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Research Design 101

Everything You Need To Get Started (With Examples)

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewers: Eunice Rautenbach (DTech) & Kerryn Warren (PhD) | April 2023

Research design for qualitative and quantitative studies

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.

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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…

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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 .

The four most common quantitative research design types are descriptive, correlational, experimental and quasi-experimental.

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.

project design in research example

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.

Case study design often involves investigating an individual to gain an in-depth understanding of their experiences, behaviours or outcomes.

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.

project design in research example

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 .

project design in research example

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This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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Is there any blog article explaining more on Case study research design? Is there a Case study write-up template? Thank you.

Solly Khan

Thanks this was quite valuable to clarify such an important concept.

hetty

Thanks for this simplified explanations. it is quite very helpful.

Belz

This was really helpful. thanks

Imur

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?

Sam Msongole

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.

Robyn Pritchard

This post is helpful, easy to understand, and deconstructs what a research design is. Thanks

kelebogile

how to cite this page

Peter

Thank you very much for the post. It is wonderful and has cleared many worries in my mind regarding research designs. I really appreciate .

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Research Design | Step-by-Step Guide with Examples

Published on 5 May 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 20 March 2023.

A research design is a strategy for answering your research question  using empirical data. Creating a research design means making decisions about:

  • Your overall aims and approach
  • The type of research design you’ll use
  • 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 aims 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, frequently asked questions.

  • Introduction

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.

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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, while 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 analysing 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, organisations, 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 generalise 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 generalise 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.

Survey methods

Surveys allow you to collect data about opinions, behaviours, experiences, and characteristics by asking people directly. There are two main survey methods to choose from: questionnaires and interviews.

Observation methods

Observations allow you to collect data unobtrusively, observing characteristics, behaviours, 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 data collection methods they used.

Secondary data

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.

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 reliable and valid.

Operationalisation

Some variables, like height or age, are easily measured. But often you’ll be dealing with more abstract concepts, like satisfaction, anxiety, or competence. Operationalisation 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.

Sampling procedures

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 bias and ensure a representative sample?

Data management

It’s also important to create a data management plan for organising and storing your data.

Will you need to transcribe interviews or perform data entry for observations? You should anonymise and safeguard any sensitive data, and make sure it’s backed up regularly.

Keeping your data well organised will save time when it comes to analysing them. It can also help other researchers validate and add to your findings.

On their own, raw data can’t answer your research question. The last step of designing your research is planning how you’ll analyse the data.

Quantitative data analysis

In quantitative research, you’ll most likely use some form of statistical analysis . With statistics, you can summarise your sample data, make estimates, and test hypotheses.

Using descriptive statistics , you can summarise 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 analysing 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.

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.

Statistical sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population. There are various sampling methods you can use to ensure that your sample is representative of the population as a whole.

Operationalisation 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, behavioural avoidance of crowded places, or physical anxiety symptoms in social situations.

Before collecting data , it’s important to consider how you will operationalise the variables that you want to measure.

The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question .

  • If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis , use quantitative methods . If you want to explore ideas, thoughts, and meanings, use qualitative methods .
  • If you want to analyse a large amount of readily available data, use secondary data. If you want data specific to your purposes with control over how they are generated, collect primary data.
  • If you want to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables , use experimental methods. If you want to understand the characteristics of a research subject, use descriptive methods.

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How to Write a Research Design – Guide with Examples

Published by Alaxendra Bets at August 14th, 2021 , Revised On October 3, 2023

A research design is a structure that combines different components of research. It involves the use of different data collection and data analysis techniques logically to answer the  research questions .

It would be best to make some decisions about addressing the research questions adequately before starting the research process, which is achieved with the help of the research design.

Below are the key aspects of the decision-making process:

  • Data type required for research
  • Research resources
  • Participants required for research
  • Hypothesis based upon research question(s)
  • Data analysis  methodologies
  • Variables (Independent, dependent, and confounding)
  • The location and timescale for conducting the data
  • The time period required for research

The research design provides the strategy of investigation for your project. Furthermore, it defines the parameters and criteria to compile the data to evaluate results and conclude.

Your project’s validity depends on the data collection and  interpretation techniques.  A strong research design reflects a strong  dissertation , scientific paper, or research proposal .

Steps of research design

Step 1: Establish Priorities for Research Design

Before conducting any research study, you must address an important question: “how to create a research design.”

The research design depends on the researcher’s priorities and choices because every research has different priorities. For a complex research study involving multiple methods, you may choose to have more than one research design.

Multimethodology or multimethod research includes using more than one data collection method or research in a research study or set of related studies.

If one research design is weak in one area, then another research design can cover that weakness. For instance, a  dissertation analyzing different situations or cases will have more than one research design.

For example:

  • Experimental research involves experimental investigation and laboratory experience, but it does not accurately investigate the real world.
  • Quantitative research is good for the  statistical part of the project, but it may not provide an in-depth understanding of the  topic .
  • Also, correlational research will not provide experimental results because it is a technique that assesses the statistical relationship between two variables.

While scientific considerations are a fundamental aspect of the research design, It is equally important that the researcher think practically before deciding on its structure. Here are some questions that you should think of;

  • Do you have enough time to gather data and complete the write-up?
  • Will you be able to collect the necessary data by interviewing a specific person or visiting a specific location?
  • Do you have in-depth knowledge about the  different statistical analysis and data collection techniques to address the research questions  or test the  hypothesis ?

If you think that the chosen research design cannot answer the research questions properly, you can refine your research questions to gain better insight.

Step 2: Data Type you Need for Research

Decide on the type of data you need for your research. The type of data you need to collect depends on your research questions or research hypothesis. Two types of research data can be used to answer the research questions:

Primary Data Vs. Secondary Data

Qualitative vs. quantitative data.

Also, see; Research methods, design, and analysis .

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Step 3: Data Collection Techniques

Once you have selected the type of research to answer your research question, you need to decide where and how to collect the data.

It is time to determine your research method to address the  research problem . Research methods involve procedures, techniques, materials, and tools used for the study.

For instance, a dissertation research design includes the different resources and data collection techniques and helps establish your  dissertation’s structure .

The following table shows the characteristics of the most popularly employed research methods.

Research Methods

Step 4: Procedure of Data Analysis

Use of the  correct data and statistical analysis technique is necessary for the validity of your research. Therefore, you need to be certain about the data type that would best address the research problem. Choosing an appropriate analysis method is the final step for the research design. It can be split into two main categories;

Quantitative Data Analysis

The quantitative data analysis technique involves analyzing the numerical data with the help of different applications such as; SPSS, STATA, Excel, origin lab, etc.

This data analysis strategy tests different variables such as spectrum, frequencies, averages, and more. The research question and the hypothesis must be established to identify the variables for testing.

Qualitative Data Analysis

Qualitative data analysis of figures, themes, and words allows for flexibility and the researcher’s subjective opinions. This means that the researcher’s primary focus will be interpreting patterns, tendencies, and accounts and understanding the implications and social framework.

You should be clear about your research objectives before starting to analyze the data. For example, you should ask yourself whether you need to explain respondents’ experiences and insights or do you also need to evaluate their responses with reference to a certain social framework.

Step 5: Write your Research Proposal

The research design is an important component of a research proposal because it plans the project’s execution. You can share it with the supervisor, who would evaluate the feasibility and capacity of the results  and  conclusion .

Read our guidelines to write a research proposal  if you have already formulated your research design. The research proposal is written in the future tense because you are writing your proposal before conducting research.

The  research methodology  or research design, on the other hand, is generally written in the past tense.

How to Write a Research Design – Conclusion

A research design is the plan, structure, strategy of investigation conceived to answer the research question and test the hypothesis. The dissertation research design can be classified based on the type of data and the type of analysis.

Above mentioned five steps are the answer to how to write a research design. So, follow these steps to  formulate the perfect research design for your dissertation .

ResearchProspect writers have years of experience creating research designs that align with the dissertation’s aim and objectives. If you are struggling with your dissertation methodology chapter, you might want to look at our dissertation part-writing service.

Our dissertation writers can also help you with the full dissertation paper . No matter how urgent or complex your need may be, ResearchProspect can help. We also offer PhD level research paper writing services.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is research design.

Research design is a systematic plan that guides the research process, outlining the methodology and procedures for collecting and analysing data. It determines the structure of the study, ensuring the research question is answered effectively, reliably, and validly. It serves as the blueprint for the entire research project.

How to write a research design?

To write a research design, define your research question, identify the research method (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed), choose data collection techniques (e.g., surveys, interviews), determine the sample size and sampling method, outline data analysis procedures, and highlight potential limitations and ethical considerations for the study.

How to write the design section of a research paper?

In the design section of a research paper, describe the research methodology chosen and justify its selection. Outline the data collection methods, participants or samples, instruments used, and procedures followed. Detail any experimental controls, if applicable. Ensure clarity and precision to enable replication of the study by other researchers.

How to write a research design in methodology?

To write a research design in methodology, clearly outline the research strategy (e.g., experimental, survey, case study). Describe the sampling technique, participants, and data collection methods. Detail the procedures for data collection and analysis. Justify choices by linking them to research objectives, addressing reliability and validity.

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Research Design – Types, Methods and Examples

Table of Contents

Research Design

Research Design

Definition:

Research design refers to the overall strategy or plan for conducting a research study. It outlines the methods and procedures that will be used to collect and analyze data, as well as the goals and objectives of the study. Research design is important because it guides the entire research process and ensures that the study is conducted in a systematic and rigorous manner.

Types of Research Design

Types of Research Design are as follows:

Descriptive Research Design

This type of research design is used to describe a phenomenon or situation. It involves collecting data through surveys, questionnaires, interviews, and observations. The aim of descriptive research is to provide an accurate and detailed portrayal of a particular group, event, or situation. It can be useful in identifying patterns, trends, and relationships in the data.

Correlational Research Design

Correlational research design is used to determine if there is a relationship between two or more variables. This type of research design involves collecting data from participants and analyzing the relationship between the variables using statistical methods. The aim of correlational research is to identify the strength and direction of the relationship between the variables.

Experimental Research Design

Experimental research design is used to investigate cause-and-effect relationships between variables. This type of research design involves manipulating one variable and measuring the effect on another variable. It usually involves randomly assigning participants to groups and manipulating an independent variable to determine its effect on a dependent variable. The aim of experimental research is to establish causality.

Quasi-experimental Research Design

Quasi-experimental research design is similar to experimental research design, but it lacks one or more of the features of a true experiment. For example, there may not be random assignment to groups or a control group. This type of research design is used when it is not feasible or ethical to conduct a true experiment.

Case Study Research Design

Case study research design is used to investigate a single case or a small number of cases in depth. It involves collecting data through various methods, such as interviews, observations, and document analysis. The aim of case study research is to provide an in-depth understanding of a particular case or situation.

Longitudinal Research Design

Longitudinal research design is used to study changes in a particular phenomenon over time. It involves collecting data at multiple time points and analyzing the changes that occur. The aim of longitudinal research is to provide insights into the development, growth, or decline of a particular phenomenon over time.

Structure of Research Design

The format of a research design typically includes the following sections:

  • Introduction : This section provides an overview of the research problem, the research questions, and the importance of the study. It also includes a brief literature review that summarizes previous research on the topic and identifies gaps in the existing knowledge.
  • Research Questions or Hypotheses: This section identifies the specific research questions or hypotheses that the study will address. These questions should be clear, specific, and testable.
  • Research Methods : This section describes the methods that will be used to collect and analyze data. It includes details about the study design, the sampling strategy, the data collection instruments, and the data analysis techniques.
  • Data Collection: This section describes how the data will be collected, including the sample size, data collection procedures, and any ethical considerations.
  • Data Analysis: This section describes how the data will be analyzed, including the statistical techniques that will be used to test the research questions or hypotheses.
  • Results : This section presents the findings of the study, including descriptive statistics and statistical tests.
  • Discussion and Conclusion : This section summarizes the key findings of the study, interprets the results, and discusses the implications of the findings. It also includes recommendations for future research.
  • References : This section lists the sources cited in the research design.

Example of Research Design

An Example of Research Design could be:

Research question: Does the use of social media affect the academic performance of high school students?

Research design:

  • Research approach : The research approach will be quantitative as it involves collecting numerical data to test the hypothesis.
  • Research design : The research design will be a quasi-experimental design, with a pretest-posttest control group design.
  • Sample : The sample will be 200 high school students from two schools, with 100 students in the experimental group and 100 students in the control group.
  • Data collection : The data will be collected through surveys administered to the students at the beginning and end of the academic year. The surveys will include questions about their social media usage and academic performance.
  • Data analysis : The data collected will be analyzed using statistical software. The mean scores of the experimental and control groups will be compared to determine whether there is a significant difference in academic performance between the two groups.
  • Limitations : The limitations of the study will be acknowledged, including the fact that social media usage can vary greatly among individuals, and the study only focuses on two schools, which may not be representative of the entire population.
  • Ethical considerations: Ethical considerations will be taken into account, such as obtaining informed consent from the participants and ensuring their anonymity and confidentiality.

