General Structure and Writing Style
The function of a research design is to ensure that the evidence obtained enables you to effectively address the research problem logically and as unambiguously as possible. In social sciences research, obtaining information relevant to the research problem generally entails specifying the type of evidence needed to test a theory, to evaluate a program, or to accurately describe and assess meaning related to an observable phenomenon.
With this in mind, a common mistake made by researchers is that they begin their investigations far too early, before they have thought critically about what information is required to address the research problem. Without attending to these design issues beforehand, the overall research problem will not be adequately addressed and any conclusions drawn will run the risk of being powerless and unconvincing. As a consequence, the overall validity of the investigate will be undermined.
The length and complexity of describing research designs in your paper can vary considerably, but any well-developed design will achieve the following :
- Identify the research problem clearly and justify its selection, particularly in relation to any valid alternative designs that could have been used,
- Review and synthesize previously published literature associated with the research problem,
- Clearly and explicitly specify hypotheses [i.e. research questions] central to the problem,
- Effectively describe the data which will be necessary for an adequate testing of the hypotheses and explain how such data will be obtained, and
- Describe the methods of analysis to be applied to the data in determining whether or not the hypotheses are true or false.
The organization and structure of the section of your paper loyal to describing the research design will vary depending on the type of design you are using. However, you can get a sense of what to do by reviewing the literature of studies that have utilized the same research design. This can provide an outline to go after for your own paper.
NOTE. To search for scholarly resources on specific research designs and methods, use the SAGE Research Methods database. The database contains links to more than 175,000 pages of SAGE publisher's book, journal, and reference content on quantitative, qualitative, and mixed research methodologies. Also included is a collection of case studies of social research projects that can be used to help you better understand abstract or complicated methodological concepts.
De Vaus, D. A. Research Design in Social Research. London: SAGE, 2001; Gorard, Stephen. Research Design: Creating Sturdy Approaches for the Social Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2013; Leedy, Paul D. and Jeanne Ellis Ormrod. Practical Research: Planning and Design. Tenth edition. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2013; Vogt, W. Paul, Dianna C. Gardner, and Lynne M. Haeffele. When to Use What Research Design. Fresh York: Guilford, 2012.
Act Research Design
Definition and Purpose
The essentials of act research design go after a characteristic cycle whereby primarily an exploratory stance is adopted, where an understanding of a problem is developed and plans are made for some form of interventionary strategy. Then the intervention is carried out (the “activity” in Act Research) during which time, pertinent observations are collected in various forms. The fresh interventional strategies are carried out, and this cyclic process repeats, continuing until a sufficient understanding of (or a valid implementation solution for) the problem is achieved. The protocol is iterative or cyclical in nature and is intended to foster deeper understanding of a given situation, kicking off with conceptualizing and particularizing the problem and moving through several interventions and evaluations.
What do these studies tell you ?
What these studies don't tell you ?
Coghlan, David and Mary Brydon-Miller. The Sage Encyclopedia of Activity Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2014; Efron, Sara Efrat and Ruth Ravid. Act Research in Education: A Practical Guide. Fresh York: Guilford, 2013; Gall, Meredith. Educational Research: An Introduction. Chapter Eighteen, Activity Research. 8th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2007; Gorard, Stephen. Research Design: Creating Sturdy Approaches for the Social Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2013; Kemmis, Stephen and Robin McTaggart. “Participatory Act Research.” In Handbook of Qualitative Research. Norman Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds. 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2000), pp. 567-605; McNiff, Jean. Writing and Doing Act Research. London: Sage, 2014; Reason, Peter and Hilary Bradbury. Handbook of Act Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2001.
Case Examine Design
A case examine is an in-depth examine of a particular research problem rather than a sweeping statistical survey or comprehesive comparative inquiry. It is often used to narrow down a very broad field of research into one or a few lightly researchable examples. The case investigate research design is also useful for testing whether a specific theory and model actually applies to phenomena in the real world. It is a useful design when not much is known about an issue or phenomenon.
Case Studies. [email protected] Colorado State University; Anastas, Jeane W. Research Design for Social Work and the Human Services. Chapter Four, Supple Methods: Case Explore Design. 2nd ed. Fresh York: Columbia University Press, 1999; Gerring, John. “What Is a Case Investigate and What Is It Good for?” American Political Science Review 98 (May 2004): 341-354; Greenhalgh, Trisha, editor. Case Explore Evaluation: Past, Present and Future Challenges. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing, 2015; Mills, Albert J. Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Examine Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010; Stake, Robert E. The Art of Case Explore Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 1995; Yin, Robert K. Case Examine Research: Design and Theory. Applied Social Research Methods Series, no. Five. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2003.
