that may need to be addressed.
- Type of research methodology: This includes decisions about the overall approach for the study.
- Time frame: An important research design element is the time frame, which includes decisions about the duration of the study, the timeline for data collection and analysis, and follow-up periods.
- Ethical considerations: The research design must include decisions about ethical considerations such as informed consent, confidentiality, and participant protection.
- Resources: A good research design takes into account decisions about the budget, staffing, and other resources needed to carry out the study.
The elements of research design should be carefully planned and executed to ensure the validity and reliability of the study findings. Let’s go deeper into the concepts of research design .
Characteristics of research design
Some basic characteristics of research design are common to different research design types . These characteristics of research design are as follows:
- Neutrality : Right from the study assumptions to setting up the study, a neutral stance must be maintained, free of pre-conceived notions. The researcher’s expectations or beliefs should not color the findings or interpretation of the findings. Accordingly, a good research design should address potential sources of bias and confounding factors to be able to yield unbiased and neutral results.
- Reliability : Reliability is one of the characteristics of research design that refers to consistency in measurement over repeated measures and fewer random errors. A reliable research design must allow for results to be consistent, with few errors due to chance.
- Validity : Validity refers to the minimization of nonrandom (systematic) errors. A good research design must employ measurement tools that ensure validity of the results.
- Generalizability: The outcome of the research design should be applicable to a larger population and not just a small sample . A generalized method means the study can be conducted on any part of a population with similar accuracy.
- Flexibility: A research design should allow for changes to be made to the research plan as needed, based on the data collected and the outcomes of the study
A well-planned research design is critical for conducting a scientifically rigorous study that will generate neutral, reliable, valid, and generalizable results. At the same time, it should allow some level of flexibility.
Different types of research design
A research design is essential to systematically investigate, understand, and interpret phenomena of interest. Let’s look at different types of research design and research design examples .
Broadly, research design types can be divided into qualitative and quantitative research.
Qualitative research is subjective and exploratory. It determines relationships between collected data and observations. It is usually carried out through interviews with open-ended questions, observations that are described in words, etc.
Quantitative research is objective and employs statistical approaches. It establishes the cause-and-effect relationship among variables using different statistical and computational methods. This type of research is usually done using surveys and experiments.
Qualitative research vs. Quantitative research
Qualitative research design types and qualitative research design examples .
The following will familiarize you with the research design categories in qualitative research:
- Grounded theory: This design is used to investigate research questions that have not previously been studied in depth. Also referred to as exploratory design , it creates sequential guidelines, offers strategies for inquiry, and makes data collection and analysis more efficient in qualitative research.
Example: A researcher wants to study how people adopt a certain app. The researcher collects data through interviews and then analyzes the data to look for patterns. These patterns are used to develop a theory about how people adopt that app.
- Thematic analysis: This design is used to compare the data collected in past research to find similar themes in qualitative research.
Example: A researcher examines an interview transcript to identify common themes, say, topics or patterns emerging repeatedly.
- Discourse analysis : This research design deals with language or social contexts used in data gathering in qualitative research.
Example: Identifying ideological frameworks and viewpoints of writers of a series of policies.
Quantitative research design types and quantitative research design examples
Note the following research design categories in quantitative research:
- Descriptive research design : This quantitative research design is applied where the aim is to identify characteristics, frequencies, trends, and categories. It may not often begin with a hypothesis. The basis of this research type is a description of an identified variable. This research design type describes the “what,” “when,” “where,” or “how” of phenomena (but not the “why”).
Example: A study on the different income levels of people who use nutritional supplements regularly.
- Correlational research design : Correlation reflects the strength and/or direction of the relationship among variables. The direction of a correlation can be positive or negative. Correlational research design helps researchers establish a relationship between two variables without the researcher controlling any of them.
Example : An example of correlational research design could be studying the correlation between time spent watching crime shows and aggressive behavior in teenagers.
- Diagnostic research design : In diagnostic design, the researcher aims to understand the underlying cause of a specific topic or phenomenon (usually an area of improvement) and find the most effective solution. In simpler terms, a researcher seeks an accurate “diagnosis” of a problem and identifies a solution.