How to Write Research Design

Writing a research design involves planning and outlining the methodology and approach that will be used to answer a research question or hypothesis. Here are some steps to help you write a research design:

  • Define the research question or hypothesis : Before beginning your research design, you should clearly define your research question or hypothesis. This will guide your research design and help you select appropriate methods.
  • Select a research design: There are many different research designs to choose from, including experimental, survey, case study, and qualitative designs. Choose a design that best fits your research question and objectives.
  • Develop a sampling plan : If your research involves collecting data from a sample, you will need to develop a sampling plan. This should outline how you will select participants and how many participants you will include.
  • Define variables: Clearly define the variables you will be measuring or manipulating in your study. This will help ensure that your results are meaningful and relevant to your research question.
  • Choose data collection methods : Decide on the data collection methods you will use to gather information. This may include surveys, interviews, observations, experiments, or secondary data sources.
  • Create a data analysis plan: Develop a plan for analyzing your data, including the statistical or qualitative techniques you will use.
  • Consider ethical concerns : Finally, be sure to consider any ethical concerns related to your research, such as participant confidentiality or potential harm.

When to Write Research Design

Research design should be written before conducting any research study. It is an important planning phase that outlines the research methodology, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques that will be used to investigate a research question or problem. The research design helps to ensure that the research is conducted in a systematic and logical manner, and that the data collected is relevant and reliable.

Ideally, the research design should be developed as early as possible in the research process, before any data is collected. This allows the researcher to carefully consider the research question, identify the most appropriate research methodology, and plan the data collection and analysis procedures in advance. By doing so, the research can be conducted in a more efficient and effective manner, and the results are more likely to be valid and reliable.

Purpose of Research Design

The purpose of research design is to plan and structure a research study in a way that enables the researcher to achieve the desired research goals with accuracy, validity, and reliability. Research design is the blueprint or the framework for conducting a study that outlines the methods, procedures, techniques, and tools for data collection and analysis.

Some of the key purposes of research design include:

  • Providing a clear and concise plan of action for the research study.
  • Ensuring that the research is conducted ethically and with rigor.
  • Maximizing the accuracy and reliability of the research findings.
  • Minimizing the possibility of errors, biases, or confounding variables.
  • Ensuring that the research is feasible, practical, and cost-effective.
  • Determining the appropriate research methodology to answer the research question(s).
  • Identifying the sample size, sampling method, and data collection techniques.
  • Determining the data analysis method and statistical tests to be used.
  • Facilitating the replication of the study by other researchers.
  • Enhancing the validity and generalizability of the research findings.

Applications of Research Design

There are numerous applications of research design in various fields, some of which are:

  • Social sciences: In fields such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology, research design is used to investigate human behavior and social phenomena. Researchers use various research designs, such as experimental, quasi-experimental, and correlational designs, to study different aspects of social behavior.
  • Education : Research design is essential in the field of education to investigate the effectiveness of different teaching methods and learning strategies. Researchers use various designs such as experimental, quasi-experimental, and case study designs to understand how students learn and how to improve teaching practices.
  • Health sciences : In the health sciences, research design is used to investigate the causes, prevention, and treatment of diseases. Researchers use various designs, such as randomized controlled trials, cohort studies, and case-control studies, to study different aspects of health and healthcare.
  • Business : Research design is used in the field of business to investigate consumer behavior, marketing strategies, and the impact of different business practices. Researchers use various designs, such as survey research, experimental research, and case studies, to study different aspects of the business world.
  • Engineering : In the field of engineering, research design is used to investigate the development and implementation of new technologies. Researchers use various designs, such as experimental research and case studies, to study the effectiveness of new technologies and to identify areas for improvement.

Advantages of Research Design

Here are some advantages of research design:

  • Systematic and organized approach : A well-designed research plan ensures that the research is conducted in a systematic and organized manner, which makes it easier to manage and analyze the data.
  • Clear objectives: The research design helps to clarify the objectives of the study, which makes it easier to identify the variables that need to be measured, and the methods that need to be used to collect and analyze data.
  • Minimizes bias: A well-designed research plan minimizes the chances of bias, by ensuring that the data is collected and analyzed objectively, and that the results are not influenced by the researcher’s personal biases or preferences.
  • Efficient use of resources: A well-designed research plan helps to ensure that the resources (time, money, and personnel) are used efficiently and effectively, by focusing on the most important variables and methods.
  • Replicability: A well-designed research plan makes it easier for other researchers to replicate the study, which enhances the credibility and reliability of the findings.
  • Validity: A well-designed research plan helps to ensure that the findings are valid, by ensuring that the methods used to collect and analyze data are appropriate for the research question.
  • Generalizability : A well-designed research plan helps to ensure that the findings can be generalized to other populations, settings, or situations, which increases the external validity of the study.

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Design of Research Projects

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This chapter takes its starting point in the definition of research designs that I presented in the introduction: A research design is a plan for how to carry out a research project. This plan or structure has two parts. One is the purpose of the project, in other words what knowledge we want to develop about what. I distinguish between different purposes that can govern the research interest in a research project: Theory testing, theory development, theoretical interpretation, and lastly an intervention orientation. The other element in the design has to do with how we construct data to answer our questions. Here I distinguish between variable-centred and case-centred strategies as two main forms of data construction and show how they lead to different approaches in the production and analysis of data. Used for different research purposes, these two basic strategies for data construction constitute a number of design variants discussed in the next two chapters about variable-centred designs and case designs. We can also combine the main strategies for design in various ways. Depending on the purpose, such combinations are the basis of integrated designs, comparative designs, and intervention-oriented designs, all of which are introduced in the following chapters.

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This totality of perspective on and techniques of data production is sometimes called a research methodology. This concept is used to distinguish between a complete methodology for data construction, and the technical questions belonging to the method (Gobo, 2008 ). I prefer the concept of strategy for the simple reason that it is more easily kept apart from the concept of method, and because a common use of the strategy concept is to regard strategy as an approach to realise a given goal.

Altogether, Gobo categorises six types of cognitive modes: the listening, the inquiring, the observing, the reading, the operative, and the reflective modes. He relates them to six corresponding methodologies: the discursive, the survey, the ethnographic, the documenting, the transformative, and the speculative methodologies. Except for the survey methodology, he believes that the methodologies can be used for structured as well as unstructured data. However, his philosophy is complicated and it is not easy to identify specific research designs outside his special area, which is ethnography. For instance, it is not easy to understand that the listening, inquiring, and reading ways of assessing data should lead to different methodological choices on a more fundamental level. In practice, Gobo’s detailed classifications reduce methodology to an approach for data collection.

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5 Research design

Research design is a comprehensive plan for data collection in an empirical research project. It is a ‘blueprint’ for empirical research aimed at answering specific research questions or testing specific hypotheses, and must specify at least three processes: the data collection process, the instrument development process, and the sampling process. The instrument development and sampling processes are described in the next two chapters, and the data collection process—which is often loosely called ‘research design’—is introduced in this chapter and is described in further detail in Chapters 9–12.

Broadly speaking, data collection methods can be grouped into two categories: positivist and interpretive. Positivist methods , such as laboratory experiments and survey research, are aimed at theory (or hypotheses) testing, while interpretive methods, such as action research and ethnography, are aimed at theory building. Positivist methods employ a deductive approach to research, starting with a theory and testing theoretical postulates using empirical data. In contrast, interpretive methods employ an inductive approach that starts with data and tries to derive a theory about the phenomenon of interest from the observed data. Often times, these methods are incorrectly equated with quantitative and qualitative research. Quantitative and qualitative methods refers to the type of data being collected—quantitative data involve numeric scores, metrics, and so on, while qualitative data includes interviews, observations, and so forth—and analysed (i.e., using quantitative techniques such as regression or qualitative techniques such as coding). Positivist research uses predominantly quantitative data, but can also use qualitative data. Interpretive research relies heavily on qualitative data, but can sometimes benefit from including quantitative data as well. Sometimes, joint use of qualitative and quantitative data may help generate unique insight into a complex social phenomenon that is not available from either type of data alone, and hence, mixed-mode designs that combine qualitative and quantitative data are often highly desirable.

Key attributes of a research design

The quality of research designs can be defined in terms of four key design attributes: internal validity, external validity, construct validity, and statistical conclusion validity.

Internal validity , also called causality, examines whether the observed change in a dependent variable is indeed caused by a corresponding change in a hypothesised independent variable, and not by variables extraneous to the research context. Causality requires three conditions: covariation of cause and effect (i.e., if cause happens, then effect also happens; if cause does not happen, effect does not happen), temporal precedence (cause must precede effect in time), and spurious correlation, or there is no plausible alternative explanation for the change. Certain research designs, such as laboratory experiments, are strong in internal validity by virtue of their ability to manipulate the independent variable (cause) via a treatment and observe the effect (dependent variable) of that treatment after a certain point in time, while controlling for the effects of extraneous variables. Other designs, such as field surveys, are poor in internal validity because of their inability to manipulate the independent variable (cause), and because cause and effect are measured at the same point in time which defeats temporal precedence making it equally likely that the expected effect might have influenced the expected cause rather than the reverse. Although higher in internal validity compared to other methods, laboratory experiments are by no means immune to threats of internal validity, and are susceptible to history, testing, instrumentation, regression, and other threats that are discussed later in the chapter on experimental designs. Nonetheless, different research designs vary considerably in their respective level of internal validity.

External validity or generalisability refers to whether the observed associations can be generalised from the sample to the population (population validity), or to other people, organisations, contexts, or time (ecological validity). For instance, can results drawn from a sample of financial firms in the United States be generalised to the population of financial firms (population validity) or to other firms within the United States (ecological validity)? Survey research, where data is sourced from a wide variety of individuals, firms, or other units of analysis, tends to have broader generalisability than laboratory experiments where treatments and extraneous variables are more controlled. The variation in internal and external validity for a wide range of research designs is shown in Figure 5.1.

Internal and external validity

Some researchers claim that there is a trade-off between internal and external validity—higher external validity can come only at the cost of internal validity and vice versa. But this is not always the case. Research designs such as field experiments, longitudinal field surveys, and multiple case studies have higher degrees of both internal and external validities. Personally, I prefer research designs that have reasonable degrees of both internal and external validities, i.e., those that fall within the cone of validity shown in Figure 5.1. But this should not suggest that designs outside this cone are any less useful or valuable. Researchers’ choice of designs are ultimately a matter of their personal preference and competence, and the level of internal and external validity they desire.

Construct validity examines how well a given measurement scale is measuring the theoretical construct that it is expected to measure. Many constructs used in social science research such as empathy, resistance to change, and organisational learning are difficult to define, much less measure. For instance, construct validity must ensure that a measure of empathy is indeed measuring empathy and not compassion, which may be difficult since these constructs are somewhat similar in meaning. Construct validity is assessed in positivist research based on correlational or factor analysis of pilot test data, as described in the next chapter.

Statistical conclusion validity examines the extent to which conclusions derived using a statistical procedure are valid. For example, it examines whether the right statistical method was used for hypotheses testing, whether the variables used meet the assumptions of that statistical test (such as sample size or distributional requirements), and so forth. Because interpretive research designs do not employ statistical tests, statistical conclusion validity is not applicable for such analysis. The different kinds of validity and where they exist at the theoretical/empirical levels are illustrated in Figure 5.2.

Different types of validity in scientific research

Improving internal and external validity

The best research designs are those that can ensure high levels of internal and external validity. Such designs would guard against spurious correlations, inspire greater faith in the hypotheses testing, and ensure that the results drawn from a small sample are generalisable to the population at large. Controls are required to ensure internal validity (causality) of research designs, and can be accomplished in five ways: manipulation, elimination, inclusion, and statistical control, and randomisation.

In manipulation , the researcher manipulates the independent variables in one or more levels (called ‘treatments’), and compares the effects of the treatments against a control group where subjects do not receive the treatment. Treatments may include a new drug or different dosage of drug (for treating a medical condition), a teaching style (for students), and so forth. This type of control is achieved in experimental or quasi-experimental designs, but not in non-experimental designs such as surveys. Note that if subjects cannot distinguish adequately between different levels of treatment manipulations, their responses across treatments may not be different, and manipulation would fail.

The elimination technique relies on eliminating extraneous variables by holding them constant across treatments, such as by restricting the study to a single gender or a single socioeconomic status. In the inclusion technique, the role of extraneous variables is considered by including them in the research design and separately estimating their effects on the dependent variable, such as via factorial designs where one factor is gender (male versus female). Such technique allows for greater generalisability, but also requires substantially larger samples. In statistical control , extraneous variables are measured and used as covariates during the statistical testing process.

Finally, the randomisation technique is aimed at cancelling out the effects of extraneous variables through a process of random sampling, if it can be assured that these effects are of a random (non-systematic) nature. Two types of randomisation are: random selection , where a sample is selected randomly from a population, and random assignment , where subjects selected in a non-random manner are randomly assigned to treatment groups.

Randomisation also ensures external validity, allowing inferences drawn from the sample to be generalised to the population from which the sample is drawn. Note that random assignment is mandatory when random selection is not possible because of resource or access constraints. However, generalisability across populations is harder to ascertain since populations may differ on multiple dimensions and you can only control for a few of those dimensions.