Causality studies may be thought of as understanding a phenomenon in terms of conditional statements in the form, “If X, then Y.” This type of research is used to measure what influence a specific switch will have on existing norms and assumptions. Most social scientists seek causal explanations that reflect tests of hypotheses. Causal effect (nomothetic perspective) occurs when variation in one phenomenon, an independent variable, leads to or results, on average, in variation in another phenomenon, the dependent variable.
Conditions necessary for determining causality:
- Empirical association — a valid conclusion is based on finding an association inbetween the independent variable and the dependent variable.
- Adequate time order — to conclude that causation was involved, one must see that cases were exposed to variation in the independent variable before variation in the dependent variable.
- Nonspuriousness — a relationship inbetween two variables that is not due to variation in a third variable.
Beach, Derek and Rasmus Brun Pedersen. Causal Case Investigate Methods: Foundations and Guidelines for Comparing, Matching, and Tracing. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2016; Bachman, Ronet. The Practice of Research in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Chapter Five, Causation and Research Designs. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 2007; Brewer, Ernest W. and Jennifer Kubn. “Causal-Comparative Design.” In Encyclopedia of Research Design. Neil J. Salkind, editor. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010), pp. 125-132; Causal Research Design: Experimentation. Anonymous SlideShare Presentation ; Gall, Meredith. Educational Research: An Introduction. Chapter 11, Nonexperimental Research: Correlational Designs. 8th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2007; Trochim, William M.K. Research Methods Skill Base. 2006.
Often used in the medical sciences, but also found in the applied social sciences, a cohort examine generally refers to a probe conducted over a period of time involving members of a population which the subject or representative member comes from, and who are united by some commonality or similarity. Using a quantitative framework, a cohort probe makes note of statistical occurrence within a specialized subgroup, united by same or similar characteristics that are relevant to the research problem being investigated, r ather than studying statistical occurrence within the general population. Using a qualitative framework, cohort studies generally gather data using methods of observation. Cohorts can be either “open” or “closed.”
Healy P, Devane D. “Methodological Considerations in Cohort Examine Designs.” Nurse Researcher Legitimate (2011): 32-36; Glenn, Norval D, editor. Cohort Analysis. 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005; Levin, Kate Ann. Explore Design IV: Cohort Studies. Evidence-Based Dentistry 7 (2003): 51–52; Payne, Geoff. “Cohort Probe.” In The SAGE Dictionary of Social Research Methods. Victor Jupp, editor. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006), pp. 31-33; Examine Design 101. Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library. George Washington University, November 2011; Cohort Explore. Wikipedia.
Cross-sectional research designs have three distinctive features: no time dimension; a reliance on existing differences rather than switch following intervention; and, groups are selected based on existing differences rather than random allocation. The cross-sectional design can only measure differences inbetween or from among a diversity of people, subjects, or phenomena rather than a process of switch. As such, researchers using this design can only employ a relatively passive treatment to making causal inferences based on findings.
Bethlehem, Jelke. “7: Cross-sectional Research.” In Research Methodology in the Social, Behavioural and Life Sciences. Herman J Adèr and Gideon J Mellenbergh, editors. (London, England: Sage, 1999), pp. 110-43; Bourque, Linda B. “Cross-Sectional Design.” In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods. Michael S. Lewis-Beck, Alan Bryman, and Tim Futing Liao. (Thousand Oaks, CA: 2004), pp. 230-231; Hall, John. “Cross-Sectional Survey Design.” In Encyclopedia of Survey Research Methods. Paul J. Lavrakas, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), pp. 173-174; Helen Barratt, Maria Kirwan. Cross-Sectional Studies: Design, Application, Strengths and Weaknesses of Cross-Sectional Studies. Healthknowledge, 2009. Cross-Sectional Probe. Wikipedia.
Descriptive research designs help provide answers to the questions of who, what, when, where, and how associated with a particular research problem; a descriptive explore cannot conclusively ascertain answers to why. Descriptive research is used to obtain information concerning the current status of the phenomena and to describe “what exists” with respect to variables or conditions in a situation.