Example : A researcher analyzing customer feedback and reviews to identify areas where an app can be improved.
- Explanatory research design : In explanatory research design , a researcher uses their ideas and thoughts on a topic to explore their theories in more depth. This design is used to explore a phenomenon when limited information is available. It can help increase current understanding of unexplored aspects of a subject. It is thus a kind of “starting point” for future research.
Example : Formulating hypotheses to guide future studies on delaying school start times for better mental health in teenagers.
- Causal research design : This can be considered a type of explanatory research. Causal research design seeks to define a cause and effect in its data. The researcher does not use a randomly chosen control group but naturally or pre-existing groupings. Importantly, the researcher does not manipulate the independent variable.
Example : Comparing school dropout levels and possible bullying events.
- Experimental research design : This research design is used to study causal relationships . One or more independent variables are manipulated, and their effect on one or more dependent variables is measured.
Example: Determining the efficacy of a new vaccine plan for influenza.
Benefits of research design
T here are numerous benefits of research design . These are as follows:
- Clear direction: Among the benefits of research design , the main one is providing direction to the research and guiding the choice of clear objectives, which help the researcher to focus on the specific research questions or hypotheses they want to investigate.
- Control: Through a proper research design , researchers can control variables, identify potential confounding factors, and use randomization to minimize bias and increase the reliability of their findings.
- Replication: Research designs provide the opportunity for replication. This helps to confirm the findings of a study and ensures that the results are not due to chance or other factors. Thus, a well-chosen research design also eliminates bias and errors.
- Validity: A research design ensures the validity of the research, i.e., whether the results truly reflect the phenomenon being investigated.
- Reliability: Benefits of research design also include reducing inaccuracies and ensuring the reliability of the research (i.e., consistency of the research results over time, across different samples, and under different conditions).
- Efficiency: A strong research design helps increase the efficiency of the research process. Researchers can use a variety of designs to investigate their research questions, choose the most appropriate research design for their study, and use statistical analysis to make the most of their data. By effectively describing the data necessary for an adequate test of the hypotheses and explaining how such data will be obtained, research design saves a researcher’s time.
Overall, an appropriately chosen and executed research design helps researchers to conduct high-quality research, draw meaningful conclusions, and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in their field.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Research Design
Q: What are th e main types of research design?
Broadly speaking there are two basic types of research design –
qualitative and quantitative research. Qualitative research is subjective and exploratory; it determines relationships between collected data and observations. It is usually carried out through interviews with open-ended questions, observations that are described in words, etc. Quantitative research , on the other hand, is more objective and employs statistical approaches. It establishes the cause-and-effect relationship among variables using different statistical and computational methods. This type of research design is usually done using surveys and experiments.
Q: How do I choose the appropriate research design for my study?
Choosing the appropriate research design for your study requires careful consideration of various factors. Start by clarifying your research objectives and the type of data you need to collect. Determine whether your study is exploratory, descriptive, or experimental in nature. Consider the availability of resources, time constraints, and the feasibility of implementing the different research designs. Review existing literature to identify similar studies and their research designs, which can serve as a guide. Ultimately, the chosen research design should align with your research questions, provide the necessary data to answer them, and be feasible given your own specific requirements/constraints.
Q: Can research design be modified during the course of a study?
Yes, research design can be modified during the course of a study based on emerging insights, practical constraints, or unforeseen circumstances. Research is an iterative process and, as new data is collected and analyzed, it may become necessary to adjust or refine the research design. However, any modifications should be made judiciously and with careful consideration of their impact on the study’s integrity and validity. It is advisable to document any changes made to the research design, along with a clear rationale for the modifications, in order to maintain transparency and allow for proper interpretation of the results.
Q: How can I ensure the validity and reliability of my research design?
Validity refers to the accuracy and meaningfulness of your study’s findings, while reliability relates to the consistency and stability of the measurements or observations. To enhance validity, carefully define your research variables, use established measurement scales or protocols, and collect data through appropriate methods. Consider conducting a pilot study to identify and address any potential issues before full implementation. To enhance reliability, use standardized procedures, conduct inter-rater or test-retest reliability checks, and employ appropriate statistical techniques for data analysis. It is also essential to document and report your methodology clearly, allowing for replication and scrutiny by other researchers.