Popular research designs

As noted earlier, research designs can be classified into two categories—positivist and interpretive—depending on the goal of the research. Positivist designs are meant for theory testing, while interpretive designs are meant for theory building. Positivist designs seek generalised patterns based on an objective view of reality, while interpretive designs seek subjective interpretations of social phenomena from the perspectives of the subjects involved. Some popular examples of positivist designs include laboratory experiments, field experiments, field surveys, secondary data analysis, and case research, while examples of interpretive designs include case research, phenomenology, and ethnography. Note that case research can be used for theory building or theory testing, though not at the same time. Not all techniques are suited for all kinds of scientific research. Some techniques such as focus groups are best suited for exploratory research, others such as ethnography are best for descriptive research, and still others such as laboratory experiments are ideal for explanatory research. Following are brief descriptions of some of these designs. Additional details are provided in Chapters 9–12.

Experimental studies are those that are intended to test cause-effect relationships (hypotheses) in a tightly controlled setting by separating the cause from the effect in time, administering the cause to one group of subjects (the ‘treatment group’) but not to another group (‘control group’), and observing how the mean effects vary between subjects in these two groups. For instance, if we design a laboratory experiment to test the efficacy of a new drug in treating a certain ailment, we can get a random sample of people afflicted with that ailment, randomly assign them to one of two groups (treatment and control groups), administer the drug to subjects in the treatment group, but only give a placebo (e.g., a sugar pill with no medicinal value) to subjects in the control group. More complex designs may include multiple treatment groups, such as low versus high dosage of the drug or combining drug administration with dietary interventions. In a true experimental design , subjects must be randomly assigned to each group. If random assignment is not followed, then the design becomes quasi-experimental . Experiments can be conducted in an artificial or laboratory setting such as at a university (laboratory experiments) or in field settings such as in an organisation where the phenomenon of interest is actually occurring (field experiments). Laboratory experiments allow the researcher to isolate the variables of interest and control for extraneous variables, which may not be possible in field experiments. Hence, inferences drawn from laboratory experiments tend to be stronger in internal validity, but those from field experiments tend to be stronger in external validity. Experimental data is analysed using quantitative statistical techniques. The primary strength of the experimental design is its strong internal validity due to its ability to isolate, control, and intensively examine a small number of variables, while its primary weakness is limited external generalisability since real life is often more complex (i.e., involving more extraneous variables) than contrived lab settings. Furthermore, if the research does not identify ex ante relevant extraneous variables and control for such variables, such lack of controls may hurt internal validity and may lead to spurious correlations.

Field surveys are non-experimental designs that do not control for or manipulate independent variables or treatments, but measure these variables and test their effects using statistical methods. Field surveys capture snapshots of practices, beliefs, or situations from a random sample of subjects in field settings through a survey questionnaire or less frequently, through a structured interview. In cross-sectional field surveys , independent and dependent variables are measured at the same point in time (e.g., using a single questionnaire), while in longitudinal field surveys , dependent variables are measured at a later point in time than the independent variables. The strengths of field surveys are their external validity (since data is collected in field settings), their ability to capture and control for a large number of variables, and their ability to study a problem from multiple perspectives or using multiple theories. However, because of their non-temporal nature, internal validity (cause-effect relationships) are difficult to infer, and surveys may be subject to respondent biases (e.g., subjects may provide a ‘socially desirable’ response rather than their true response) which further hurts internal validity.

Secondary data analysis is an analysis of data that has previously been collected and tabulated by other sources. Such data may include data from government agencies such as employment statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Services or development statistics by countries from the United Nations Development Program, data collected by other researchers (often used in meta-analytic studies), or publicly available third-party data, such as financial data from stock markets or real-time auction data from eBay. This is in contrast to most other research designs where collecting primary data for research is part of the researcher’s job. Secondary data analysis may be an effective means of research where primary data collection is too costly or infeasible, and secondary data is available at a level of analysis suitable for answering the researcher’s questions. The limitations of this design are that the data might not have been collected in a systematic or scientific manner and hence unsuitable for scientific research, since the data was collected for a presumably different purpose, they may not adequately address the research questions of interest to the researcher, and interval validity is problematic if the temporal precedence between cause and effect is unclear.

Case research is an in-depth investigation of a problem in one or more real-life settings (case sites) over an extended period of time. Data may be collected using a combination of interviews, personal observations, and internal or external documents. Case studies can be positivist in nature (for hypotheses testing) or interpretive (for theory building). The strength of this research method is its ability to discover a wide variety of social, cultural, and political factors potentially related to the phenomenon of interest that may not be known in advance. Analysis tends to be qualitative in nature, but heavily contextualised and nuanced. However, interpretation of findings may depend on the observational and integrative ability of the researcher, lack of control may make it difficult to establish causality, and findings from a single case site may not be readily generalised to other case sites. Generalisability can be improved by replicating and comparing the analysis in other case sites in a multiple case design .

Focus group research is a type of research that involves bringing in a small group of subjects (typically six to ten people) at one location, and having them discuss a phenomenon of interest for a period of one and a half to two hours. The discussion is moderated and led by a trained facilitator, who sets the agenda and poses an initial set of questions for participants, makes sure that the ideas and experiences of all participants are represented, and attempts to build a holistic understanding of the problem situation based on participants’ comments and experiences. Internal validity cannot be established due to lack of controls and the findings may not be generalised to other settings because of the small sample size. Hence, focus groups are not generally used for explanatory or descriptive research, but are more suited for exploratory research.

Action research assumes that complex social phenomena are best understood by introducing interventions or ‘actions’ into those phenomena and observing the effects of those actions. In this method, the researcher is embedded within a social context such as an organisation and initiates an action—such as new organisational procedures or new technologies—in response to a real problem such as declining profitability or operational bottlenecks. The researcher’s choice of actions must be based on theory, which should explain why and how such actions may cause the desired change. The researcher then observes the results of that action, modifying it as necessary, while simultaneously learning from the action and generating theoretical insights about the target problem and interventions. The initial theory is validated by the extent to which the chosen action successfully solves the target problem. Simultaneous problem solving and insight generation is the central feature that distinguishes action research from all other research methods, and hence, action research is an excellent method for bridging research and practice. This method is also suited for studying unique social problems that cannot be replicated outside that context, but it is also subject to researcher bias and subjectivity, and the generalisability of findings is often restricted to the context where the study was conducted.

Ethnography is an interpretive research design inspired by anthropology that emphasises that research phenomenon must be studied within the context of its culture. The researcher is deeply immersed in a certain culture over an extended period of time—eight months to two years—and during that period, engages, observes, and records the daily life of the studied culture, and theorises about the evolution and behaviours in that culture. Data is collected primarily via observational techniques, formal and informal interaction with participants in that culture, and personal field notes, while data analysis involves ‘sense-making’. The researcher must narrate her experience in great detail so that readers may experience that same culture without necessarily being there. The advantages of this approach are its sensitiveness to the context, the rich and nuanced understanding it generates, and minimal respondent bias. However, this is also an extremely time and resource-intensive approach, and findings are specific to a given culture and less generalisable to other cultures.

Selecting research designs

Given the above multitude of research designs, which design should researchers choose for their research? Generally speaking, researchers tend to select those research designs that they are most comfortable with and feel most competent to handle, but ideally, the choice should depend on the nature of the research phenomenon being studied. In the preliminary phases of research, when the research problem is unclear and the researcher wants to scope out the nature and extent of a certain research problem, a focus group (for an individual unit of analysis) or a case study (for an organisational unit of analysis) is an ideal strategy for exploratory research. As one delves further into the research domain, but finds that there are no good theories to explain the phenomenon of interest and wants to build a theory to fill in the unmet gap in that area, interpretive designs such as case research or ethnography may be useful designs. If competing theories exist and the researcher wishes to test these different theories or integrate them into a larger theory, positivist designs such as experimental design, survey research, or secondary data analysis are more appropriate.

Regardless of the specific research design chosen, the researcher should strive to collect quantitative and qualitative data using a combination of techniques such as questionnaires, interviews, observations, documents, or secondary data. For instance, even in a highly structured survey questionnaire, intended to collect quantitative data, the researcher may leave some room for a few open-ended questions to collect qualitative data that may generate unexpected insights not otherwise available from structured quantitative data alone. Likewise, while case research employ mostly face-to-face interviews to collect most qualitative data, the potential and value of collecting quantitative data should not be ignored. As an example, in a study of organisational decision-making processes, the case interviewer can record numeric quantities such as how many months it took to make certain organisational decisions, how many people were involved in that decision process, and how many decision alternatives were considered, which can provide valuable insights not otherwise available from interviewees’ narrative responses. Irrespective of the specific research design employed, the goal of the researcher should be to collect as much and as diverse data as possible that can help generate the best possible insights about the phenomenon of interest.

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Research Design: Definition, Types, Characteristics & Study Examples

Research design

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A research design is the blueprint for any study. It's the plan that outlines how the research will be carried out. A study design usually includes the methods of data collection, the type of data to be gathered, and how it will be analyzed. Research designs help ensure the study is reliable, valid, and can answer the research question.

Behind every groundbreaking discovery and innovation lies a well-designed research. Whether you're investigating a new technology or exploring a social phenomenon, a solid research design is key to achieving reliable results. But what exactly does it means, and how do you create an effective one? Stay with our paper writers and find out:

  • Detailed definition
  • Types of research study designs
  • How to write a research design
  • Useful examples.

Whether you're a seasoned researcher or just getting started, understanding the core principles will help you conduct better studies and make more meaningful contributions.

What Is a Research Design: Definition

Research design is an overall study plan outlining a specific approach to investigating a research question . It covers particular methods and strategies for collecting, measuring and analyzing data. Students  are required to build a study design either as an individual task or as a separate chapter in a research paper , thesis or dissertation .

Before designing a research project, you need to consider a series aspects of your future study:

  • Research aims What research objectives do you want to accomplish with your study? What approach will you take to get there? Will you use a quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods approach?
  • Type of data Will you gather new data (primary research), or rely on existing data (secondary research) to answer your research question?
  • Sampling methods How will you pick participants? What criteria will you use to ensure your sample is representative of the population?
  • Data collection methods What tools or instruments will you use to gather data (e.g., conducting a survey , interview, or observation)?
  • Measurement  What metrics will you use to capture and quantify data?
  • Data analysis  What statistical or qualitative techniques will you use to make sense of your findings?

By using a well-designed research plan, you can make sure your findings are solid and can be generalized to a larger group.

Research design example

You are going to investigate the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based intervention for reducing stress and anxiety among college students. You decide to organize an experiment to explore the impact. Participants should be randomly assigned to either an intervention group or a control group. You need to conduct pre- and post-intervention using self-report measures of stress and anxiety.

What Makes a Good Study Design? 

To design a research study that works, you need to carefully think things through. Make sure your strategy is tailored to your research topic and watch out for potential biases. Your procedures should be flexible enough to accommodate changes that may arise during the course of research. 

A good research design should be:

  • Clear and methodologically sound
  • Feasible and realistic
  • Knowledge-driven.

By following these guidelines, you'll set yourself up for success and be able to produce reliable results.

Research Study Design Structure

A structured research design provides a clear and organized plan for carrying out a study. It helps researchers to stay on track and ensure that the study stays within the bounds of acceptable time, resources, and funding.

A typical design includes 5 main components:

  • Research question(s): Central research topic(s) or issue(s).
  • Sampling strategy: Method for selecting participants or subjects.
  • Data collection techniques: Tools or instruments for retrieving data.
  • Data analysis approaches: Techniques for interpreting and scrutinizing assembled data.
  • Ethical considerations: Principles for protecting human subjects (e.g., obtaining a written consent, ensuring confidentiality guarantees).

Research Design Essential Characteristics

Creating a research design warrants a firm foundation for your exploration. The cost of making a mistake is too high. This is not something scholars can afford, especially if financial resources or a considerable amount of time is invested. Choose the wrong strategy, and you risk undermining your whole study and wasting resources. 

To avoid any unpleasant surprises, make sure your study conforms to the key characteristics. Here are some core features of research designs:

  • Reliability   Reliability is stability of your measures or instruments over time. A reliable research design is one that can be reproduced in the same way and deliver consistent outcomes. It should also nurture accurate representations of actual conditions and guarantee data quality.
  • Validity For a study to be valid , it must measure what it claims to measure. This means that methodological approaches should be carefully considered and aligned to the main research question(s).
  • Generalizability Generalizability means that your insights can be practiced outside of the scope of a study. When making inferences, researchers must take into account determinants such as sample size, sampling technique, and context.
  • Neutrality A study model should be free from personal or cognitive biases to ensure an impartial investigation of a research topic. Steer clear of highlighting any particular group or achievement.

Key Concepts in Research Design

Now let’s discuss the fundamental principles that underpin study designs in research. This will help you develop a strong framework and make sure all the puzzles fit together.

Primary concepts

Types of Approaches to Research Design

Study frameworks can fall into 2 major categories depending on the approach to compiling data you opt for. The 2 main types of study designs in research are qualitative and quantitative research. Both approaches have their unique strengths and weaknesses, and can be utilized based on the nature of information you are dealing with. 

Quantitative Research  

Quantitative study is focused on establishing empirical relationships between variables and collecting numerical data. It involves using statistics, surveys, and experiments to measure the effects of certain phenomena. This research design type looks at hard evidence and provides measurements that can be analyzed using statistical techniques. 

Qualitative Research 

Qualitative approach is used to examine the behavior, attitudes, and perceptions of individuals in a given environment. This type of study design relies on unstructured data retrieved through interviews, open-ended questions and observational methods. 

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Types of Research Designs & Examples

Choosing a research design may be tough especially for the first-timers. One of the great ways to get started is to pick the right design that will best fit your objectives. There are 4 different types of research designs you can opt for to carry out your investigation:

  • Experimental
  • Correlational
  • Descriptive
  • Diagnostic/explanatory.

