What is Research Design?

Research Design Definition

A research design is a plan to answer your research questions using empirical data. Q well-organized research design helps ensure that your research methods match your objectives and that you apply suitable data analysis techniques. The research design section may be written as a standalone assignment, or as part of a larger research proposal. Either way, you should be careful when choosing the methods that are most feasible and appropriate for answering your research questions. The design of a research topic describes the type of research (review, semi-experimental, correlational, survey research, experimental).

Purpose of Research Design

The main purpose of research design is to justify all the conclusions they arrive at in research. This means that the research has to prove or disprove the hypothesis.

Research design also serves the purpose of broadening the researcher’s understanding of the topic and make them more aware of various settings, groups, and places.

Lastly, research design lets the researcher to realize an accurate understanding of the topic under study, and be capable of explaining the topic to others.

Characteristics of Research Design

Research design has the following characteristics:

  • Neutrality

When you plan your study, you may need to make assumptions about the data you intend to collect. The results indicated in the research should be neutral and free from bias. Understand views about the final scores and inferences from various individuals and those in agreement with the derived results.

  • Reliability

When regularly conducting research, the researcher expects the same results every time. Your research design should show how to develop research questions to guarantee the standard of results. You can only achieve the expected results if you have a reliable research design.

  • Validity

There are many measuring tools available. But, the only suitable measuring tools are the ones that help a researcher gauge results in line with the objective of the research. A questionnaire developed from this research design will have validity.

  • Generalization

The results of your research design should be applicable to a population and not just a limited sample. Generalization in design means that your survey or research can be replicated on any part of a population with the same accuracy.

These characteristics can affect how respondents respond to the research questions and so they should be balanced in a good research design.

As the researcher, you should have a clear understanding of various types of research designs to choose the best model to apply to your study. Just like research, your research design can be classified into qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative Research Design

Qualitative research purposes to provide answers to how and why something is happening. Mostly, it revolves around open-ended survey questions and extremely descriptive answers that are difficult to express and quantify through numbers. It is an excellent way to investigate people’s behavior and thoughts and collect more complex information. Qualitative research is often used to explain the numbers, formulate predictions, and find ideas.

Quantitative Research Design

Quantitative research provides answers to where, when, what, who, and how many? This type of research uses close-ended questions. Due to this, the results obtained from quantitative research can be converted to charts, graphs, statistics, and numbers. It is because of this that business often apply quantitative surveys to know about their customers and make their decisions using the data they obtain.

Elements of Research Design

  1. A research design has to be decided through an accurate problem or purpose statement.
  2. Research designs include different sampling methods and tools to be used for data collection for the research
  3. Research designs direct the data analysis methods in the research
  4. Research designs entail different types of research methodology
  5. A research design helps in narrowing down to a potential objective of the research
  6. Different types of research designs required different environments to conduct a study
  7. Research design also indicate the overall timeline that will be taken to carry out the study using diverse research methods
  8. Research designs assist the researcher zero in to a specific measurement of analysis

Using a precise research design will make your study successful. Successful studies with minimal errors provide essential insights that are free from bias. Hence, researcher develop surveys to meet all the features of a research design.

Types of Research Design

Quantitative research design and qualitative research design can further be narrowed down to the subtypes described below:

  1. Descriptive Research Design

Descriptive research denotes the methods that explain the characteristics of the study variables. This methodology concentrates on answering questions that relate to “what” than “why” of a research subject. The main focus of descriptive research is just to describe the features of the demographics under study rather than focus on the “why”. Descriptive research can be described as an observational research method as no variables in the study are manipulated during the research process. If the issue is not lucid enough to carry out a descriptive research analysis, the researcher can start with exploratory research methods.

  1. Experimental Research Design

Also known as experimentation, experimental research is a study conducted using a scientific method using two or more research variables. As such, the first variable is a constant that can be manipulated to observe the differences experienced in the second variable. Most of the studies conducted in quantitative research methods are naturally experimental. Experimental research helps the researcher collect the necessary data to enable him/her make better decisions concerning his/her proposed hypothesis. The accomplishment of experimental research normally confirms that the change seen in the study variable is purely based upon influencing the independent variable. Hence, experimental research design is the most accurate and practical type of research method that helps establish causation. This type of research design is applied in social sciences to observe and understand human behavior. The behavior is observed by putting humans in two groups to enable the researcher make comparisons.

  1. Correlational Research Design

A correlation is a relationship or an association between two bodies or entities. This type of research studies how one entity affects the other and the changes observed when either of the entities changes. Correlational research is done to understand naturally occurring associations between research variables. Therefore, you need to have at least two groups to carry out a correlational quantitative research. The variables in correlational study do not control the researcher, the researcher is merely trying to establish the presence or absence of a relationship between two variables. As correlational studies only make us understand if there is an association between two groups, the study does not establish causation. Due to this, it is not advisable to make conclusions on the basis of a correlational study.  Just because two variables align, it does not imply that they are interconnected, or that one variable is affecting the other variable.

  1. Diagnostic Research Design

In this type of research design, the researcher tries to evaluate the origin of a particular phenomenon or problem.  This research design used to better comprehend the facors that are generating problems in the organization. There are three steps of diagnostic research design:

  • Origin of the problem –When did the problem start? In what situations if the problem more pronounced?
  • Diagnosis of the problem – What is the fundamental cause of the problem? Why is the problem worsening?
  • Solution for the problem – What is working in alleviating the problem? In what environment is the problem becoming less pronounced?
  1. Explanatory Research Design

This research design uses the thoughts and ideas of a researcher on a single subject as a guide for future studies, and further explore theories. Explanatory research concentrates on describing the unexplored patterns of a problem and expound on the details relating to the research questions such as; how, why, and what.