Researcher.Life is a subscription-based platform that unifies top AI tools and services designed to speed up, simplify, and streamline a researcher’s journey, from reading to writing, submission, promotion and more. Based on over 20 years of experience in academia, Researcher.Life empowers researchers to put their best research forward and move closer to success.
Try for free or sign up for the Researcher.Life All Access Pack , a one-of-a-kind subscription that unlocks full access to an AI academic writing assistant, literature reading app, journal finder, scientific illustration tool, and exclusive discounts on professional services from Editage. Find the best AI tools a researcher needs, all in one place – Get All Access now at just $29 a month or $249 for a year !
What is Descriptive Research? Definition, Methods, Types and Examples
PhD in a Foreign Country: Pros and Cons to Consider Before You Decide
Research Design 101
Everything You Need To Get Started (With Examples)
By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewers: Eunice Rautenbach (DTech) & Kerryn Warren (PhD) | April 2023
Navigating the world of research can be daunting, especially if you’re a first-time researcher. One concept you’re bound to run into fairly early in your research journey is that of “ research design ”. Here, we’ll guide you through the basics using practical examples , so that you can approach your research with confidence.
Overview: Research Design 101
What is research design.
- Research design types for quantitative studies
- Video explainer : quantitative research design
- Research design types for qualitative studies
- Video explainer : qualitative research design
- How to choose a research design
- Key takeaways
Research design refers to the overall plan, structure or strategy that guides a research project , from its conception to the final data analysis. A good research design serves as the blueprint for how you, as the researcher, will collect and analyse data while ensuring consistency, reliability and validity throughout your study.
Understanding different types of research designs is essential as helps ensure that your approach is suitable given your research aims, objectives and questions , as well as the resources you have available to you. Without a clear big-picture view of how you’ll design your research, you run the risk of potentially making misaligned choices in terms of your methodology – especially your sampling , data collection and data analysis decisions.
The problem with defining research design…
One of the reasons students struggle with a clear definition of research design is because the term is used very loosely across the internet, and even within academia.
Some sources claim that the three research design types are qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods , which isn’t quite accurate (these just refer to the type of data that you’ll collect and analyse). Other sources state that research design refers to the sum of all your design choices, suggesting it’s more like a research methodology . Others run off on other less common tangents. No wonder there’s confusion!
In this article, we’ll clear up the confusion. We’ll explain the most common research design types for both qualitative and quantitative research projects, whether that is for a full dissertation or thesis, or a smaller research paper or article.
Research Design: Quantitative Studies
Quantitative research involves collecting and analysing data in a numerical form. Broadly speaking, there are four types of quantitative research designs: descriptive , correlational , experimental , and quasi-experimental .
Descriptive Research Design
As the name suggests, descriptive research design focuses on describing existing conditions, behaviours, or characteristics by systematically gathering information without manipulating any variables. In other words, there is no intervention on the researcher’s part – only data collection.
For example, if you’re studying smartphone addiction among adolescents in your community, you could deploy a survey to a sample of teens asking them to rate their agreement with certain statements that relate to smartphone addiction. The collected data would then provide insight regarding how widespread the issue may be – in other words, it would describe the situation.
The key defining attribute of this type of research design is that it purely describes the situation . In other words, descriptive research design does not explore potential relationships between different variables or the causes that may underlie those relationships. Therefore, descriptive research is useful for generating insight into a research problem by describing its characteristics . By doing so, it can provide valuable insights and is often used as a precursor to other research design types.
Correlational Research Design
Correlational design is a popular choice for researchers aiming to identify and measure the relationship between two or more variables without manipulating them . In other words, this type of research design is useful when you want to know whether a change in one thing tends to be accompanied by a change in another thing.
For example, if you wanted to explore the relationship between exercise frequency and overall health, you could use a correlational design to help you achieve this. In this case, you might gather data on participants’ exercise habits, as well as records of their health indicators like blood pressure, heart rate, or body mass index. Thereafter, you’d use a statistical test to assess whether there’s a relationship between the two variables (exercise frequency and health).