Below we will go through each type and offer you examples of study designs to assist you with selection.

1. Experimental

In experimental research design , scientists manipulate one or more independent variables and control other factors in order to observe their effect on a dependent variable. This type of research design is used for experiments where the goal is to determine a causal relationship. 

Its core characteristics include:

  • Randomization
  • Manipulation
  • Replication.
A pharmaceutical company wants to test a new drug to investigate its effectiveness in treating a specific medical condition. Researchers would randomly assign participants to either a control group (receiving a placebo) or an experimental group (receiving the new drug). They would rigorously control all variables (e.g, age, medical history) and manipulate them to get reliable results.

2. Correlational

Correlational study is used to examine the existing relationships between variables. In this type of design, you don’t need to manipulate other variables. Here, researchers just focus on observing and measuring the naturally occurring relationship.

Correlational studies encompass such features: 

  • Data collection from natural settings
  • No intervention by the researcher
  • Observation over time.
A research team wants to examine the relationship between academic performance and extracurricular activities. They would observe students' performance in courses and measure how much time they spend engaging in extracurricular activities.

3. Descriptive 

Descriptive research design is all about describing a particular population or phenomenon without any interruption. This study design is especially helpful when we're not sure about something and want to understand it better.

Descriptive studies are characterized by such features:

  • Random and convenience sampling
  • Observation
  • No intervention.
A psychologist wants to understand how parents' behavior affects their child's self-concept. They would observe the interaction between children and their parents in a natural setting. Gathered information will help her get an overview of this situation and recognize some patterns.

4. Diagnostic

Diagnostic or explanatory research is used to determine the cause of an existing problem or a chronic symptom. Unlike other types of design, here scientists try to understand why something is happening. 

Among essential hallmarks of explanatory studies are: 

  • Testing hypotheses and theories
  • Examining existing data
  • Comparative analysis.
A public health specialist wants to identify the cause of an outbreak of water-borne disease in a certain area. They would inspect water samples and records to compare them with similar outbreaks in other areas. This will help to uncover reasons behind this accident.

How to Design a Research Study: Step-by-Step Process

When designing your research don't just jump into it. It's important to take the time and do things right in order to attain accurate findings. Follow these simple steps on how to design a study to get the most out of your project.

1. Determine Your Aims 

The first step in the research design process is figuring out what you want to achieve. This involves identifying your research question, goals and specific objectives you want to accomplish. Think whether you want to explore a specific issue or develop a new theory? Setting your aims from the get-go will help you stay focused and ensure that your study is driven by purpose. 

Once  you are clear with your goals, you need to decide on the main approach. Will you use qualitative or quantitative methods? Or perhaps a mixture of both?

2. Select a Type of Research Design

Choosing a suitable design requires considering multiple factors, such as your research question, data collection methods, and resources. There are various research design types, each with its own advantages and limitations. Think about the kind of data that would be most useful to address your questions. Ultimately, a well-devised strategy should help you gather accurate data to achieve your objectives.

3. Define Your Population and Sampling Methods

To design a research project, it is essential to establish your target population and parameters for selecting participants. First, identify a cohort of individuals who share common characteristics and possess relevant experiences. 

For instance, if you are researching the impact of social media on mental health, your population could be young adults aged 18-25 who use social media frequently.

With your population in mind, you can now choose an optimal sampling method. Sampling is basically the process of narrowing down your target group to only those individuals who will participate in your study. At this point, you need to decide on whether you want to randomly choose the participants (probability sampling) or set out any selection criteria (non-probability sampling). 

To examine the influence of social media on mental well-being, we will divide a whole population into smaller subgroups using stratified random sampling . Then, we will randomly pick participants from each subcategory to make sure that findings are also true for a broader group of young adults.

4. Decide on Your Data Collection Methods

When devising your study, it is also important to consider how you will retrieve data.  Depending on the type of design you are using, you may deploy diverse methods. Below you can see various data collection techniques suited for different research designs. 

Data collection methods in various studies

Additionally, if you plan on integrating existing data sources like medical records or publicly available datasets, you want to mention this as well. 

5. Arrange Your Data Collection Process

Your data collection process should also be meticulously thought out. This stage involves scheduling interviews, arranging questionnaires and preparing all the necessary tools for collecting information from participants. Detail how long your study will take and what procedures will be followed for recording and analyzing the data. 

State which variables will be studied and what measures or scales will be used when assessing each variable.

Measures and scales 

Measures and scales are tools used to quantify variables in research. A measure is any method used to collect data on a variable, while a scale is a set of items or questions used to measure a particular construct or concept. Different types of scales include nominal, ordinal, interval, or ratio , each of which has distinct properties

Operationalization 

When working with abstract information that needs to be quantified, researchers often operationalize the variable by defining it in concrete terms that can be measured or observed. This allows the abstract concept to be studied systematically and rigorously. 

Operationalization in study design example

If studying the concept of happiness, researchers might operationalize it by using a scale that measures positive affect or life satisfaction. This allows us to quantify happiness and inspect its relationship with other variables, such as income or social support.

Remember that research design should be flexible enough to adjust for any unforeseen developments. Even with rigorous preparation, you may still face unexpected challenges during your project. That’s why you need to work out contingency plans when designing research.

6. Choose Data Analysis Techniques

It’s impossible to design research without mentioning how you are going to scrutinize data. To select a proper method, take into account the type of data you are dealing with and how many variables you need to analyze. 

Qualitative data may require thematic analysis or content analysis.

Quantitative data, on the other hand, could be processed with more sophisticated statistical analysis approaches such as regression analysis, factor analysis or descriptive statistics.

Finally, don’t forget about ethical considerations. Opt for those methods that minimize harm to participants and protect their rights.

Research Design Checklist

Having a checklist in front of you will help you design your research flawlessly.

  • checkbox I clearly defined my research question and its significance.
  • checkbox I considered crucial factors such as the nature of my study, type of required data and available resources to choose a suitable design.
  • checkbox A sample size is sufficient to provide statistically significant results.
  • checkbox My data collection methods are reliable and valid.
  • checkbox Analysis methods are appropriate for the type of data I will be gathering.
  • checkbox My research design protects the rights and privacy of my participants.
  • checkbox I created a realistic timeline for research, including deadlines for data collection, analysis, and write-up.
  • checkbox I considered funding sources and potential limitations.

Bottom Line on Research Design & Study Types

Designing a research project involves making countless decisions that can affect the quality of your work. By planning out each step and selecting the best methods for data collection and analysis, you can ensure that your project is conducted professionally.

We hope this article has helped you to better understand the research design process. If you have any questions or comments, ping us in the comments section below.

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FAQ About Research Study Designs

1. what is a study design.

Study design, or else called research design, is the overall plan for a project, including its purpose, methodology, data collection and analysis techniques. A good design ensures that your project is conducted in an organized and ethical manner. It also provides clear guidelines for replicating or extending a study in the future.

2. What is the purpose of a research design?

The purpose of a research design is to provide a structure and framework for your project. By outlining your methodology, data collection techniques, and analysis methods in advance, you can ensure that your project will be conducted effectively.

3. What is the importance of research designs?

Research designs are critical to the success of any research project for several reasons. Specifically, study designs grant:

  • Clear direction for all stages of a study
  • Validity and reliability of findings
  • Roadmap for replication or further extension
  • Accurate results by controlling for potential bias
  • Comparison between studies by providing consistent guidelines.

By following an established plan, researchers can be sure that their projects are organized, ethical, and reliable.

4. What are the 4 types of study designs?

There are generally 4 types of study designs commonly used in research:

  • Experimental studies: investigate cause-and-effect relationships by manipulating the independent variable.
  • Correlational studies: examine relationships between 2 or more variables without intruding them.
  • Descriptive studies: describe the characteristics of a population or phenomenon without making any inferences about cause and effect.
  • Explanatory studies: intended to explain causal relationships.

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Descriptive Research

For more advanced studies, you can even combine several types. Mixed-methods research may come in handy when exploring complex phenomena that cannot be adequately captured by one method alone.

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Project Planning for the Beginner: Research Design

  • Defining a Topic
  • Reviewing the Literature
  • Developing a Researchable Question

Research Design

  • Planning, Data, Writing and Dissemination

What Is a Research Plan?

This refers to the overall plan for your research, and will be used by you and your supervisor to indicate your intentions for your research and the method(s) you’ll use to carry it out. It includes:

• A specification of your research questions

• An outline of your proposed research methods

• A timetable for doing the work

What Is Research Design?

The term “ research design “ is usually used in reference to experimental research, and refers to the design of your experiment. However, you will also see the term “research design” used in other types of research. Below is a list of possible research designs you might encounter or adopt for your research:

• Descriptive or exploratory (e.g., case study , naturalistic observation )

• Correlational (e.g., case-control study, observational study )

• Quasi-experimental (e.g., field experiment , quasi-experiment )

• Experimental (experiment with random allocation and a control and test group )

• Review (e.g. literature review , systematic review )

• Meta-analytic (e.g. meta-analysis )

Research Design Choices

How do i match my research method to my research question.

The method(s) you use must be capable of answering the research questions you have set. Here are some things you may have to consider:

• Often questions can be answered in different ways using different methods

• You may be working with multiple methods

• Methods can answer different sorts of questions

• Questions can be answered in different ways.

The matching of method(s) to questions always matters . Some methods work better for particular sorts of questions.

If your question is a hypothesis which must be falsifiable, you can answer it using the following possible methods:

• An experimental method using statistical methods to test your hypothesis.

• Survey data (either generated by you or secondary data) using statistical methods to test your hypothesis.

If your question requires you to describe a social context and/or process, then you can answer it using the following possible methods:

• You can use data from your own surveys and/or secondary data to carry out descriptive statistics and numerical taxonomy methods for classification .

• You can use qualitative material derived from:

• Documentary research

• Qualitative interviews

• Focus groups

• Visual research

• Ethnographic methods

• Any combination of the above may be deployed.

If your question(s) require you to make causal statements about how certain things have come to be as they are, then you might consider using the following:

• You can build quantitative causal models using techniques which derive from statistical regression analysis and seeing if the models “fit” your quantitative data set.

• You can do this through building simulations .

• You can do this by using figurational methods, particularly qualitative comparative analysis , which start either with the construction of quantitative descriptions of cases from qualitative accounts of those cases, or with an existing data set which contains quantitative descriptions of cases. 

• You can combine both approaches.

If your question(s) require you to produce interpretive accounts of human social actions with a focus on the meanings actors have attached to those actions, then you might consider using the following:

• You can use documentary resources which include accounts of action(s) and the meanings actors have attached to those actions. This is a key approach in historical research.

• You can conduct qualitative interviews .

• You can hold focus groups .

• You can do this using ethnographic observation .

• You can combine any or all of above approaches.

If your question(s) are evaluative, this could mean that you have to find out if some intervention has worked, how it has worked if it has, and why it didn’t work if it didn’t. You might then consider using the following:

• Any combination of quantitative and qualitative methods which fit the data you have.

• You should always use process tracing to generate a careful historical account of the intervention and its context(s). 

Checklist: Question to Ask When Deciding On a Method

Here are seven questions you should be able to answer about the methods you have chosen for your research. 

  • Does your method/do your methods fit the research question(s)?
  • Do you understand how the methods relate to your methodological position?
  • Do you know how to use the method(s)  ?  If not, can you learn how to use the method(s)?
  • Do you have the resources you need to use the methods? For example:

• statistical software

• qualitative data analysis software

• an adequate computer

• access to secondary data sets

• audio-visual equipment

• language training

• transport You need to work through this list and add anything else that you need.

  • If you are using multiple methods, do you know how you are going to combine them to carry out the research?
  • If you are using multiple methods, do you know how you are going to combine the  products of using them when writing up your research? 
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Research design: the methodology for interdisciplinary research framework

1 Biometris, Wageningen University and Research, PO Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands

Jarl K. Kampen

2 Statua, Dept. of Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, Antwerp University, Venusstraat 35, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Many of today’s global scientific challenges require the joint involvement of researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds (social sciences, environmental sciences, climatology, medicine, etc.). Such interdisciplinary research teams face many challenges resulting from differences in training and scientific culture. Interdisciplinary education programs are required to train truly interdisciplinary scientists with respect to the critical factor skills and competences. For that purpose this paper presents the Methodology for Interdisciplinary Research (MIR) framework. The MIR framework was developed to help cross disciplinary borders, especially those between the natural sciences and the social sciences. The framework has been specifically constructed to facilitate the design of interdisciplinary scientific research, and can be applied in an educational program, as a reference for monitoring the phases of interdisciplinary research, and as a tool to design such research in a process approach. It is suitable for research projects of different sizes and levels of complexity, and it allows for a range of methods’ combinations (case study, mixed methods, etc.). The different phases of designing interdisciplinary research in the MIR framework are described and illustrated by real-life applications in teaching and research. We further discuss the framework’s utility in research design in landscape architecture, mixed methods research, and provide an outlook to the framework’s potential in inclusive interdisciplinary research, and last but not least, research integrity.

