How to Write a Strong Research Design

Writing GuidesResearch Methods
Alex Ponomarenko
Oct 3, 2019

Research Designs Definition

A research design is a framework of a research’s overall methodology. Researchers create a research design paper to map out their plans and have a guideline that they will follow throughout their study. The paper is a document that contains information regarding the data collection and analysis process. The document should help researchers answer research questions and ensure a smooth flow of the process. Researchers may write the document as a standalone paper or a section of a  dissertation proposal.

Research Design Format

A research design format includes an introduction, a discussion of theories and hypotheses, methodology, conclusion, and references. Individuals can follow this format whether they are writing a standalone paper or a part of a dissertation proposal.

1. Introduction

The introduction of a research design paper is similar to most academic essay introductions . The section should introduce the topic of the paper. This means providing a definition and background information about the topic that can act as a hook for the paper. The introduction should also state the significance of the research.

2. Discussion of theories and hypotheses

This section of the research design paper contains an extensive discussion on the theories and other factors related to the research questions. The researchers should also state their hypotheses in this section. They should identify the main ideas of their paper and how it affects the study. The researchers should also indicate the factors that they will utilize in the data collection process. For example, research regarding distance learning will involve factors like teaching methods and computer literacy. The researchers should then discuss these factors and state that they will take them into account during the data collection.

3. Methodology

The methodology section will contain the most important content of the paper. Here, the researchers will discuss their overall methodology. This will involve a discussion about the type of research design, the scope of their research, measurement tools, analysis process, and data collection technique. The researchers can add more subsections depending on the nature of their study and their chosen methodology.

4. Conclusion

The conclusion will simply summarize the document and state additional information that the researchers did not discuss in the previous sections. If an individual is writing the paper for a project proposal, they may not need to include a conclusion. However, some instructors may still require the conclusion. Students should verify this with their instructors to avoid issues with their format.

5. References

The reference section is where the writer will list all the sources they used for the document. This should include the sources that individuals used in the theoretical discussion section and other discussions. Similar to the conclusion, a research design for a proposal will not require a reference list. This is because proposals and other papers will have a designated reference list at the end of the document. Only a standalone research design paper should include a reference list.

How to Write a Research Design

Step 1. Create an overview of the approach

Researchers can use different types of approaches which can be qualitative or quantitative. The approach will depend on the researchers’ preference and topic. To create an overview of the approach, researchers should assess if their study will allow them to use qualitative or quantitative methods. They may also take into account the purpose of the study. This will help them decide how the data collection process will proceed. The researchers can read previous studies and find out the common method that other experts in the fields have used.

Step 2. Consider the limitations

Once the researchers have an overview of their approach, they should then consider the limitations of their study. This means identifying their timeline, data accessibility, research skills, instructor approval, and other similar factors. Assessing the limitation is an important process to avoid making major revisions in the paper. The researchers should ensure that their initial approach is feasible and that they have the necessary skills to perform it.

Step 3. Assess the best type of research design

After considering the limitations and creating an overview of their approach, the researchers should be able to choose the best type of research design for their study. There are several types under the qualitative and quantitative approaches. The different types will suit certain studies and provide varying data. Aside from these approaches, the researchers should also consider if they require primary or secondary data.

Step 4. Choose the sample demographics

Once the researchers chose a type of research design, they can then begin to identify their demographics. The demographics will be the group of subjects that the researchers will use to retrieve data. A demographic can be a group of people, animals, plants, places, objects, and other feasible subjects. The researchers will choose their demographics based on their approach and data collection method.

Step 5. Choose a data collection technique

After deciding on a demographic, the researchers can then choose a data collection method. There are various data collection methods such as surveys, interviews, questionnaires, experiments, observations, reading books, and others. A study’s data collection technique will depend on the research design type and the demographics.

For quantitative approaches, the researchers may use questionnaires, surveys, controlled observations, polls, and interviews to collect data. These methods allow the researchers to gather quantifiable information. For a qualitative approach, researchers can utilize interviews, observations, gathering secondary data, and focus groups. These methods focus more on gathering unquantifiable information.

Step 6. Discuss all the aspects of the methodology

Once the researchers have identified their preferred approach, demographics, and techniques, they can then proceed with discussing all these aspects in the paper. They should discuss all these aspects in the methodology section of the paper. They can designate a specific subsection for each aspect to have a better structure for the document. 