As you can see, correlational research design is useful when you want to explore potential relationships between variables that cannot be manipulated or controlled for ethical, practical, or logistical reasons. It is particularly helpful in terms of developing predictions , and given that it doesn’t involve the manipulation of variables, it can be implemented at a large scale more easily than experimental designs (which will look at next).
That said, it’s important to keep in mind that correlational research design has limitations – most notably that it cannot be used to establish causality . In other words, correlation does not equal causation . To establish causality, you’ll need to move into the realm of experimental design, coming up next…
Need a helping hand?
Experimental Research Design
Experimental research design is used to determine if there is a causal relationship between two or more variables . With this type of research design, you, as the researcher, manipulate one variable (the independent variable) while controlling others (dependent variables). Doing so allows you to observe the effect of the former on the latter and draw conclusions about potential causality.
For example, if you wanted to measure if/how different types of fertiliser affect plant growth, you could set up several groups of plants, with each group receiving a different type of fertiliser, as well as one with no fertiliser at all. You could then measure how much each plant group grew (on average) over time and compare the results from the different groups to see which fertiliser was most effective.
Overall, experimental research design provides researchers with a powerful way to identify and measure causal relationships (and the direction of causality) between variables. However, developing a rigorous experimental design can be challenging as it’s not always easy to control all the variables in a study. This often results in smaller sample sizes , which can reduce the statistical power and generalisability of the results.
Moreover, experimental research design requires random assignment . This means that the researcher needs to assign participants to different groups or conditions in a way that each participant has an equal chance of being assigned to any group (note that this is not the same as random sampling ). Doing so helps reduce the potential for bias and confounding variables . This need for random assignment can lead to ethics-related issues . For example, withholding a potentially beneficial medical treatment from a control group may be considered unethical in certain situations.
Quasi-Experimental Research Design
Quasi-experimental research design is used when the research aims involve identifying causal relations , but one cannot (or doesn’t want to) randomly assign participants to different groups (for practical or ethical reasons). Instead, with a quasi-experimental research design, the researcher relies on existing groups or pre-existing conditions to form groups for comparison.
For example, if you were studying the effects of a new teaching method on student achievement in a particular school district, you may be unable to randomly assign students to either group and instead have to choose classes or schools that already use different teaching methods. This way, you still achieve separate groups, without having to assign participants to specific groups yourself.
Naturally, quasi-experimental research designs have limitations when compared to experimental designs. Given that participant assignment is not random, it’s more difficult to confidently establish causality between variables, and, as a researcher, you have less control over other variables that may impact findings.
All that said, quasi-experimental designs can still be valuable in research contexts where random assignment is not possible and can often be undertaken on a much larger scale than experimental research, thus increasing the statistical power of the results. What’s important is that you, as the researcher, understand the limitations of the design and conduct your quasi-experiment as rigorously as possible, paying careful attention to any potential confounding variables .
Research Design: Qualitative Studies
There are many different research design types when it comes to qualitative studies, but here we’ll narrow our focus to explore the “Big 4”. Specifically, we’ll look at phenomenological design, grounded theory design, ethnographic design, and case study design.
Phenomenological Research Design
Phenomenological design involves exploring the meaning of lived experiences and how they are perceived by individuals. This type of research design seeks to understand people’s perspectives , emotions, and behaviours in specific situations. Here, the aim for researchers is to uncover the essence of human experience without making any assumptions or imposing preconceived ideas on their subjects.
For example, you could adopt a phenomenological design to study why cancer survivors have such varied perceptions of their lives after overcoming their disease. This could be achieved by interviewing survivors and then analysing the data using a qualitative analysis method such as thematic analysis to identify commonalities and differences.
Phenomenological research design typically involves in-depth interviews or open-ended questionnaires to collect rich, detailed data about participants’ subjective experiences. This richness is one of the key strengths of phenomenological research design but, naturally, it also has limitations. These include potential biases in data collection and interpretation and the lack of generalisability of findings to broader populations.
Grounded Theory Research Design
Grounded theory (also referred to as “GT”) aims to develop theories by continuously and iteratively analysing and comparing data collected from a relatively large number of participants in a study. It takes an inductive (bottom-up) approach, with a focus on letting the data “speak for itself”, without being influenced by preexisting theories or the researcher’s preconceptions.