Introduction

Current challenges, e.g., energy, water, food security, one world health and urbanization, involve the interaction between humans and their environment. A (mono)disciplinary approach, be it a psychological, economical or technical one, is too limited to capture any one of these challenges. The study of the interaction between humans and their environment requires knowledge, ideas and research methodology from different disciplines (e.g., ecology or chemistry in the natural sciences, psychology or economy in the social sciences). So collaboration between natural and social sciences is called for (Walsh et al. 1975 ).

Over the past decades, different forms of collaboration have been distinguished although the terminology used is diverse and ambiguous. For the present paper, the term interdisciplinary research is used for (Aboelela et al. 2007 , p. 341):

any study or group of studies undertaken by scholars from two or more distinct scientific disciplines. The research is based upon a conceptual model that links or integrates theoretical frameworks from those disciplines, uses study design and methodology that is not limited to any one field, and requires the use of perspectives and skills of the involved disciplines throughout multiple phases of the research process.

Scientific disciplines (e.g., ecology, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, economy, philosophy, linguistics, etc.) are categorized into distinct scientific cultures: the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities (Kagan 2009 ). Interdisciplinary research may involve different disciplines within a single scientific culture, and it can also cross cultural boundaries as in the study of humans and their environment.

A systematic review of the literature on natural-social science collaboration (Fischer et al. 2011 ) confirmed the general impression of this collaboration to be a challenge. The nearly 100 papers in their analytic set mentioned more instances of barriers than of opportunities (72 and 46, respectively). Four critical factors for success or failure in natural-social science collaboration were identified: the paradigms or epistemologies in the current (mono-disciplinary) sciences, the skills and competences of the scientists involved, the institutional context of the research, and the organization of collaborations (Fischer et al. 2011 ). The so-called “paradigm war” between neopositivist versus constructivists within the social and behavioral sciences (Onwuegbuzie and Leech 2005 ) may complicate pragmatic collaboration further.

It has been argued that interdisciplinary education programs are required to train truly interdisciplinary scientists with respect to the critical factor skills and competences (Frischknecht 2000 ) and accordingly, some interdisciplinary programs have been developed since (Baker and Little 2006 ; Spelt et al. 2009 ). The overall effect of interdisciplinary programs can be expected to be small as most programs are mono-disciplinary and based on a single paradigm (positivist-constructivist, qualitative-quantitative; see e.g., Onwuegbuzie and Leech 2005 ). We saw in our methodology teaching, consultancy and research practices working with heterogeneous groups of students and staff, that most had received mono-disciplinary training with a minority that had received multidisciplinary training, with few exceptions within the same paradigm. During our teaching and consultancy for heterogeneous groups of students and staff aimed at designing interdisciplinary research, we built the framework for methodology in interdisciplinary research (MIR). With the MIR framework, we aspire to contribute to the critical factors skills and competences (Fischer et al. 2011 ) for social and natural sciences collaboration. Note that the scale of interdisciplinary research projects we have in mind may vary from comparably modest ones (e.g., finding a link between noise reducing asphalt and quality of life; Vuye et al. 2016 ) to very large projects (finding a link between anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and food security; IPCC 2015 ).

In the following section of this paper we describe the MIR framework and elaborate on its components. The third section gives two examples of the application of the MIR framework. The paper concludes with a discussion of the MIR framework in the broader contexts of mixed methods research, inclusive research, and other promising strains of research.

The methodology in interdisciplinary research framework

Research as a process in the methodology in interdisciplinary research framework.

The Methodology for Interdisciplinary Research (MIR) framework was built on the process approach (Kumar 1999 ), because in the process approach, the research question or hypothesis is leading for all decisions in the various stages of research. That means that it helps the MIR framework to put the common goal of the researchers at the center, instead of the diversity of their respective backgrounds. The MIR framework also introduces an agenda: the research team needs to carefully think through different parts of the design of their study before starting its execution (Fig.  1 ). First, the team discusses the conceptual design of their study which contains the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of the research. Second, the team discusses the technical design of the study which contains the ‘how’ of the research. Only after the team agrees that the complete research design is sufficiently crystalized, the execution of the work (including fieldwork) starts.

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The Methodology of Interdisciplinary Research framework

Whereas the conceptual and technical designs are by definition interdisciplinary team work, the respective team members may do their (mono)disciplinary parts of fieldwork and data analysis on a modular basis (see Bruns et al. 2017 : p. 21). Finally, when all evidence is collected, an interdisciplinary synthesis of analyses follows which conclusions are input for the final report. This implies that the MIR framework allows for a range of scales of research projects, e.g., a mixed methods project and its smaller qualitative and quantitative modules, or a multi-national sustainability project and its national sociological, economic and ecological modules.

The conceptual design

Interdisciplinary research design starts with the “conceptual design” which addresses the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of a research project at a conceptual level to ascertain the common goals pivotal to interdisciplinary collaboration (Fischer et al. 2011 ). The conceptual design includes mostly activities such as thinking, exchanging interdisciplinary knowledge, reading and discussing. The product of the conceptual design is called the “conceptual frame work” which comprises of the research objective (what is to be achieved by the research), the theory or theories that are central in the research project, the research questions (what knowledge is to be produced), and the (partial) operationalization of constructs and concepts that will be measured or recorded during execution. While the members of the interdisciplinary team and the commissioner of the research must reach a consensus about the research objective, the ‘why’, the focus in research design must be the production of the knowledge required to achieve that objective the ‘what’.

With respect to the ‘why’ of a research project, an interdisciplinary team typically starts with a general aim as requested by the commissioner or funding agency, and a set of theories to formulate a research objective. This role of theory is not always obvious to students from the natural sciences, who tend to think in terms of ‘models’ with directly observable variables. On the other hand, students from the social sciences tend to think in theories with little attention to observable variables. In the MIR framework, models as simplified descriptions or explanations of what is studied in the natural sciences play the same role in informing research design, raising research questions, and informing how a concept is understood, as do theories in social science.

Research questions concern concepts, i.e. general notions or ideas based on theory or common sense that are multifaceted and not directly visible or measurable. For example, neither food security (with its many different facets) nor a person’s attitude towards food storage may be directly observed. The operationalization of concepts, the transformation of concepts into observable indicators, in interdisciplinary research requires multiple steps, each informed by theory. For instance, in line with particular theoretical frameworks, sustainability and food security may be seen as the composite of a social, an economic and an ecological dimension (e.g., Godfray et al. 2010 ).

As the concept of interest is multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional, the interdisciplinary team will need to read, discuss and decide on how these dimensions and their indicators are weighted to measure the composite interdisciplinary concept to get the required interdisciplinary measurements. The resulting measure or measures for the interdisciplinary concept may be of the nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio level, or a combination thereof. This operationalization procedure is known as the port-folio approach to widely defined measurements (Tobi 2014 ). Only after the research team has finalized the operationalization of the concepts under study, the research questions and hypotheses can be made operational. For example, a module with descriptive research questions may now be turned into an operational one like, what are the means and variances of X1, X2, and X3 in a given population? A causal research question may take on the form, is X (a composite of X1, X2 and X3) a plausible cause for the presence or absence of Y? A typical qualitative module could study, how do people talk about X1, X2 and X3 in their everyday lives?

The technical design

Members of an interdisciplinary team usually have had different training with respect to research methods, which makes discussing and deciding on the technical design more challenging but also potentially more creative than in a mono-disciplinary team. The technical design addresses the issues ‘how, where and when will research units be studied’ (study design), ‘how will measurement proceed’ (instrument selection or design), ‘how and how many research units will be recruited’ (sampling plan), and ‘how will collected data be analyzed and synthesized’ (analysis plan). The MIR framework provides the team a set of topics and their relationships to one another and to generally accepted quality criteria (see Fig.  1 ), which helps in designing this part of the project.

Interdisciplinary teams need be pragmatic as the research questions agreed on are leading in decisions on the data collection set-up (e.g., a cross-sectional study of inhabitants of a region, a laboratory experiment, a cohort study, a case control study, etc.), the so-called “study design” (e.g., Kumar 2014 ; De Vaus 2001 ; Adler and Clark 2011 ; Tobi and van den Brink 2017 ) instead of traditional ‘pet’ approaches. Typical study designs for descriptive research questions and research questions on associations are the cross-sectional study design. Longitudinal study designs are required to investigate development over time and cause-effect relationships ideally are studied in experiments (e.g., Kumar 2014 ; Shipley 2016 ). Phenomenological questions concern a phenomenon about which little is known and which has to be studied in the environment where it takes place, which calls for a case study design (e.g., Adler and Clark 2011 : p. 178). For each module, the study design is to be further explicated by the number of data collection waves, the level of control by the researcher and its reference period (e.g., Kumar 2014 ) to ensure the teams common understanding.

Then, decisions about the way data is to be collected, e.g., by means of certified instruments, observation, interviews, questionnaires, queries on existing data bases, or a combination of these are to be made. It is especially important to discuss the role of the observer (researcher) as this is often a source of misunderstanding in interdisciplinary teams. In the sciences, the observer is usually considered a neutral outsider when reading a standardized measurement instrument (e.g., a pyranometer to measure incoming solar radiation). In contrast, in the social sciences, the observer may be (part of) the measurement instrument, for example in participant observation or when doing in-depth interviews. After all, in participant observation the researcher observes from a member’s perspective and influences what is observed owing to the researcher’s participation (Flick 2006 : p. 220). Similarly in interviews, by which we mean “a conversation that has a structure and a purpose determined by the one party—the interviewer” (Kvale 2007 : p. 7), the interviewer and the interviewee are part of the measurement instrument (Kvale and Brinkmann 2009 : p. 2). In on-line and mail questionnaires the interviewer is eliminated as part of the instrument by standardizing the questions and answer options. Queries on existing data bases refer to the use of secondary data or secondary analysis. Different disciplines tend to use different bibliographic data bases (e.g., CAB Abstracts, ABI/INFORM or ERIC) and different data repositories (e.g., the European Social Survey at europeansocialsurvey.org or the International Council for Science data repository hosted by www.pangaea.de ).

Depending on whether or not the available, existing, measurement instruments tally with the interdisciplinary operationalisations from the conceptual design, the research team may or may not need to design instruments. Note that in some cases the social scientists’ instinct may be to rely on a questionnaire whereas the collaboration with another discipline may result in more objective possibilities (e.g., compare asking people about what they do with surplus medication, versus measuring chemical components from their input into the sewer system). Instrument design may take on different forms, such as the design of a device (e.g., pyranometer), a questionnaire (Dillman 2007 ) or a part thereof (e.g., a scale see DeVellis 2012 ; Danner et al. 2016 ), an interview guide with topics or questions for the interviewees, or a data extraction form in the context of secondary analysis and literature review (e.g., the Cochrane Collaboration aiming at health and medical sciences or the Campbell Collaboration aiming at evidence based policies).

Researchers from different disciplines are inclined to think of different research objects (e.g., animals, humans or plots), which is where the (specific) research questions come in as these identify the (possibly different) research objects unambiguously. In general, research questions that aim at making an inventory, whether it is an inventory of biodiversity or of lodging, call for a random sampling design. Both in the biodiversity and lodging example, one may opt for random sampling of geographic areas by means of a list of coordinates. Studies that aim to explain a particular phenomenon in a particular context would call for a purposive sampling design (non-random selection). Because studies of biodiversity and housing obey the same laws in terms of appropriate sampling design for similar research questions, individual students and researchers are sensitized to commonalities of their respective (mono)disciplines. For example, a research team interested in the effects of landslides on a socio-ecological system may select for their study one village that suffered from landslides and one village that did not suffer from landslides that have other characteristics in common (e.g., kind of soil, land use, land property legislation, family structure, income distribution, et cetera).

The data analysis plan describes how data will be analysed, for each of the separate modules and for the project at large. In the context of a multi-disciplinary quantitative research project, the data analysis plan will list the intended uni-, bi- and multivariate analyses such as measures for distributions (e.g., means and variances), measures for association (e.g., Pearson Chi square or Kendall Tau) and data reduction and modelling techniques (e.g., factor analysis and multiple linear regression or structural equation modelling) for each of the research modules using the data collected. When applicable, it will describe interim analyses and follow-up rules. In addition to the plans at modular level, the data analysis plan must describe how the input from the separate modules, i.e. different analyses, will be synthesized to answer the overall research question. In case of mixed methods research, the particular type of mixed methods design chosen describes how, when, and to what extent the team will synthesize the results from the different modules.

Unfortunately, in our experience, when some of the research modules rely on a qualitative approach, teams tend to refrain from designing a data analysis plan before starting the field work. While absence of a data analysis plan may be regarded acceptable in fields that rely exclusively on qualitative research (e.g., ethnography), failure to communicate how data will be analysed and what potential evidence will be produced posits a deathblow to interdisciplinarity. For many researchers not familiar with qualitative research, the black box presented as “qualitative data analysis” is a big hurdle, and a transparent and systematic plan is a sine qua non for any scientific collaboration. The absence of a data analysis plan for all modules results in an absence of synthesis of perspectives and skills of the disciplines involved, and in separate (disciplinary) research papers or separate chapters in the research report without an answer to the overall research question. So, although researchers may find it hard to write the data analysis plan for qualitative data, it is pivotal in interdisciplinary research teams.

