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Research Design: Meaning, Classification and elements

Research design is defined as a framework of methods and techniques chosen by a researcher to combine various components of research in a reasonably logical manner so that the research problem is efficiently handled. It provides insights about “how” to conduct research using a particular methodology. Every researcher has a list of research questions which need to be assessed – this can be done with research design.

The sketch of how research should be conducted can be prepared using research design. Hence, the market research study will be carried out on the basis of research design.

The design of a research topic is used to explain the type of research (experimental, survey, correlational, semi-experimental, review) and also its sub-type (experimental design, research problem, and descriptive case-study). There are three main sections of research design: Data collection, measurement, and analysis.

The type of research problem an organization is facing will determine the research design and not vice-versa. Variables, designated tools to gather information, how will the tools be used to collect and analyze data and other factors are decided in research design on the basis of a research technique is decided.

An impactful research design usually creates minimum bias in data and increases trust on the collected and analyzed research information. Research design which produces the least margin of error in experimental research can be touted as the best. The essential elements of research design are:

  1. Accurate purpose statement of research design
  2. Techniques to be implemented for collecting details for research
  3. Method applied for analyzing collected details
  4. Type of research methodology
  5. Probable objections for research
  6. Settings for research study
  7. Timeline
  8. Measurement of analysis

Research Design Characteristics

Neutrality: The results projected in research design should be free from bias and neutral. Understand opinions about the final evaluated scores and conclusion from multiple individuals and consider those who agree with the derived results.

Reliability: If a research is conducted on a regular basis, the researcher involved expects similar results to be calculated every time. Research design should indicate how the research questions can be formed to ensure the standard of obtained results and this can happen only when the research design is reliable.

Validity: There are multiple measuring tools available for research design but valid measuring tools are those which help a researcher in gauging results according to the objective of research and nothing else. The questionnaire developed from this research design will be then valid.

Generalization: The outcome of research design should be applicable to a population and not just a restricted sample. Generalization is one of the key characteristics of research design.

Types of Research Design

A researcher must have a clear understanding of the various types of research design to select which type of research design to implement for a study. Research design can be broadly classified into quantitative and qualitative research design.

Qualitative Research Design: Qualitative research is implemented in cases where a relationship between collected data and observation is established on the basis of mathematical calculations. Theories related to a naturally existing phenomenon can be proved or disproved using mathematical calculations. Researchers rely on qualitative research design where they are expected to conclude “why” a particular theory exists along with “what” respondents have to say about it.

Quantitative Research Design: Quantitative research is implemented in cases where it is important for a researcher to have statistical conclusions to collect actionable insights. Numbers provide a better perspective to make important business decisions. Quantitative research design is important for the growth of any organization because any conclusion drawn on the basis of numbers and analysis will only prove to be effective for the business. 

Further, research design can be divided into five types:

  1. Descriptive Research Design: In a descriptive research design, a researcher is solely interested in describing the situation or case under his/her research study. It is a theory-based research design which is created by gather, analyze and presents collected data. By implementing an in-depth research design such as this, a researcher can provide insights into the why and how of research.
  2. Experimental Research Design: Experimental research design is used to establish a relationship between the cause and effect of a situation. It is a causal research design where the effect caused by the independent variable on the dependent variable is observed. For example, the effect of an independent variable such as price on a dependent variable such as customer satisfaction or brand loyalty is monitored. It is a highly practical research design method as it contributes towards solving a problem at hand. The independent variables are manipulated to monitor the change it has on the dependent variable. It is often used in social sciences to observe human behavior by analyzing two groups – affect of one group on the other.
  3. Correlational Research Design: Correlational research is a non-experimental research design technique which helps researchers to establish a relationship between two closely connected variables. Two different groups are required to conduct this research design method. There is no assumption while evaluating a relationship between two different variables and statistical analysis techniques are used to calculate the relationship between them.

Correlation between two variables is concluded using a correlation coefficient, whose value ranges between -1 and +1. If the correlation coefficient is towards +1, it indicates a positive relationship between the variables and -1 indicates a negative relationship between the two variables. 