As an example, let’s assume your research aims involved understanding how people cope with chronic pain from a specific medical condition, with a view to developing a theory around this. In this case, grounded theory design would allow you to explore this concept thoroughly without preconceptions about what coping mechanisms might exist. You may find that some patients prefer cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) while others prefer to rely on herbal remedies. Based on multiple, iterative rounds of analysis, you could then develop a theory in this regard, derived directly from the data (as opposed to other preexisting theories and models).
Grounded theory typically involves collecting data through interviews or observations and then analysing it to identify patterns and themes that emerge from the data. These emerging ideas are then validated by collecting more data until a saturation point is reached (i.e., no new information can be squeezed from the data). From that base, a theory can then be developed .
As you can see, grounded theory is ideally suited to studies where the research aims involve theory generation , especially in under-researched areas. Keep in mind though that this type of research design can be quite time-intensive , given the need for multiple rounds of data collection and analysis.
Ethnographic Research Design
Ethnographic design involves observing and studying a culture-sharing group of people in their natural setting to gain insight into their behaviours, beliefs, and values. The focus here is on observing participants in their natural environment (as opposed to a controlled environment). This typically involves the researcher spending an extended period of time with the participants in their environment, carefully observing and taking field notes .
All of this is not to say that ethnographic research design relies purely on observation. On the contrary, this design typically also involves in-depth interviews to explore participants’ views, beliefs, etc. However, unobtrusive observation is a core component of the ethnographic approach.
As an example, an ethnographer may study how different communities celebrate traditional festivals or how individuals from different generations interact with technology differently. This may involve a lengthy period of observation, combined with in-depth interviews to further explore specific areas of interest that emerge as a result of the observations that the researcher has made.
As you can probably imagine, ethnographic research design has the ability to provide rich, contextually embedded insights into the socio-cultural dynamics of human behaviour within a natural, uncontrived setting. Naturally, however, it does come with its own set of challenges, including researcher bias (since the researcher can become quite immersed in the group), participant confidentiality and, predictably, ethical complexities . All of these need to be carefully managed if you choose to adopt this type of research design.
Case Study Design
With case study research design, you, as the researcher, investigate a single individual (or a single group of individuals) to gain an in-depth understanding of their experiences, behaviours or outcomes. Unlike other research designs that are aimed at larger sample sizes, case studies offer a deep dive into the specific circumstances surrounding a person, group of people, event or phenomenon, generally within a bounded setting or context .
As an example, a case study design could be used to explore the factors influencing the success of a specific small business. This would involve diving deeply into the organisation to explore and understand what makes it tick – from marketing to HR to finance. In terms of data collection, this could include interviews with staff and management, review of policy documents and financial statements, surveying customers, etc.
While the above example is focused squarely on one organisation, it’s worth noting that case study research designs can have different variation s, including single-case, multiple-case and longitudinal designs. As you can see in the example, a single-case design involves intensely examining a single entity to understand its unique characteristics and complexities. Conversely, in a multiple-case design , multiple cases are compared and contrasted to identify patterns and commonalities. Lastly, in a longitudinal case design , a single case or multiple cases are studied over an extended period of time to understand how factors develop over time.
As you can see, a case study research design is particularly useful where a deep and contextualised understanding of a specific phenomenon or issue is desired. However, this strength is also its weakness. In other words, you can’t generalise the findings from a case study to the broader population. So, keep this in mind if you’re considering going the case study route.
How To Choose A Research Design
Having worked through all of these potential research designs, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed and wondering, “ But how do I decide which research design to use? ”. While we could write an entire post covering that alone, here are a few factors to consider that will help you choose a suitable research design for your study.
Data type: The first determining factor is naturally the type of data you plan to be collecting – i.e., qualitative or quantitative. This may sound obvious, but we have to be clear about this – don’t try to use a quantitative research design on qualitative data (or vice versa)!