Similar to the quantitative data analysis plan, the qualitative data analysis plan presents the description of how the researcher will get acquainted with the data collected (e.g., by constructing a narrative summary per interviewee or a paired-comparison of essays). Additionally, the rules to decide on data saturation need be presented. Finally, the types of qualitative analyses are to be described in the data analysis plan. Because there is little or no standardized terminology in qualitative data analysis, it is important to include a precise description as well as references to the works that describe the method intended (e.g., domain analysis as described by Spradley 1979 ; or grounded theory by means of constant-comparison as described by Boeije 2009 ).

Integration

To benefit optimally from the research being interdisciplinary the modules need to be brought together in the integration stage. The modules may be mono- or interdisciplinary and may rely on quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods approaches. So the MIR framework fits the view that distinguishes three multimethods approaches (quali–quali, quanti–quanti, and quali–quant).

Although the MIR framework has not been designed with the intention to promote mixed methods research, it is suitable for the design of mixed methods research as the kind of research that calls for both quantitative and qualitative components (Creswell and Piano Clark 2011 ). Indeed, just like the pioneers in mixed methods research (Creswell and Piano Clark 2011 : p. 2), the MIR framework deconstructs the package deals of paradigm and data to be collected. The synthesis of the different mono or interdisciplinary modules may benefit from research done on “the unique challenges and possibilities of integration of qualitative and quantitative approaches” (Fetters and Molina-Azorin 2017 : p. 5). We distinguish (sub) sets of modules being designed as convergent, sequential or embedded (adapted from mixed methods design e.g., Creswell and Piano Clark 2011 : pp. 69–70). Convergent modules, whether mono or interdisciplinary, may be done parallel and are integrated after completion. Sequential modules are done after one another and the first modules inform the latter ones (this includes transformative and multiphase mixed methods design). Embedded modules are intertwined. Here, modules depend on one another for data collection and analysis, and synthesis may be planned both during and after completion of the embedded modules.

Scientific quality and ethical considerations in the design of interdisciplinary research

A minimum set of jargon related to the assessment of scientific quality of research (e.g., triangulation, validity, reliability, saturation, etc.) can be found scattered in Fig.  1 . Some terms are reserved by particular paradigms, others may be seen in several paradigms with more or less subtle differences in meaning. In the latter case, it is important that team members are prepared to explain and share ownership of the term and respect the different meanings. By paying explicit attention to the quality concepts, researchers from different disciplines learn to appreciate each other’s concerns for good quality research and recognize commonalities. For example, the team may discuss measurement validity of both a standardized quantitative instrument and that of an interview and discover that the calibration of the machine serves a similar purpose as the confirmation of the guarantee of anonymity at the start of an interview.

Throughout the process of research design, ethics require explicit discussion among all stakeholders in the project. Ethical issues run through all components in the MIR framework in Fig.  1 . Where social and medical scientists may be more sensitive to ethical issues related to humans (e.g., the 1979 Belmont Report criteria of beneficence, justice, and respect), others may be more sensitive to issues related to animal welfare, ecology, legislation, the funding agency (e.g., implications for policy), data and information sharing (e.g., open access publishing), sloppy research practices, or long term consequences of the research. This is why ethics are an issue for the entire interdisciplinary team and cannot be discussed on project module level only.

The MIR framework in practice: two examples

Teaching research methodology to heterogeneous groups of students, institutional context and background of the mir framework.

Wageningen University and Research (WUR) advocates in its teaching and research an interdisciplinary approach to the study of global issues related to the motto “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life.” Wageningen University’s student population is multidisciplinary and international (e.g., Tobi and Kampen 2013 ). Traditionally, this challenge of diversity in one classroom is met by covering a width of methodological topics and examples from different disciplines. However, when students of various programmes received methodological education in mixed classes, students of some disciplines would regard with disinterest or even disdain methods and techniques of the other disciplines. Different disciplines, especially from the qualitative respectively quantitative tradition in the social sciences (Onwuegbuzie and Leech 2005 : p. 273), claim certain study designs, methods of data collection and analysis as their territory, a claim reflected in many textbooks. We found that students from a qualitative tradition would not be interested, and would not even study, content like the design of experiments and quantitative data collection; and students from a quantitative tradition would ignore case study design and qualitative data collection. These students assumed they didn’t need any knowledge about ‘the other tradition’ for their future careers, despite the call for interdisciplinarity.

To enhance interdisciplinarity, WUR provides an MSc course mandatory for most students, in which multi-disciplinary teams do research for a commissioner. Students reported difficulties similar to the ones found in the literature: miscommunication due to talking different scientific languages and feelings of distrust and disrespect due to prejudice. This suggested that research methodology courses ought help prepare for interdisciplinary collaboration by introducing a single methodological framework that 1) creates sensitivity to the pros and challenges of interdisciplinary research by means of a common vocabulary and fosters respect for other disciplines, 2) starts from the research questions as pivotal in decision making on research methods instead of tradition or ontology, and 3) allows available methodologies and methods to be potentially applicable to any scientific research problem.

Teaching with MIR—the conceptual framework

As a first step, we replaced textbooks by ones refusing the idea that any scientific tradition has exclusive ownership of any methodological approach or method. The MIR framework further guides our methodology teaching in two ways. First, it presents a logical sequence of topics (first conceptual design, then technical design; first research question(s) or hypotheses, then study design; etc.). Second, it allows for a conceptual separation of topics (e.g., study design from instrument design). Educational programmes at Wageningen University and Research consistently stress the vital importance of good research design. In fact, 50% of the mark in most BSc and MSc courses in research methodology is based on the assessment of a research proposal that students design in small (2-4 students) and heterogeneous (discipline, gender and nationality) groups. The research proposal must describe a project which can be executed in practice, and which limitations (measurement, internal, and external validity) are carefully discussed.

Groups start by selecting a general research topic. They discuss together previously attained courses from a range of programs to identify personal and group interests, with the aim to reach an initial research objective and a general research question as input for the conceptual design. Often, their initial research objective and research question are too broad to be researchable (e.g., Kumar 2014 : p. 64; Adler and Clark 2011 : p. 71). In plenary sessions, the (basics of) critical assessment of empirical research papers is taught with special attention to the ‘what’ and ‘why’ section of research papers. During tutorials students generate research questions until the group agrees on a research objective, with one general research question that consists of a small set of specific research questions. Each of the specific research questions may stem from a different discipline, whereas answering the general research question requires integrating the answers to all specific research questions.

The group then identifies the key concepts in their research questions, while exchanging thoughts on possible attributes based on what they have learnt from previous courses (theories) and literature. When doing so they may judge the research question as too broad, in which case they will turn to the question strategies toolbox again. Once they agree on the formulation of the research questions and the choice of concepts, tasks are divided. In general, each student turns to the literature he/she is most familiar with or interested in, for the operationalization of the concept into measurable attributes and writes a paragraph or two about it. In the next meeting, the groups read and discuss the input and decide on the set-up and division of tasks with respect to the technical design.

Teaching with MIR—the technical framework

The technical part of research design distinguishes between study design, instrument design, sampling design, and the data analysis plan. In class, we first present students with a range of study designs (cross sectional, experimental, etc.). Student groups select an appropriate study design by comparing the demands made by the research questions with criteria for internal validity. When a (specific) research question calls for a study design that is not seen as practically feasible or ethically possible, they will rephrase the research question until the demands of the research question tally with the characteristics of at least one ethical, feasible and internally valid study design.

While following plenary sessions during which different random and non-random sampling or selection strategies are taught, groups start working on their sampling design. The groups make two decisions informed by their research question: the population(s) of research units, and the requirements of the sampling strategy for each population. Like many other aspects in research design, this can be an iterative process. For example, suppose the research question mentioned “local policy makers,” which is too vague for a sampling design. Then the decision may be to limit the study to “policy makers at the municipality level in the Netherlands” and adapt the general and the specific research questions accordingly. Next, the group identifies whether a sample design needs to focus on diversity (e.g., when the objective is to make an inventory of possible local policies), representativeness (e.g., when the objective is to estimate prevalence of types of local policies), or people with particular information (e.g., when the objective is to study people having experience with a given local policy). When a sample has to representative, the students must produce an assessment of external validity, whereas when the aim is to map diversity the students must discuss possible ways of source triangulation. Finally, in conjunction with the data analysis plan, students decide on the sample size and/or the saturation criteria.

When the group has agreed on their population(s) and the strategy for recruiting research units, the next step is to finalize the technical aspects of operationalisation i.e. addressing the issue of exactly how information will be extracted from the research units. Depending on what is practically feasible qua measurement, the choice of a data collection instrument may be a standardised (e.g., a spectrograph, a questionnaire) or less standardised (e.g., semi-structured interviews, visual inspection) one. The students have to discuss the possibilities of method triangulation, and explain the possible weaknesses of their data collection plan in terms of measurement validity and reliability.

Recent developments

Presently little attention is payed to the data analysis plan, procedures for synthesis and reporting because the programmes differ on their offer in data analysis courses, and because execution of the research is not part of the BSc and MSc methodology courses. Recently, we have designed one course for an interdisciplinary BSc program in which the research question is put central in learning and deciding on statistics and qualitative data analysis. Nonetheless, during the past years the number of methodology courses for graduate students that supported the MIR framework have been expanded, e.g., a course “From Topic to Proposal”; separate training modules on questionnaire construction, interviewing, and observation; and optional courses on quantitative and qualitative data analysis. These courses are open to (and attended by) PhD students regardless of their program. In Flanders (Belgium), the Flemish Training Network for Statistics and Methodology (FLAMES) has for the last four years successfully applied the approach outlined in Fig.  1 in its courses for research design and data collection methods. The division of the research process in terms of a conceptual design, technical design, operationalisation, analysis plan, and sampling plan, has proved to be appealing for students of disciplines ranging from linguistics to bioengineering.

Researching with MIR: noise reducing asphalt layers and quality of life

Research objective and research question.

This example of the application of the MIR framework comes from a study about the effects of “noise reducing asphalt layers” on the quality of life (Vuye et al. 2016 ), a project commissioned by the City of Antwerp in 2015 and executed by a multidisciplinary research team of Antwerp University (Belgium). The principal researcher was an engineer from the Faculty of Applied Engineering (dept. Construction), supported by two researchers from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (dept. of Epidemiology and Social Statistics), one with a background in qualitative and one with a background in quantitative research methods. A number of meetings were held where the research team and the commissioners discussed the research objective (the ‘what’ and ‘why’).The research objective was in part dictated by the European Noise Directive 2002/49/EC, which forces all EU member states to draft noise action plans, and the challenge in this study was to produce evidence of a link between the acoustic and mechanical properties of different types of asphalt, and the quality of life of people living in the vicinity of the treated roads. While there was literature available about the effects of road surface on sound, and other studies had studied the link between noise and health, no study was found that produced evidence simultaneously about noise levels of roads and quality of life. The team therefore decided to test the hypothesis that traffic noise reduction has a beneficial effect on the quality of life of people into the central research. The general research question was, “to what extent does the placing of noise reducing asphalt layers increase the quality of life of the residents?”

Study design

In order to test the effect of types of asphalt, initially a pretest–posttest experiment was designed, which was expanded by several added experimental (change of road surface) and control (no change of road surface) groups. The research team gradually became aware that quality of life may not be instantly affected by lower noise levels, and that a time lag is involved. A second posttest aimed to follow up on this effect although it could only be implemented in a selection of experimental sites.

Instrument selection and design

Sound pressure levels were measured by an ISO-standardized procedure called the Statistical Pass-By (SPB) method. A detailed description of the method is in Vuye et al. ( 2016 ). No such objective procedure is available for measuring quality of life, which can only be assessed by self-reports of the residents. Some time was needed for the research team to accept that measuring a multidimensional concept like quality of life is more complicated than just having people rate their “quality of life” on a 10 point scale. For instance, questions had to be phrased in a way that gave not away the purpose of the research (Hawthorne effect), leading to the inclusion of questions about more nuisances than traffic noise alone. This led to the design of a self-administered questionnaire, with questions of Flanders Survey on Living Environment (Departement Leefmilieu, Natuur & Energie 2013 ) appended by new questions. Among other things, the questionnaire probed for experienced nuisance by sound, quality of sleep, effort to concentrate, effort to have a conversation inside or outside the home, physical complaints such as headaches, etc.

Sampling design

The selected sites needed to accommodate both types of measurements: that of noise from traffic and quality of life of residents. This was a complicating factor that required several rounds of deliberation. While countrywide only certain roads were available for changing the road surface, these roads had to be mutually comparable in terms of the composition of the population, type of residential area (e.g., reports from the top floor of a tall apartment building cannot be compared to those at ground level), average volume of traffic, vicinity of hospitals, railroads and airports, etc. At the level of roads therefore, targeted sampling was applied, whereas at the level of residents the aim was to realize a census of all households within a given perimeter from the treated road surfaces. Considerations about the reliability of applied instruments were guiding decisions with respect to sampling. While the measurements of the SPB method were sufficiently reliable to allow for relatively few measurements, the questionnaire suffered from considerable nonresponse which hampered statistical power. It was therefore decided to increase the power of the study by adding control groups in areas where the road surface was not replaced. This way, detecting an effect of the intervention did not solely depend on the turnout of the pre and the post-test.

Data analysis plan

The statistical analysis had to account for the fact that data were collected at two different levels: the level of the residents filling out the questionnaires, and the level of the roads which surface was changed. Because survey participation was confidential, results of the pre- and posttest could only be compared at aggregate (street) level. The analysis had to control for confounding variables (e.g., sample composition, variety in traffic volume, etc.), experimental factors (varieties in experimental conditions, and controls), and non-normal dependent variables. The statistical model appropriate for analysis of such data is a Generalised Linear Mixed Model.