Anastas, Jeane W. Research Design for Social Work and the Human Services. Chapter Five, Pliable Methods: Descriptive Research. 2nd ed. Fresh York: Columbia University Press, 1999; Given, Lisa M. “Descriptive Research.” In Encyclopedia of Measurement and Statistics. Neil J. Salkind and Kristin Rasmussen, editors. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2007), pp. 251-254; McNabb, Connie. Descriptive Research Methodologies. Powerpoint Presentation; Shuttleworth, Martyn. Descriptive Research Design. September 26, 2008. Explorable.com website.
A blueprint of the procedure that enables the researcher to maintain control over all factors that may affect the result of an experiment. In doing this, the researcher attempts to determine or predict what may occur. Experimental research is often used where there is time priority in a causal relationship (cause precedes effect), there is consistency in a causal relationship (a cause will always lead to the same effect), and the magnitude of the correlation is excellent. The classic experimental design specifies an experimental group and a control group. The independent variable is administered to the experimental group and not to the control group, and both groups are measured on the same dependent variable. Subsequent experimental designs have used more groups and more measurements over longer periods. True experiments must have control, randomization, and manipulation.
Anastas, Jeane W. Research Design for Social Work and the Human Services. Chapter 7, Pliable Methods: Experimental Research. 2nd ed. Fresh York: Columbia University Press, 1999; Chapter Two: Research Design, Experimental Designs. School of Psychology, University of Fresh England, 2000; Chow, Siu L. “Experimental Design.” In Encyclopedia of Research Design. Neil J. Salkind, editor. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010), pp. 448-453; “Experimental Design.” In Social Research Methods. Nicholas Walliman, editor. (London, England: Sage, 2006), pp, 101-110; Experimental Research. Research Methods by Dummies. Department of Psychology. California State University, Fresno, 2006; Kirk, Roger E. Experimental Design: Procedures for the Behavioral Sciences. 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2013; Trochim, William M.K. Experimental Design. Research Methods Skill Base. 2006; Rasool, Shafqat. Experimental Research. Slideshare presentation.
An exploratory design is conducted about a research problem when there are few or no earlier studies to refer to or rely upon to predict an outcome. The concentrate is on gaining insights and familiarity for later investigation or undertaken when research problems are in a preliminary stage of investigation. Exploratory designs are often used to establish an understanding of how best to proceed in studying an issue or what methodology would effectively apply to gathering information about the issue.
The goals of exploratory research are intended to produce the following possible insights:
Cuthill, Michael. “Exploratory Research: Citizen Participation, Local Government, and Sustainable Development in Australia.” Sustainable Development Ten (2002): 79-89; Streb, Christoph K. “Exploratory Case Examine.” In Encyclopedia of Case Examine Research. Albert J. Mills, Gabrielle Durepos and Eiden Wiebe, editors. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010), pp. 372-374; Taylor, P. J. G. Catalano, and D.R.F. Walker. “Exploratory Analysis of the World City Network.” Urban Studies 39 (December 2002): 2377-2394; Exploratory Research. Wikipedia.
The purpose of a historical research design is to collect, verify, and synthesize evidence from the past to establish facts that defend or refute a hypothesis. It uses secondary sources and a multiplicity of primary documentary evidence, such as, diaries, official records, reports, archives, and non-textual information [maps, pictures, audio and visual recordings]. The limitation is that the sources must be both authentic and valid.
Howell, Martha C. and Walter Prevenier. From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001; Lundy, Karen Saucier. “Historical Research.” In The Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods. Lisa M. Given, editor. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), pp. 396-400; Marius, Richard. and Melvin E. Page. A Brief Guide to Writing about History. 9th edition. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2015; Savitt, Ronald. “Historical Research in Marketing.” Journal of Marketing 44 (Autumn, 1980): 52-58; Gall, Meredith. Educational Research: An Introduction. Chapter 16, Historical Research. 8th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2007.
A longitudinal explore goes after the same sample over time and makes repeated observations. For example, with longitudinal surveys, the same group of people is interviewed at regular intervals, enabling researchers to track switches over time and to relate them to variables that might explain why the switches occur. Longitudinal research designs describe patterns of switch and help establish the direction and magnitude of causal relationships. Measurements are taken on each variable over two or more distinct time periods. This permits the researcher to measure switch in variables over time. It is a type of observational investigate sometimes referred to as a panel explore.