Research aim(s) and question(s): As with all methodological decisions, your research aim and research questions will heavily influence your research design. For example, if your research aims involve developing a theory from qualitative data, grounded theory would be a strong option. Similarly, if your research aims involve identifying and measuring relationships between variables, one of the experimental designs would likely be a better option.
Time: It’s essential that you consider any time constraints you have, as this will impact the type of research design you can choose. For example, if you’ve only got a month to complete your project, a lengthy design such as ethnography wouldn’t be a good fit.
Resources: Take into account the resources realistically available to you, as these need to factor into your research design choice. For example, if you require highly specialised lab equipment to execute an experimental design, you need to be sure that you’ll have access to that before you make a decision.
Keep in mind that when it comes to research, it’s important to manage your risks and play as conservatively as possible. If your entire project relies on you achieving a huge sample, having access to niche equipment or holding interviews with very difficult-to-reach participants, you’re creating risks that could kill your project. So, be sure to think through your choices carefully and make sure that you have backup plans for any existential risks. Remember that a relatively simple methodology executed well generally will typically earn better marks than a highly-complex methodology executed poorly.
Recap: Key Takeaways
We’ve covered a lot of ground here. Let’s recap by looking at the key takeaways:
- Research design refers to the overall plan, structure or strategy that guides a research project, from its conception to the final analysis of data.
- Research designs for quantitative studies include descriptive , correlational , experimental and quasi-experimenta l designs.
- Research designs for qualitative studies include phenomenological , grounded theory , ethnographic and case study designs.
- When choosing a research design, you need to consider a variety of factors, including the type of data you’ll be working with, your research aims and questions, your time and the resources available to you.
If you need a helping hand with your research design (or any other aspect of your research), check out our private coaching services .
Psst… there’s more (for free)
This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.
You Might Also Like:
Is there any blog article explaining more on Case study research design? Is there a Case study write-up template? Thank you.
Thanks this was quite valuable to clarify such an important concept.
Thanks for this simplified explanations. it is quite very helpful.
This was really helpful. thanks
Thank you for your explanation. I think case study research design and the use of secondary data in researches needs to be talked about more in your videos and articles because there a lot of case studies research design tailored projects out there.
Please is there any template for a case study research design whose data type is a secondary data on your repository?
This post is very clear, comprehensive and has been very helpful to me. It has cleared the confusion I had in regard to research design and methodology.
This post is helpful, easy to understand, and deconstructs what a research design is. Thanks
how to cite this page
Submit a Comment Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
- Print Friendly
25,000+ students realised their study abroad dream with us. Take the first step today
Here’s your new year gift, one app for all your, study abroad needs, start your journey, track your progress, grow with the community and so much more.
An OTP has been sent to your registered mobile no. Please verify
Thanks for your comment !
Our team will review it before it's shown to our readers.
- Updated on
- Apr 6, 2023
Be it science and technology , art and culture, media studies, geography , mathematics , and other subjects, research has always been the route towards finding the unknown. In the circumstances when Coronavirus shattered the world, a vast amount of research was being carried out to find vaccines for its treatment. In this blog, we will understand what are the various types of research design and their related components.
This Blog Includes:
What is research design, what are the elements of research design , characteristics of research design, quantitative research design, qualitative research design, quantitative vs. qualitative research design, fixed vs. flexible research design, descriptive research design, experimental research design, correlational research design, diagnostic research design, explanatory research design, how to write research design, cohort study, cross-sectional study, longitudinal study, cross-sequential study, types of research design pdf, research design ppt, benefits of research .
By the term ‘ research ‘, we can understand that it’s a collection of data that includes critical information by taking research methodologies into consideration. In other words, it is a compilation of information or data explored by setting a hypothesis and consequently coming up with substantive findings in an organised way. Research can be done on an academic as well as a scientific basis as well. Let’s first understand what a research design actually means.
A Research Design is simply a structural framework of various research methods as well as techniques that are utilised by a researcher.
The research design helps a researcher to pursue their journey into the unknown but with a systematic approach by their side. The way an engineer or architect frames a design for a structure, likewise the researcher picks the design from various approaches in order to check which type of research to be carried out.