  1. Diagnostic Research Design: In the diagnostic research design, a researcher is inclined towards evaluating the root cause of a specific topic. Elements that contribute towards a troublesome situation are evaluated in this research design method.

There are three parts of diagnostic research design:

  • Inception of the issue
  • Diagnosis of the issue
  • Solution for the issue
  1. Explanatory Research Design: In exploratory research design, the researcher’s ideas and thoughts are key as it is primarily dependent on their personal inclination about a particular topic. Explanation about unexplored aspects of a subject is provided along with details about what, how and why related to the research questions.

Elements of Research Design

research design can be described as a conceptual structure within which research is going to be carried out. It comprises the blueprint for the collection, measurement and analysis of data. Decisions with regards to what, where, when, how much, by what means concerning an enquiry or a research design are taken.

A research design is the arrangement of conditions for collection and evaluation of data in a fashion which is designed to combine relevance to the research purpose with economy in process.

The key elements of a good research design are as under :

  1. Research Design is a plan which identifies the sources and kinds of information strongly related to the research problem.
  2. It is a strategy indicating which method is going to be employed for collecting and analyzing the data.
  3. Additionally, it consists of the time and cost budgets because most research is done under these two constraints. In a nutshell a research design must contain:
  • A clear statement of the research problem.
  • Methods and techniques to be utilized for gathering information from the population to be researched.
  • Approach to be utilized in processing and analyzing data.

Purpose of the Study

  • Exploratory study: Carried out when not much is known about the problem at hand, or no details are available on how similar problems or research issues have been solved in the past.
  • Descriptive study: Carried out as a way to determine and be able to describe the characteristics of the variables of interest in a situation characteristics of the variables of interest in a situation.
  • Studies which engage in hypotheses testing generally explain the nature of certain relationships, or establish the differences among groups or the independence of two or more factors in a situation.

Type of Investigation

  • Causality Research Design: A causal study is an inquiry to understand the cause of one or more problems.
  • A correlational study: Is an inquiry to find out the key variables linked to the problem.

A causal study question:
Does cigarette smoking cause cancer?
A correlational study question:
Are cigarette smoking and cancer associated?
Or
Are cigarette smoking, consuming alcohol, and chewing tobacco related to cancer?
If so, which of these contributes most to the variance in the dependent variable?

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Figure: Main Elements of Research Design

Researcher Interference

The extent of interference by the researcher with the normal flow of work at the workplace has a direct effect on whether the study performed is causal or correlational. A correlational study is carried out in the natural environment of the corporation with minimal interference by the researcher with the normal flow of work.

In studies carried out to determine cause-and-effect relationships, the investigator attempts to adjust specific variables in order to study the outcomes of such manipulation on the dependent variable of interest. Put simply, the researcher intentionally changes certain variables in the setting and disrupts the events as they normally happen in the business.

Study Setting

Correlational research is carried out in noncontrived settings (normal settings), as opposed to most causal studies are carried out in contrived settings.

Unit of Analysis

The unit of analysis means the degree of aggregation of the data gathered through the subsequent data analysis.

  • Individual
  • Dyads
  • Groups
  • Organizations
  • Cultures

Time Horizon

Cross-Sectional Studies: A study can be carried out in which data are collected only once, perhaps during a period of days or weeks or months, to be able to answer a research question.

Longitudinal Studies: Researching people or phenomena at several point in time to be able to answer the research question. Due to the fact that data are collected at two different points in time, the study is not cross-sectional kind, but is carried longitudinally across a period of time. Longitudinal studies take a longer period and energy and cost a lot more than cross-sectional studies. Having said that, well-planned longitudinal studies can help you to recognize cause-and-effect relationships.

For example, you can study the product sales before and after an advertising campaign, and provided other environmental changes haven’t influenced on the results, you can attribute the increase in the sales volume, if any, to the advertisement.

good research design must contain: a clear statement, Methods and techniques for data collection, processing and analyzing data.




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