Anastas, Jeane W. Research Design for Social Work and the Human Services. Chapter 6, Lithe Methods: Relational and Longitudinal Research. 2nd ed. Fresh York: Columbia University Press, 1999; Forgues, Bernard, and Isabelle Vandangeon-Derumez. “Longitudinal Analyses.” In Doing Management Research. Raymond-Alain Thiétart and Samantha Wauchope, editors. (London, England: Sage, 2001), pp. 332-351; Kalaian, Sema A. and Rafa M. Kasim. “Longitudinal Studies.” In Encyclopedia of Survey Research Methods. Paul J. Lavrakas, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), pp. 440-441; Menard, Scott, editor. Longitudinal Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002; Ployhart, Robert E. and Robert J. Vandenberg. “Longitudinal Research: The Theory, Design, and Analysis of Switch.” Journal of Management 36 (January 2010): 94-120; Longitudinal Examine. Wikipedia.
Meta-analysis is an analytical methodology designed to systematically evaluate and summarize the results from a number of individual studies, thereby, enhancing the overall sample size and the capability of the researcher to explore effects of interest. The purpose is to not simply summarize existing skill, but to develop a fresh understanding of a research problem using synoptic reasoning. The main objectives of meta-analysis include analyzing differences in the results among studies and enlargening the precision by which effects are estimated. A well-designed meta-analysis depends upon stringent adherence to the criteria used for selecting studies and the availability of information in each examine to decently analyze their findings. Lack of information can severely limit the type of analyzes and conclusions that can be reached. In addition, the more dissimilarity there is in the results among individual studies [heterogeneity], the more difficult it is to justify interpretations that govern a valid synopsis of results.
A meta-analysis needs to fulfill the following requirements to ensure the validity of your findings:
Beck, Lewis W. “The Synoptic Method.” The Journal of Philosophy 36 (1939): 337-345; Cooper, Harris, Larry V. Hedges, and Jeffrey C. Valentine, eds. The Handbook of Research Synthesis and Meta-Analysis. 2nd edition. Fresh York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2009; Guzzo, Richard A. Susan E. Jackson and Raymond A. Katzell. “Meta-Analysis Analysis.” In Research in Organizational Behavior. Volume 9. (Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1987), pp 407-442; Lipsey, Mark W. and David B. Wilson. Practical Meta-Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2001; Probe Design 101. Meta-Analysis. The Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library, George Washington University; Timulak, Ladislav. “Qualitative Meta-Analysis.” In The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis. Uwe Flick, editor. (Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2013), pp. 481-495; Walker, Esteban, Adrian V. Hernandez, and Micheal W. Kattan. “Meta-Analysis: It's Strengths and Limitations.” Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine 75 (June 2008): 431-439.
Mixed methods research represents more of an treatment to examining a research problem than a methodology. Mixed method is characterized by a concentrate on research problems that require, 1) an examination of real-life contextual understandings, multi-level perspectives, and cultural influences; Two) an intentional application of rigorous quantitative research assessing magnitude and frequency of constructs and rigorous qualitative research exploring the meaning and understanding of the constructs; and, Three) an objective of drawing on the strengths of quantitative and qualitative data gathering mechanisms to formulate a holistic interpretive framework for generating possible solutions or fresh understandings of the problem. Tashakkori and Creswell (2007) and other proponents of mixed methods argue that the design encompasses more than simply combining qualitative and quantitative methods but, rather, reflects a fresh “third way” epistemological paradigm that occupies the conceptual space inbetween positivism and interpretivism.
Burch, Patricia and Carolyn J. Heinrich. Mixed Methods for Policy Research and Program Evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2016; Creswell, John w. et al. Best Practices for Mixed Methods Research in the Health Sciences . Bethesda, MD: Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, National Institutes of Health, 2010Creswell, John W. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2014; Domínguez, Silvia, editor. Mixed Methods Social Networks Research. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014; Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. Mixed Methods Research: Merging Theory with Practice. Fresh York: Guilford Press, 2010; Niglas, Katrin. “How the Novice Researcher Can Make Sense of Mixed Methods Designs.” International Journal of Numerous Research Approaches Three (2009): 34-46; Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J. and Nancy L. Leech. “Linking Research Questions to Mixed Methods Data Analysis Procedures.” The Qualitative Report 11 (September 2006): 474-498; Tashakorri, Abbas and John W. Creswell. “The Fresh Era of Mixed Methods.” Journal of Mixed Methods Research 1 (January 2007): 3-7; Zhanga, Wanqing. “Mixed Methods Application in Health Intervention Research: A Numerous Case Examine.” International Journal of Numerous Research Approaches 8 (2014): 24-35 .
