Research Design: Definition, Characteristics and Types

Research design definition

Research design is the framework of research methods and techniques chosen by a researcher. The design allows researchers to hone in on research methods that are suitable for the subject matter and set up their studies up for success.

The design of a research topic explains the type of research (experimentalsurvey researchcorrelational, semi-experimental, review) and also its sub-type (experimental design, research problem, descriptive case-study). 

There are three main types of designs for research: Data collection, measurement, and analysis.

The type of research problem an organization is facing will determine the research design and not vice-versa. The design phase of a study determines which tools to use and how they are used.

An impactful research usually creates a minimum bias in data and increases trust in the accuracy of collected data. A design that produces the least margin of error in experimental research is generally considered the desired outcome. The essential elements are:

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

Proper research design sets your study up for success. Successful research studies provide insights that are accurate and unbiased. You’ll need to create a survey that meets all of the main characteristics of a design. There are four key characteristics:

Characteristics of Research Design

Neutrality: When you set up your study, you may have to make assumptions about the data you expect to collect. The results projected in the research should be free from bias and neutral. Understand opinions about the final evaluated scores and conclusions from multiple individuals and consider those who agree with the derived results.

Reliability: With regularly conducted research, the researcher involved expects similar results every time. Your design should indicate how to form research questions to ensure the standard of results. You’ll only be able to reach the expected results if your design is reliable.

Validity: There are multiple measuring tools available. However, the only correct measuring tools are those which help a researcher in gauging results according to the objective of the research. The questionnaire developed from this design will then be valid.

Generalization: The outcome of your design should apply to a population and not just a restricted sample. A generalized design implies that your survey can be conducted on any part of a population with similar accuracy.

The above factors affect the way respondents answer the research questions and so all the above characteristics should be balanced in a good design.

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

Qualitative: Qualitative research determines relationships between collected data and observations based on mathematical calculations. Theories related to a naturally existing phenomenon can be proved or disproved using statistical methods. Researchers rely on qualitative research methods that conclude “why” a particular theory exists along with “what” respondents have to say about it.

Quantitative: Quantitative research is for cases where statistical conclusions to collect actionable insights are essential. Numbers provide a better perspective to make critical business decisions. Quantitative research methods are necessary for the growth of any organization. Insights drawn from hard numerical data and analysis prove to be highly effective when making decisions related to the future of the business.

You can further break down the types of research design into five categories:

1. Descriptive research design: In a descriptive design, a researcher is solely interested in describing the situation or case under their research study. It is a theory-based design method which is created by gathering, analyzing, and presenting collected data. This allows a researcher to provide insights into the why and how of research. Descriptive design helps others better understand the need for the research. If the problem statement is not clear, you can conduct exploratory research. 

2. Experimental research design: Experimental research establishes a relationship between the cause and effect of a situation. It is a causal design where one observes the impact caused by the independent variable on the dependent variable. For example, one monitors the influence of an independent variable such as a price on a dependent variable such as customer satisfaction or brand loyalty. It is a highly practical research method as it contributes to solving a problem at hand.

The independent variables are manipulated to monitor the change it has on the dependent variable. It is often used in social sciences to observe human behavior by analyzing two groups. Researchers can have participants change their actions and study how the people around them react to gain a better understanding of social psychology.

3. Correlational research design: Correlational research is a non-experimental research technique that helps researchers establish a relationship between two closely connected variables. This type of research requires two different groups. There is no assumption while evaluating a relationship between two different variables, and statistical analysis techniques calculate the relationship between them.

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

4. Diagnostic research design: In diagnostic design, the researcher is looking to evaluate the underlying cause of a specific topic or phenomenon. This method helps one learn more about the factors that create troublesome situations. 

This design has three parts of the research:

· Inception of the issue

· Diagnosis of the issue

· Solution for the issue

5. Explanatory research design: Explanatory design uses a researcher’s ideas and thoughts on a subject to further explore their theories. The research explains unexplored aspects of a subject and details about what, how, and why of research questions.