Here are the most important elements of a research design-
The essential elements are:
- The method applied for analyzing collected details
- Type of research methodology
- Accurate purpose statement
- Probable objections to research
- Techniques to be implemented for collecting and analyzing research
- Measurement of analysis
- Settings for the research study
Must Read: What does a Research Assistant do?
Get to know about the characteristics of Research Design through the infographic inserted below.
2 Major Types of Research Design
Keeping its dynamics into consideration, the research design is categorised into two different perspectives, i.e. Quantitative Research Design and Qualitative Research Design . Further, there are four main characteristics of research design which include Reliability, Neutrality, Validity as well as Generalization. Further, a researcher should have a clear understanding of how their project can be implemented in the research design. Let’s explore what Quantitative and Qualitative Research Designs mean:
In Quantitative Research Design, a researcher examines the various variables while including numbers as well as statistics in a project to analyze its findings. The use of graphics, figures, and pie charts is the main form of data collection measurement and meta-analysis (it is information about the data by the data).
This type of research is quite contrary to the quantitative research design. It is explanatory in nature and always seeks answers to “What’s” and “How’s”. It mainly focuses on why a specific theory exists and what would be the respondent’s answer to it. This allows a researcher to draw a conclusion with proper findings. Case studies are mainly used in Qualitative Research Design in order to understand various social complexities.
Know All About Business Research !
Following is the difference between Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research Design
A contrast between fixed and flexible research design can also be drawn. Quantitative (fixed design) and qualitative (flexible design) data gathering are frequently associated with these two study design categories. The research design is pre-determined and understood with a set study design even before you begin collecting data. Flexible designs, on the other hand, provide for more flexibility in data collection — for example, you don’t provide fixed answer alternatives, so respondents must put in their own responses.
The 5 Types of Research Designs
Now that we know the broadly classified types of research, Quantitative and Qualitative Research can be divided into the following 4 major types of Research Designs:
These 5 types of Research Designs are considered the closest and exact to true experiments and are preferred in terms of accuracy, relevance as well as quality.
In Descriptive Research Design, the scholar explains/describes the situation or case in depth in their research materials. This type of research design is purely on a theoretical basis where the individual collects data, analyses, prepares and then presents it in an understandable manner. It is the most generalised form of research design. To explore one or more variables, a descriptive design might employ a wide range of research approaches. Unlike in experimental research, the researcher does not control or change any of the variables in a descriptive research design; instead, he or she just observes and measures them. In other words, while qualitative research may also be utilised for descriptive reasons, a descriptive method of research design is typically regarded as a sort of quantitative research. To guarantee that the results are legitimate and dependable, the study design should be properly constructed. Here are some examples of the descriptive design of the research type:
- How has the Delhi housing market changed over the past 20 years?
- Do customers of Company A prefer Product C or Product D?
- What are the main genetic, behavioural and morphological differences between Indian wild cows and hybrid cows?
- How prevalent is disease 1 in population Z?
Experimental research is a type of research design in which the study is carried out utilising a scientific approach and two sets of variables. The first set serves as a constant against which the variations in the second set are measured. Experimentation is used in quantitative research methodologies, for example. If you lack sufficient evidence to back your conclusions, you must first establish the facts. Experimental research collects data to assist you in making better judgments. Experimentation is used in any research undertaken in scientifically appropriate settings. The effectiveness of experimental investigations is dependent on researchers verifying that a variable change is due only to modification of the constant variable. The study should identify a noticeable cause and effect. The traditional definition of experimental design is “the strategies employed to collect data in experimental investigations.” There are three types of experimental designs:
- Pre-experimental research design
- True experimental research design
- Quasi-experimental research design
A correlational research design looks into correlations between variables without allowing the researcher to control or manipulate any of them. Correlational studies reveal the magnitude and/or direction of a link between two (or more) variables. Correlational studies or correlational study designs might have either a positive, negative or zero.