This type of research design draws a conclusion by comparing subjects against a control group, in cases where the researcher has no control over the experiment. There are two general types of observational designs. In direct observations, people know that you are watching them. Unobtrusive measures involve any method for studying behavior where individuals do not know they are being observed. An observational explore permits a useful insight into a phenomenon and avoids the ethical and practical difficulties of setting up a large and cumbersome research project.
Atkinson, Paul and Martyn Hammersley. “Ethnography and Participant Observation.” In Handbook of Qualitative Research. Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994), pp. 248-261; Observational Research. Research Methods by Dummies. Department of Psychology. California State University, Fresno, 2006; Patton Michael Quinn. Qualitiative Research and Evaluation Methods. Chapter 6, Fieldwork Strategies and Observational Methods. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002; Payne, Geoff and Judy Payne. “Observation.” In Key Concepts in Social Research. The SAGE Key Concepts series. (London, England: Sage, 2004), pp. 158-162; Rosenbaum, Paul R. Design of Observational Studies. Fresh York: Springer, 2010;Williams, J. Patrick. “Nonparticipant Observation.” In The Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods. Lisa M. Given, editor.(Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), pp. 562-563.
Definition and Purpose
Understood more as an broad treatment to examining a research problem than a methodological design, philosophical analysis and argumentation is intended to challenge deeply embedded, often intractable, assumptions underpinning an area of explore. This treatment uses the devices of argumentation derived from philosophical traditions, concepts, models, and theories to critically explore and challenge, for example, the relevance of logic and evidence in academic debates, to analyze arguments about fundamental issues, or to discuss the root of existing discourse about a research problem. These overarching instruments of analysis can be framed in three ways:
Burton, Dawn. “Part I, Philosophy of the Social Sciences.” In Research Training for Social Scientists. (London, England: Sage, 2000), pp. 1-5; Chapter Four, Research Methodology and Design. Unisa Institutional Repository (UnisaIR), University of South Africa; Jarvie, Ian C. and Jesús Zamora-Bonilla, editors. The SAGE Handbook of the Philosophy of Social Sciences. London: Sage, 2011; Labaree, Robert V. and Ross Scimeca. “The Philosophical Problem of Truth in Librarianship.” The Library Quarterly 78 (January 2008): 43-70; Maykut, Pamela S. Beginning Qualitative Research: A Philosophic and Practical Guide. Washington, DC: Falmer Press, 1994; McLaughlin, Hugh. “The Philosophy of Social Research.” In Understanding Social Work Research. 2nd edition. (London: SAGE Publications Ltd. 2012), pp. 24-47; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, CSLI, Stanford University, 2013.
Sequential research is that which is carried out in a deliberate, staged treatment [i.e. serially] where one stage will be ended, followed by another, then another, and so on, with the aim that each stage will build upon the previous one until enough data is gathered over an interval of time to test your hypothesis. The sample size is not predetermined. After each sample is analyzed, the researcher can accept the null hypothesis, accept the alternative hypothesis, or select another pool of subjects and conduct the probe once again. This means the researcher can obtain a limitless number of subjects before making a final decision whether to accept the null or alternative hypothesis. Using a quantitative framework, a sequential probe generally utilizes sampling technologies to gather data and applying statistical methods to analze the data. Using a qualitative framework, sequential studies generally utilize samples of individuals or groups of individuals [cohorts] and use qualitative methods, such as interviews or observations, to gather information from each sample.
Betensky, Rebecca. Harvard University, Course Lecture Note slips ; Bovaird, James A. and Kevin A. Kupzyk. “Sequential Design.” In Encyclopedia of Research Design. Neil J. Salkind, editor. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010), pp. 1347-1352; Cresswell, John W. Et al. “Advanced Mixed-Methods Research Designs.” In Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social and Behavioral Research. Abbas Tashakkori and Charles Teddle, eds. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2003), pp. 209-240; Henry, Gary T. “Sequential Sampling.” In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods. Michael S. Lewis-Beck, Alan Bryman and Tim Futing Liao, editors. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2004), pp. 1027-1028; Nataliya V. Ivankova. “Using Mixed-Methods Sequential Explanatory Design: From Theory to Practice.” Field Methods Eighteen (February 2006): 3-20; Bovaird, James A. and Kevin A. Kupzyk. “Sequential Design.” In Encyclopedia of Research Design. Neil J. Salkind, ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010; Sequential Analysis. Wikipedia.