How to Create a Research Design

  1. Consider your Objectives and Approach

Before you begin to design your research, you should be clear on the research question you intend to investigate. There are different ways of answering this question. Your choice of research design should be directed by your priorities and objectives.

Qualitative research designs are more inductive and flexible, enabling you to adjust your approach with regards to what you discover during the research process.

Quantitative research designs are more deductive and fixed, with hypotheses and research variables clearly defined before data collection.

You can also use a mixed-method research design that incorporates aspects of both approaches. By combining quantitative and qualitative insights, you can have a more complete picture of the issue under study and fortify the authority of your conclusions.

  1. Choose a Research Design Type

With quantitative and qualitative approaches, there are several types of research designs you can pick, as we have illustrated above. Each design types provides a structure for the overall direction of your research. The different types of research design are descriptive, correlational, experimental, diagnostic and explanatory research designs.

  1. Identify your Sampling Method and Population

Your choice of research design should clearly state what or who your research will focus on, and how you will choose your subjects or participants. In research, a population refers to the entire group that you want to investigate and draw conclusions about, while a sample is a smaller group of the population that you actually collect data from.

A population can be anything from countries, texts, organizations, animals, plants, etc. however, in social sciences, it often refers to a group of people.

There are two main ways of selecting a sample; probability sampling and non-probability sampling. The method of sampling you choose affects the generalizability of your results to the entire population.

Probability sampling is a statistically valid option that is often hard to achieve unless the researcher is dealing with a very small and accessible population. For reasonable reasons, many research studies apply non-probability sampling, but it is essential to be aware of the limitations and cautiously consider possible biases. Always make an effort to create a sample that is as representative of the population as possible.

  1. Choose your Method of Data Collection

Data collection methods are techniques of gathering information and measuring variables. They allow the researcher to obtain first-hand knowledge and novel insights into the research problem. You can use one data collection method or apply several methods in one research study.

Secondary data

If you lack the resources or the time to collect data from your population of interest, you can choose to use secondary data previously collected by other researchers, for example, datasets from previous studies or government surveys on your topic. Using the data, you can carry out your own research analysis to solve new research questions that were not addressed by the initial study.

The use of secondary data can widen the scope of your research, as you can access more varied and much larger samples than you would collect yourself. But, it also implies that you do not have control over the variables to measure or in what manner to measure them, so you can draw limited conclusions.

  1. Plan your Data Collection Processes

Other than deciding on the method to use, you also need to plan how you will use the methods to collect unbiased, accurate, and consistent data. It is especially important to plan systematic procedures in quantitative research, where you should precisely define your research variables and make sure that your measurements are valid and reliable.


Some research variables like age or height, can be measured easily. However, you’ll often be dealing with more abstract concepts, such as competence, anxiety, or satisfaction. Operationalization is converting fuzzy ideas into measurable indicators.

If using observations, which actions or events will you count?

If using surveys, what are the questions to ask and what range of answers will be provided?

You can also opt to adapt or use existing materials designed to measure the idea you are interested in, for example, inventories or questionnaires whose validity and reliability has already been confirmed.

  1. Decide on Data Analysis Strategies

By itself, raw data cannot answer your research question. The last stage of your research design is planning how to analyze the data.

Quantitative data analysis. In quantitative research, you most probably apply some form of statistical analysis. With statistics, it is easy to test hypotheses, make estimates and summarize your sample data.

Qualitative data analysis. In qualitative research, the collected data will usually be very heavy with ideas and information. Instead of presenting it in numbers, you will need to peruse through the data in detail, construe its meanings, recognize patterns, and extract the most relevant sections for your research.

Research Design Types by Grouping

You can have another classification of research design types based on how the participants are grouped. Often, grouping is dependent on the way participants are being sampled and the research hypothesis.

For instance, in a classic study based on experimental research design, you will usually find one control and one experimental group. In medical studies, for example, one group could be under treatment, while the other one would not be receiving any treatment.

Using participant grouping, we can derive four types of research design:

  1. Cohort Study

This is a type of longitudinal research sampling a cohort, that is, a group of people with a common characteristic, while investigating at particular time intervals. It is a form of panel study where people in the panel have a common characteristic.

  1. Cross-sectional Study

This is a common study in biology, medical research, and social science. A cross-sectional research design analyzes data from a representative sample or a population, at a stated point in time.

  1. Longitudinal study

This is a research design that entails repeated observations of similar variables over long and short periods of time. It is mostly a type of observational study, but it can also be developed as longitudinal randomized experiment.

  1. Cross-sequential study

The cross-sequential research design combines cross-sectional and longitudinal research designs, with the aim of compensating for some of the problems essentially present in the two research designs.


It is evident that formulating a research design is not a walk in park with all the things you need to put into consideration. But, this should not deter your resolve to create one. If you have difficulty coming up with a suitable research design for your study, you can always ask for help from custom paper writing services. However, you should be cautious when choosing a writing company to work with as there are many out there with only a few delivering what they promise. One such company is Buy-Essay.com, specializing in custom paper writing services for students in the UK and the US. We work with professional writers with each of the specializing with a niche academic field to ensure that you only receive expert and quality services.

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