Correlational research design is great for swiftly collecting data from natural settings. This allows you to apply your results to real-world circumstances in an externally legitimate manner. Correlational studies research is a viable choice in a few scenarios like:
- To investigate non-causal relationships
- To explore causal relationships between variables
- To test new measurement tools
Recommended Read: Scope of Operation Research
Diagnostic research design is a type of research design that tries to investigate the underlying cause of a certain condition or phenomenon. It can assist you in learning more about the elements that contribute to certain difficulties or challenges that your clients may be experiencing. This design typically consists of three research stages, which are as follows:
- Inception of the issue
- Diagnosis of the issue
- Solution for the issue
Explanatory research is a method established to explore phenomena that have not before been researched or adequately explained. Its primary goal is to notify us about where we may get a modest bit of information. With this strategy, the researcher obtains a broad notion and uses research as a tool to direct them more quickly to concerns that may be addressed in the future. Its purpose is to discover the why and what of a subject under investigation. In short, it is a type of research design that is responsible for finding the why of the events through the establishment of cause-effect relationships. The most popular methods of explanatory research are:
- Literature research
- In-depth interview
- Focus groups
- Case studies
Let’s learn how to create and write a research design!
Research Design Types by Grouping
Another classification of study design types is based on how participants are categorized. In most situations, grouping is determined by the research premise and the method used to sample individuals. There is generally at least one experimental and one control group in a typical study based on experimental research design. In medical research, for example, one group can be given therapy while the other receives none. You get my drift. We can differentiate four types of study designs based on participant grouping:
A cohort study is a sort of longitudinal research that takes a cross-section of a cohort (a group of people who have a common trait) at predetermined time intervals. It’s a form of panel research in which all of the people in the group have something in common.
In social science, medical research, and biology, a cross-sectional study is prevalent. This study approach examines data from a population or a representative sample of the population at a specific point in time.
A longitudinal study is a type of study in which the same variables are observed repeatedly over a short or long period of time. It’s usually observational research, although it can also take the form of a long-term randomized experiment.
Cross-sequential research design combines longitudinal and cross-sectional research methods, with the goal of compensating for some of the flaws inherent in both.
Since we are dealing with the types of research design, it is imperative to understand how beneficial the practice of doing research is and some of its major advantages are:
- Research helps in getting a deeper understanding of the subject.
- You will learn about its varied aspects as well as its different sources like primary and secondary.
- It helps to resolve complex problems in any field through critical analysis and measurement of unsolved problems.
- You will also get to know how a hypothesis is created by weighing preserved assumptions.
Also Read: How to Make a Career in Research?
Also Read: Research Institutes in India
A: Experimental design is a research design in which the researcher manipulates one or more independent variables and measures the effect on one or more dependent variables.
A: Quasi-experimental design is a research design in which the researcher does not have complete control over the independent variable, and therefore cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship. However, they can still examine the relationship between variables.
A: Correlational design is a research design in which the researcher examines the relationship between two or more variables, without manipulating any of them.
Certainly, research is the fuel that can potentially drive the solutions to redress all the world’s problems. In order to help to gain a deeper understanding of any subject matter, knowing types of research design plays a critical role in carrying out your thesis. If you are aspiring to pursue your career in the field of research and aim to pursue a PhD , call us at 1800572000 for a free 30-minute career counselling session with our Leverage Edu experts and we will help you find a suitable program and university that fit your aspirations, interests and preferences and can guide you towards a fulfilling career in this domain.
Team Leverage Edu
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
Contact no. *
I was able to made very good understanding on research design types
We are really glad to hear that. Do subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates! Thank you.
CLEAR AND HELPFULL 😍
would like more lessons
Thanks you have being of help to me janees
absolutely good notes thanks
I need for thesis work
We have a few blogs on thesis work that may help you further- https://leverageedu.com/blog/phd-thesis/ https://leverageedu.com/blog/dphil/
8 Universities with higher ROI than IITs and IIMs
Grab this one-time opportunity to download this ebook
How would you describe this article ?
Please rate this article
We would like to hear more.
Connect With Us
20,000+ students realised their study abroad dream with us. take the first step today..
Resend OTP in
Need help with?
UK, Canada, US & More
IELTS, GRE, GMAT & More
Scholarship, Loans & Forex
Which English test are you planning to take?
Which academic test are you planning to take.
Not Sure yet
When are you planning to take the exam?
Already booked my exam slot
Within 2 Months
Want to learn about the test
Which Degree do you wish to pursue?
When do you want to start studying abroad.