Data were collected during the course of 2015, 2016 and 2017 and are awaiting final analysis in Spring 2017. Intermediate analyses resulted in several MSc theses, conference presentations, and working papers that reported on parts of the research.

In this paper we presented the Methodology in Interdisciplinary Research framework that we developed over the past decade building on our experience as lecturers, consultants and researchers. The MIR framework recognizes research methodology and methods as important content in the critical factor skills and competences. It approaches research and collaboration as a process that needs to be designed with the sole purpose to answer the general research question. For the conceptual design the team members have to discuss and agree on the objective of their communal efforts without squeezing it into one single discipline and, thus, ignoring complexity. The specific research questions, when formulated, contribute to (self) respect in collaboration as they represent and stand witness of the need for interdisciplinarity. In the technical design, different parts were distinguished to stimulate researchers to think and design research out of their respective disciplinary boxes and consider, for example, an experimental design with qualitative data collection, or a case study design based on quantitative information.

In our teaching and consultancy, we first developed a MIR framework for social sciences, economics, health and environmental sciences interdisciplinarity. It was challenged to include research in the design discipline of landscape architecture. What characterizes research in landscape architecture and other design principles, is that the design product as well as the design process may be the object of study. Lenzholder et al. ( 2017 ) therefore distinguish three kinds of research in landscape architecture. The first kind, “Research into design” studies the design product post hoc and the MIR framework suits the interdisciplinary study of such a product. In contrast, “Research for design” generates knowledge that feeds into the noun and the verb ‘design’, which means it precedes the design(ing). The third kind, Research through Design(ing) employs designing as a research method. At first, just like Deming and Swaffield ( 2011 ), we were a bit skeptical about “designing” as a research method. Lenzholder et al. ( 2017 ) pose that the meaning of research through design has evolved through a (neo)positivist, constructivist and transformative paradigm to include a pragmatic stance that resembles the pragmatic stance assumed in the MIR framework. We learned that, because landscape architecture is such an interdisciplinary field, the process approach and the distinction between a conceptual and technical research design was considered very helpful and embraced by researchers in landscape architecture (Tobi and van den Brink 2017 ).

Mixed methods research (MMR) has been considered to study topics as diverse as education (e.g., Powell et al. 2008 ), environmental management (e.g., Molina-Azorin and Lopez-Gamero 2016 ), health psychology (e.g., Bishop 2015 ) and information systems (e.g., Venkatesh et al. 2013 ). Nonetheless, the MIR framework is the first to put MMR in the context of integrating disciplines beyond social inquiry (Greene 2008 ). The splitting of the research into modules stimulates the identification and recognition of the contribution of both distinct and collaborating disciplines irrespective of whether they contribute qualitative and/or quantitative research in the interdisciplinary research design. As mentioned in Sect.  2.4 the integration of the different research modules in one interdisciplinary project design may follow one of the mixed methods designs. For example, we witnessed at several occasions the integration of social and health sciences in interdisciplinary teams opting for sequential modules in a sequential exploratory mixed methods fashion (e.g., Adamson 2005 : 234). In sustainability science research, we have seen the design of concurrent modules for a concurrent nested mixed methods strategy (ibid) in research integrating the social and natural sciences and economics.

The limitations of the MIR framework are those of any kind of collaboration: it cannot work wonders in the absence of awareness of the necessity and it requires the willingness to work, learn, and research together. We developed MIR framework in and alongside our own teaching, consultancy and research, it has not been formally evaluated and compared in an experiment with teaching, consultancy and research with, for example, the regulative cycle for problem solving (van Strien 1986 ), or the wheel of science from Babbie ( 2013 ). In fact, although we wrote “developed” in the previous sentence, we are fully aware of the need to further develop and refine the framework as is.

The importance of the MIR framework lies in the complex, multifaceted nature of issues like sustainability, food security and one world health. For progress in the study of these pressing issues the understanding, construction and quality of interdisciplinary portfolio measurements (Tobi 2014 ) are pivotal and require further study as well as procedures facilitating the integration across different disciplines.

Another important strain of further research relates to the continuum of Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR), Questionable Research Practices (QRP), and deliberate misconduct (Steneck 2006 ). QRP includes failing to report all of a study’s conditions, stopping collecting data earlier than planned because one found the result one had been looking for, etc. (e.g., John et al. 2012 ; Simmons et al. 2011 ; Kampen and Tamás 2014 ). A meta-analysis on selfreports obtained through surveys revealed that about 2% of researchers had admitted to research misconduct at least once, whereas up to 33% admitted to QRPs (Fanelli 2009 ). While the frequency of QRPs may easily eclipse that of deliberate fraud (John et al. 2012 ) these practices have received less attention than deliberate misconduct. Claimed research findings may often be accurate measures of the prevailing biases and methodological rigor in a research field (Fanelli and Ioannidis 2013 ; Fanelli 2010 ). If research misconduct and QRP are to be understood then the disciplinary context must be grasped as a locus of both legitimate and illegitimate activity (Fox 1990 ). It would be valuable to investigate how working in interdisciplinary teams and, consequently, exposure to other standards of QRP and RCR influence research integrity as the appropriate research behavior from the perspective of different professional standards (Steneck 2006 : p. 56). These differences in scientific cultures concern criteria for quality in design and execution of research, reporting (e.g., criteria for authorship of a paper, preferred publication outlets, citation practices, etc.), archiving and sharing of data, and so on.

Other strains of research include interdisciplinary collaboration and negotiation, where we expect contributions from the “science of team science” (Falk-Krzesinski et al. 2010 ); and compatibility of the MIR framework with new research paradigms such as “inclusive research” (a mode of research involving people with intellectual disabilities as more than just objects of research; e.g., Walmsley and Johnson 2003 ). Because of the complexity and novelty of inclusive health research a consensus statement was developed on how to conduct health research inclusively (Frankena et al., under review). The eight attributes of inclusive health research identified may also be taken as guiding attributes in the design of inclusive research according to the MIR framework. For starters, there is the possibility of inclusiveness in the conceptual framework, particularly in determining research objectives, and in discussing possible theoretical frameworks with team members with an intellectual disability which Frankena et al. labelled the “Designing the study” attribute. There are also opportunities for inclusiveness in the technical design, and in execution. For example, the inclusiveness attribute “generating data” overlaps with the operationalization and measurement instrument design/selection and the attribute “analyzing data” aligns with the data analysis plan in the technical design.

On a final note, we hope to have aroused the reader’s interest in, and to have demonstrated the need for, a methodology for interdisciplinary research design. We further hope that the MIR framework proposed and explained in this article helps those involved in designing an interdisciplinary research project to get a clearer view of the various processes that must be secured during the project’s design and execution. And we look forward to further collaboration with scientists from all cultures to contribute to improving the MIR framework and make interdisciplinary collaborations successful.

Acknowledgements

The MIR framework is the result of many discussions with students, researchers and colleagues, with special thanks to Peter Tamás, Jennifer Barrett, Loes Maas, Giel Dik, Ruud Zaalberg, Jurian Meijering, Vanessa Torres van Grinsven, Matthijs Brink, Gerda Casimir, and, last but not least, Jenneken Naaldenberg.

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  • Project planning |
  • What is project design? 7 steps with ex ...

What is project design? 7 steps with expert tips

Team Asana contributor image

Project design is an early phase of the project lifecycle where ideas, processes, resources, and deliverables are planned out in seven steps. With detailed resources and visual elements, find out how project design can streamline your team’s efficiency.

When it comes to managing projects, it can be hard to get everyone on the same page. With multiple moving parts, different deliverables, and cross-departmental collaboration, sometimes an initial project meeting just isn’t enough. 

We’ll go over the basics of project design, lay out the seven steps to create a project design, and provide expert tips to help you better understand the process. 

How project design works

Project design is an early phase of the project lifecycle where ideas, processes, resources, and deliverables are planned out. A project design comes before a project plan as it’s a broad overview whereas a project plan includes more detailed information. 

There are seven steps involved when creating a project design, including defining goals and using a visual aid to communicate objectives.

What is project design?

These visual elements include a variety of methods such as Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and flowcharts. Providing a visual representation of your project strategy can help create transparency between stakeholders and clarify different aspects of the project, including its overall feasibility. 

The 7 steps of project design

There are seven steps that make up a successful project design process. These include everything from defining goals and baseline objectives to strengthening your strategy to help you stay organized while managing a new project.

The 7 steps of project design

Let’s go over each of the steps needed to create a project design. 

Step 1. Define project goals

In the first step, define your project goals. To begin, lead an initial ideation meeting where you document the general project timeline and deliverables.

To start, consider the needs of the project and stakeholders. What is it you’re trying to solve? Begin writing a short description of the project and who is involved. 

Once you’ve outlined the basic goals of the project, determine the more concrete objectives in detail.

Pro tip: Use SMART goals when starting your project design to better visualize where you’re going. SMART is an acronym that stands for s pecific, m easurable, a chievable, r ealistic, and t ime-bound. 

 Step 2. Determine outcomes

Next, narrow down the outcomes of the project. These are usually more detailed than the initial goal planning phase and include the specific tasks you will complete during the project.

For example, imagine you’re working on a project to add a new landing page to your website. One of your outcomes may be to add an email signup form. 

Document the outcomes and major deliverables needed alongside the project goals to begin building a timeframe. It’s a good idea to reference popular project management methodologies to decide which one fits the needs of your project. 

Pro tip: For complex projects, use the Agile methodology with iterations to break large tasks into short sprints. For more traditional projects, use the waterfall method which provides a thorough step-by-step approach.

Step 3. Identify risks and constraints

Once you’ve identified the outcomes, consider your project risks and constraints. Evaluate the aspects of your project that could lead to risk in order to prevent wasted resources down the line. 

In order to identify risks and constraints, determine the resource management tools, funds, and timeframe needed. Work to resolve these constraints before the project begins by following up with relevant stakeholders and project teams. 

Pro tip: Use a risk register to analyze, document, and solve project risks that arise. 

Step 4. Refine your project strategy with a visual aid

A project strategy is a visual roadmap of your project . This helps communicate purpose to team members. Create your strategy by choosing a visual aid that you can share with stakeholders. 

There are many types of visual aids you can choose from, some of which include:

Flowchart: A flowchart is a visual representation of the steps and decisions needed to perform a process. Flowcharts are particularly helpful ways to visualize step-by-step approaches and effectively organize project deliverables. 

Gantt chart: A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart used to illustrate a timeline of a project. The bars in a Gantt chart represent the steps in the project and the length of the bars represent the amount of time they will take to be completed.

Work breakdown structure (WBS): A WBS is the breakdown of all tasks within a given project. Project managers use work breakdown structures to help teams visualize deliverables while keeping objectives top of mind. 

Mind map: A mind map is a hierarchy diagram used to visualize projects and tasks. It allows project managers to link deliverables around a central concept or idea such as a specific team goal. 

PERT chart: A PERT chart or diagram is a tool used to schedule, organize, and map out tasks. It can be helpful for complex projects and estimating the time needed to complete tasks.

Since each visual tool differs slightly, the aid you choose is up to your team preferences. While a work breakdown structure that details dependencies works well for large teams, a flowchart works well for smaller teams with less complex projects.

Pro tip: Examine the features of components of each of the visual aids before adding one to your project design. You can do this by reviewing each based on the amount of detail included, usability, and visual appearance. This way you can find the one that best fits your needs. 

Step 5. Estimate your budget

Next, estimate your project budget to begin resource allocation . Your budget will incorporate the project’s profitability, resources available, and outsourced work needed. It may also be a set number determined by leadership that you’ll need to work around when it comes to being able to execute each deliverable. 

Your budget may need to be approved or revised based on leadership signoff. Once finalized, you can begin assigning beneficiaries, design documents, and tasks for your project. 

Pro tip: When it comes to resource allocation, implementing automated processes with automation software can improve efficiency and reduce project errors. 

Step 6. Create a contingency plan

To begin assigning tasks, create a contingency plan. A contingency plan is a backup plan for the risks and constraints outlined earlier in the process. Having an organized plan when issues arise helps to resolve them in real time and streamline efficiency. 

To create one, organize your risks using a Gantt chart or timeline tool and determine a plan for each risk. For example, if one of your risks involves materials not arriving in time, your contingency plan may be to source materials from elsewhere or start on a different part of the project while waiting for materials. 

Once you’ve outlined a plan for each risk, you’re ready to begin executing your project. 

Pro tip: Use Asana to view lists, timelines, and Gantt charts to better visualize your project plan . 

Step 7. Document your milestones

For the final step, document your team’s milestones. This is done to ensure work is being completed on time and to easily identify inconsistencies as they arise. 

You can do this using project management software where stakeholders can access the information and progress. It’s a good idea to manage these milestones until the end of the project to ensure tasks are completed on time. 

Pro tip: Connect with project stakeholders frequently to keep track of task dependencies and ensure short term goals are met. 

3 expert tips to improve your project design

Building a project design that improves collaboration and empowers efficiency is no easy task. Along with the seven steps that make up the project design process, here are a few tips that can take your design one step further. 

