A number of students ask questions like this: What is research design ? Explain Research Design, Define research design, etc. I have tried to answer these questions in this article. All types of research have an implicit, if not explicit, design. In the most simple way, the design is the logical order which links the empirical data to a study’s preliminary research questions and, ultimately, to its results.
In modern language, a design is a logical plan for getting from here to there, where here could be thought as the preliminary set of questions to be answered, and there is some set of conclusions (answers) about these questions. Between “here” and “there” you can find quite a few key steps, such as the collection and analysis of relevant data.
Discussion: What is a Research Design?
A research design is a blueprint for the research project, working with at least four challenges: what questions to study, what data are related, what data to gather, and how to analyze the results.
While constructing a building there is absolutely no point buying materials or setting crucial dates for completion of project stages until we know what type of building is being built. The initial decision is whether we require a high rise office building, a manufacturing facility, a college, a residential house or an apartment block. Until this is done we simply can’t sketch a plan, acquire permits, plan a work schedule or purchase resources.
In the same way, research requires a design or a structure before data collection or analysis can begin. A design is not just a work plan.
The function of a research design is to make certain that evidence received allows us to answer the initial question as unambiguously as possible. Acquiring appropriate evidence entails specifying the kind of evidence required to answer the research question, to test a theory, to judge a programme or to appropriately describe some phenomenon. Put simply, when designing research we have to ask: given this research question (or theory), which kind of evidence is necessary to answer the question (or test the theory) in a convincing way?
Prior to a builder or architect can develop a work plan or purchase materials they need to first establish the kind of building needed, its uses and the requirements of the people. The work plan flows from this. In the same manner, in research the problems with sampling, approach to data collection (e.g. questionnaire, observation, document analysis), design of questions are all subsidiary to the matter of “What evidence should I collect?”
The primary intent behind the design is to prevent the situation where the evidence doesn’t address the original research questions. In this sense, a design relates to a logical problem and not a logistical problem. For example, assume you wish to research an organization. Your research questions, however, have to do with the organization’s connections with other organizations their competitive or collaborative nature. These kinds of questions could only be answered if you gather information directly from the other organizations and not just from the one you started with. If you finish your research by examining just one organization, it’s not possible to draw honest conclusions about interorganizational relationships. This is a downside in your design, not in your work plan. The end result could have been voided in case you have prepared a suitable design in the first place.
I have tried my best to discuss what is research design? A design matters a lot, if the design is not given due importance, the conclusions drawn will normally be weak and unconvincing and fail to answer the research question.