The methodology section is the middle section of a research design paper, however, it is best to write it first since it contains most of the important parts of the document. The researchers can create a draft for the initial writing of the paper and revise it once they complete the whole document.

Step 7. Write the introduction, theoretical discussion and conclusion

After the researcher has written the most important parts of the paper, they can then begin constructing the rest of the document. The paper will begin with an introduction that will provide background information and state the significance of the study. The theoretical discussion will contain extensive arguments and explanations about the topic as well as the hypotheses. The conclusion will be a summarization of the whole paper.

How to create a strong research design

Types of Quantitative Research Design

Researchers use quantitative research designs when they aim to collect measurable data. The approach focuses on sampling, measuring the number of responses, and experimenting. Quantitative research design types include descriptive, correlative, quasi-experimental, and experimental types.

  • Descriptive. Researchers can use the descriptive design to describe characteristics, trends, means, and other measurable quantities. Studies that aim to quantify a similar factor among a specific demographic will benefit from the descriptive type.
  • Correlative. A correlative design aims to assess a quantifiable relationship between different variables. The correlative type is perfect for studies that focus on comparing two or more samples.
  • Quasi-experimental. Researchers use a quasi-experimental design to quantify a cause-and-effect relationship between different samples. Studies that focus on a single group will benefit from this type.
  • Experimental. The experimental design also aims to quantify a cause-and-effect relationship. However, it involves having an experimental group and a controlled group. This design type is good for any study that aims to assess a causal relationship.

Types of Quantitative Research Design

Researchers studying behaviors commonly use a qualitative approach in their studies. These types of studies often collect subjective data which are unquantifiable and require qualitative analysis. Qualitative research design types include ethnographic, narrative, grounded theory, case study, phenomenology, and hermeneutics.

  • Ethnographic. In ethnography, the researcher directly interacts with the respondents in their natural environment or community. The researcher will take note of their observations and first-hand experiences.
  • Narrative. In a narrative design, the researcher writes a narrative about the respondent’s life experiences. Researchers use this type if they are studying the life and behavior of a specific individual.
  • Grounded Theory. The grounded theory design aims to establish or modify a theory. The method requires the researcher to analyze qualitative data and develop a new perspective regarding the topic.
  • Phenomenology. In phenomenology, the researcher aims to understand an event or phenomenon through the experiences of an individual. Researchers often use this method when studying unusual behavior or events.
  • Hermeneutics. The hermeneutics design focuses on interpreting the meaning behind words, art, culture, events, and ideas. Researchers studying subjective topics should use the hermeneutic approach in their study.

Research Design Example

Below are some example sections for a research design paper. The example sections should help individuals better understand the structure of the document. It is important to note that some professors may provide specific instructions that can change the document’s format.

1. Introduction

“The paper will focus on the issue of financially unstable students failing to meet distance learning requirements. Distance learning requires students to use devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Most of these devices are expensive and unaffordable for financially unstable students. This study is necessary to help address this significant issue that can affect the lives of students and future professionals…”

2. Discussion of theories

“Students from families with financial constraints are often less tech-savvy and would find it difficult to navigate in an online learning environment (Dhawan, 2020). Some students from these types of families may also fail to afford the necessary device and services for e-learning…”

Main Hypothesis: Students with financial constraints are more likely to drop out of e-learning environments due to their limitations.”

3. Methodology

Type of research design: The proponents will conduct a quantitative study to assess the dropout rate of students with financial constraints. The proponents will utilize a quasi-experimental design and use online surveys…”

Scope of the research: The proponents will focus on students that recently dropped out of e-learning environments. The sample students will be from four different e-learning programs…”

Measurement tools and data collection technique: The proponents will distribute online surveys to the respondents which will contain questions that will assess the reason behind the dropouts.  The study will retrieve primary data from the respondents…”

4. Conclusion

“The proponents will use quantitative research to retrieve primary data from students who recently dropped out of e-learning programs. The study will assess the reason behind the dropouts which may include financial constraints, computer illiteracy, motivation, and parental influence…”

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Written by
Alex Ponomarenko
I am a content manager from California, US. I started as a content writer intern eleven years ago and became a content manager six years after. I joined CustomEssayMeister five years ago and enjoy being a part of the team every day.

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