Tips to improve project design

Keep these three tips in mind when building a project design of your own:

Communicate with stakeholders early and often: Communication is key no matter the project you’re working on. Collaborating early on in the project can ensure all stakeholders are on the same page and understand the most important objectives. You can do this by leading meetings through the entirety of the project and using workflows to streamline teamwork.

Keep your goals top of mind: Connecting your goals to project deliverables can ensure objectives are being met every step of the way. You can do this with the help of timeline software where you can easily connect goals with the work needed to complete them. 

Use visual elements to track milestones: While a business case and daily to-dos are helpful, visual elements help stakeholders see the bigger picture. From Gantt charts to PERT charts, there are a number of ways to visualize your project work. 

Beyond these three tips, always keep your team’s best interests in mind. Providing the necessary information and scheduling work within reasonable deadlines will keep your team engaged and efficient. 

Use project design to tell a story

Project design is an important piece of executing a successful project. From gathering the necessary information and resources to coordinating with team members, your job is to bring the details to life. With the right project design, you and your team can tackle anything that comes your way. 

Take the art of project planning one step further with work management software. From streamlining work to improving visibility, Asana can help your team achieve more with clarity and confidence.

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Capstone Components

12 Research Design

The story continues….

“So, how do we go about answering our research questions?” asked Harry.

Physicus explained that they will have to analyze their questions to see what types of answers are required. Knowing this will guide their decisions about how to design the needs assessment to answer their questions.

“There are two basic types of answers to research questions, quantitative and qualitative. The types of answers the questions require tell us what type of research design we need,” said Physicus.

“I guess if I ask how we decide which type of research design we should choose, you will say, ‘It depends?'” uttered Harry.

Physicus’ face brightened as he blurted out, “Absolutely not! Negative!” Physicus continued, “If the research questions are stated well, there will only be two ways in which they can be answered. The research questions are king; they make all the decisions.”

“How come?” Harry appeared confused.

“Well, let us see. Think about our first question. How many mice will Pickles attack at one time? What type of answer does this question require? It requires a numeric answer, correct?” Physicus asked.

“Yes, that is correct,” Harry said.

Physicus continued, “Good. So, does our second question also require a numeric answer?”

“The second question is also answered with a number,” replied Harry

Physicus blurted, “Correct! This means we need to use a quantitative research design!”

Physicus continued, “Now if we had research questions that could not be answered with numbers, we would need to use a qualitative research design to answer our questions with words or phrases instead.”

Harry now appeared relieved, “I get it. So in designing a research project, we simply look for a way to answer the research questions. That’s easy!”

“Well, it depends,” answered Physicus smiling.

Interpreting the Story

There are qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, and applied research designs. Based on the research questions, the research design will be obvious. Physicus led Harry in determining their investigation would need a quantitative design, because they only needed numerical data to answer their research questions. If Harry’s questions could only be answered with words or phrases, then a qualitative design would be needed. If the friends had questions needing to be answered with numbers and phrases, then either a mixed methods or an applied research design would have been the choice.

Research Design

The Research Design explains what type of research is being conducted in the needs assessment. The writing in this heading also explains why this type of research is needed to obtain the answers to the research or guiding questions for the project. The design provides a blueprint for the methodology. Articulating the nature of the research design is critical for explaining the Methodology (see the next chapter).

There are four categories of research designs used in educational research and a variety of specific research designs in each category. The first step in determining which category to use is to identify what type of data will answer the research questions. As in our story, Harry and Physicus had research questions that required quantitative answers, so the category of their research design is quantitative.

The next step in finding the specific research design is to consider the purpose (goal) of the research project. The research design must support the purpose. In our story, Harry and Physicus need a quantitative research design that supports their goal of determining the effect of the number of mice Pickles encounters at one time on his behavior.  A causal-comparative or quasi-experimental research design is the best choice for the friends because these are specific quantitative designs used to find a cause-and-effect relationship.

Quantitative Research Designs

Quantitative research designs seek results based on statistical analyses of the collected numerical data. The primary quantitative designs used in educational research include descriptive, correlational, causal-comparative, and quasi-experimental designs. Numerical data are collected and analyzed using statistical calculations appropriate for the design. For example, analyses like mean, median, mode, range, etc. are used to describe or explain a phenomenon observed in a descriptive research design. A correlational research design uses statistics, such as correlation coefficient or regression analyses to explain how two phenomena are related. Causal-comparative and quasi-experimental designs use analyses needed to establish causal relationships, such as pre-post testing, or behavior change (like in our story).

The use of numerical data guides both the methodology and the analysis protocols. The design also guides and limits how the results are interpreted. Examples of quantitative data found in educational research include test scores, grade point averages, and dropout rates.

project design in research example

Qualitative Research Designs

Qualitative research designs involve obtaining verbal, perspective, and/or visual results using code-based analyses of collected data. Typical qualitative designs used in educational research include the case study, phenomenological, grounded theory, and ethnography. These designs involve exploring behaviors, perceptions/feelings, and social/cultural phenomena found in educational settings.

Qualitative designs result in a written description of the findings. Data collection strategies include observations, interviews, focus groups, surveys, and documentation reviews. The data are recorded as words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. Data are then grouped together to form themes. The process of grouping data to form themes is called coding. The labeled themes become the “code” used to interpret the data. The coding can be determined ahead of time before data are collected, or the coding emerges from the collected data. Data collection strategies often include media such as video and audio recordings. These recordings are transcribed into words to allow for the coding analysis.

The use of qualitative data guides both the methodology and the analysis protocols. The “squishy” nature of qualitative data (words vs. numbers) and the data coding analysis limits the interpretation and conclusions made from the results. It is important to explain the coding analysis used to provide clear reasoning for the themes and how these relate to the research questions.

project design in research example

Mixed Method Designs

Mixed Methods research designs are used when the research questions must be answered with results that are both quantitative and qualitative. These designs integrate the data results to arrive at conclusions. A mixed method design is used when there are greater benefits to using multiple data types, sources, and analyses. Examples of typical mixed methods design approaches in education include convergent, explanatory, exploratory, and embedded designs. Using mixed methods approaches in educational research allows the researcher to triangulate, complement, or expand understanding using multiple types of data.

The use of mixed methods data guides the methodology, analysis, and interpretation of the results. Using both qualitative (quant) and quantitative (qual) data analyses provides a clearer or more balanced picture of the results. Data are analyzed sequentially or concurrently depending on the design. While the quantitative and qualitative data are analyzed independently, the results are interpreted integratively. The findings are a synthesis of the quantitative and qualitative analyses.

project design in research example

Applied Research Designs

Applied research designs seek both quantitative and qualitative results to address issues of educational practice. Applied research designs include evaluation, design and development, and action research. The purposes of applied research are to identify best practices, to innovate or improve current practices or policies, to test pedagogy, and to evaluate effectiveness. The results of applied research designs provide practical solutions to problems in educational practice.

Applied designs use both theoretical and empirical data. Theoretical data are collected from published theories or other research. Empirical data are obtained by conducting a needs assessment or other data collection methods. Data analyses include both quantitative and qualitative procedures. The findings are interpreted integratively as in mixed methods approaches, and then “applied” to the problem to form a solution.

project design in research example

Telling the research story

The Research Design in a research project tells the story of what direction the plot of the story will take.  The writing in this heading sets the stage for the rising action of the plot in the research story. The Research Design describes the journey that is about to take place. It functions to guide the reader in understanding the type of path the story will follow. The Research Design is the overall direction of the research story and is determined before deciding on the specific steps to take in obtaining and analyzing the data.

The Research Design heading appears in Chapter 2 of a capstone project. In the capstone project, the Research Design explains the type of design used for conducting the needs assessment.

project design in research example

Capstone Projects in Education: Learning the Research Story Copyright © 2023 by Kimberly Chappell and Greg I. Voykhansky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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10 Research Question Examples to Guide your Research Project

Published on October 30, 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on October 19, 2023.

The research question is one of the most important parts of your research paper , thesis or dissertation . It’s important to spend some time assessing and refining your question before you get started.

The exact form of your question will depend on a few things, such as the length of your project, the type of research you’re conducting, the topic , and the research problem . However, all research questions should be focused, specific, and relevant to a timely social or scholarly issue.

Once you’ve read our guide on how to write a research question , you can use these examples to craft your own.

Note that the design of your research question can depend on what method you are pursuing. Here are a few options for qualitative, quantitative, and statistical research questions.

Other interesting articles

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.

Methodology

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

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COMMENTS

  1. What Is a Research Design

    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.

  2. What Is Research Design? 8 Types + Examples

    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 ...

  3. Research Design

    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. Frequently asked questions.

  4. Project design and methodology

    This project was initially designed by a group of academic researchers and research partners drawn from the Service User and Carer Involvement in Research (SUCIR) group at the University of the West of England (UWE). An outline application was submitted in May 2010 to a joint funding call for proposals from the NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research programme (HS&DR) and INVOLVE on public ...

  5. How to Write a Research Design

    Step 2: Data Type you Need for Research. Decide on the type of data you need for your research. The type of data you need to collect depends on your research questions or research hypothesis. Two types of research data can be used to answer the research questions: Primary Data Vs. Secondary Data.

  6. What is Research Design? Types, Elements and Examples

    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.

  7. Research Design

    This will guide your research design and help you select appropriate methods. Select a research design: There are many different research designs to choose from, including experimental, survey, case study, and qualitative designs. Choose a design that best fits your research question and objectives.

  8. How to design a scientific research project

    This is a good exercise to check whether you have everything you need. 6. Analyzing the results: Before sitting down for formal analysis, it's always a good idea to get a sense of your data by preliminarily plotting it. This isn't to address any of your hypotheses, but to get a feel for your data.

  9. Design of Research Projects

    A research design can be understood as a plan for how to organise a research project to make sure we get from questions to answers (Yin, 1984, p. 28).In this plan we work out and make visible the logical structure of the project (De Vaus & de Vaus, 2001).In other words, we create a design to think through and make sure we answer our questions with the best arguments we can find.

  10. What is a Research Design? Definition, Types, Methods and Examples

    Research design methods refer to the systematic approaches and techniques used to plan, structure, and conduct a research study. The choice of research design method depends on the research questions, objectives, and the nature of the study. Here are some key research design methods commonly used in various fields: 1.

  11. PDF 1 Designing and Managing Research Projects: An overview

    handouts and articles included practical tips and examples drawn from David's own research experiences and reading. Later, the second author, Ian Hodges, also began contrib- ... adding entirely new material on topics such as how to design a research project, getting ethics approval for research, working with colleagues and supervisors, and ...

  12. Research design

    Research design is a comprehensive plan for data collection in an empirical research project. It is a 'blueprint' for empirical research aimed at answering specific research questions or testing specific hypotheses, and must specify at least three processes: the data collection process, the instrument development process, and the sampling process.

  13. What Is a Research Design: Types, Characteristics & Examples

    A research design is the blueprint for any study. It's the plan that outlines how the research will be carried out. A study design usually includes the methods of data collection, the type of data to be gathered, and how it will be analyzed. Research designs help ensure the study is reliable, valid, and can answer the research question.

  14. Study designs: Part 1

    The study design used to answer a particular research question depends on the nature of the question and the availability of resources. In this article, which is the first part of a series on "study designs," we provide an overview of research study designs and their classification. The subsequent articles will focus on individual designs.

  15. LibGuides: Project Planning for the Beginner: Research Design

    This Sage Research Methods tool is designed for the first time researcher to guide you through your research project. Each concept has a specif meaning in terms of research projects. ... However, you will also see the term "research design" used in other types of research. Below is a list of possible research designs you might encounter or ...

  16. Guide to Experimental Design

    Step 1: Define your variables. You should begin with a specific research question. We will work with two research question examples, one from health sciences and one from ecology: Example question 1: Phone use and sleep. You want to know how phone use before bedtime affects sleep patterns.

  17. Research design: the methodology for interdisciplinary research

    Interdisciplinary research design starts with the "conceptual design" which addresses the 'why' and 'what' of a research project at a conceptual level to ascertain the common goals pivotal to interdisciplinary collaboration (Fischer et al. 2011). The conceptual design includes mostly activities such as thinking, exchanging ...

  18. What is project design? 7 steps with expert tips

    Let's go over each of the steps needed to create a project design. Step 1. Define project goals. In the first step, define your project goals. To begin, lead an initial ideation meeting where you document the general project timeline and deliverables. To start, consider the needs of the project and stakeholders.

  19. Research Design

    A mixed method design is used when there are greater benefits to using multiple data types, sources, and analyses. Examples of typical mixed methods design approaches in education include convergent, explanatory, exploratory, and embedded designs. ... In the capstone project, the Research Design explains the type of design used for conducting ...

  20. PDF UNIT II Choosing a Design for Your Capstone Project

    1. Discuss the process involved in developing a research project using secondary data analysis as the methodology. 2. Discuss the process involved in developing a research project structured as a systematic review. 3. Discuss the process involved in developing a research project using health policy development as the methodology. 4.

  21. How to Write a Research Proposal

    Research design and methods. Following the literature review, restate your main objectives. This brings the focus back to your own project. Next, your research design or methodology section will describe your overall approach, and the practical steps you will take to answer your research questions.

  22. 10 Research Question Examples to Guide your Research Project

    The first question asks for a ready-made solution, and is not focused or researchable. The second question is a clearer comparative question, but note that it may not be practically feasible. For a smaller research project or thesis, it could be narrowed down further to focus on the effectiveness of drunk driving laws in just one or two countries.