Research Design: Definition, Methods & Examples

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Table of Contents

What is research design?

According to the definition of research design, it refers to the framework of market research methods and techniques that are chosen by a researcher. The design that is chosen by the researchers allow them to utilise the methods that are suitable for the study and to set up their studies successfully in the future as well.

The design of research can be either qualitative, quantitative, or mixed. Under these research designs, researchers can choose between different types of research methods; experimental studiessurveys, correlational studies, or quasi-experimental review studies. There are also sub-types of research methods namely experimental design, defining research problems, and descriptive studies.

Research designs also include the elements of data collection, measurement of data with the respective tools, and the analysis of the data. As a rule of thumb, the research problem a company chooses to work on is the determining factor of the research design chosen by the researcher instead of the other way round. 

The market research study’s design phase is the time when the researchers determine the tools to be used in the study and the way they are used. Good research usually ensures minimum levels of bias in the data collection method to improve both the internal and the external validity of the research. The desired outcome of experimental research is to have a design that will result in the least amount of error in the study.

What are the elements of research design?

Some essential elements of research designs are highlighted below:

  1. A research design cannot be decided without an accurate purpose or problem statement.
  2. Research designs also include various sampling methods and tools that will be used for collecting data for the research.
  3. Research designs guide the methods used for data analysis
  4. Research designs include several types of research methodology
  5. Research designs help narrow down to a probable objective of the research.
  6. Different research designs require different settings for the conduction of a study.
  7. Research designs also outline the general timeline it will take to conduct a study using different research methods.
  8. Research designs help researchers to narrow down to a particular measurement of analysis.

Using an accurate research design will help your study be successful. Research studies that are successful and include the least amount of error provide important insights that are free of bias. 

Researchers create surveys in order to meet all the characteristics of a research design.

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What are the main characteristics of research design?

The main characteristics of research design are:

  1. When you are planning to study a phenomenon you may have an assumption about the kind of data you are expecting to collect. However, the results you find from the study should not be driven from bias and must be neutral. In order to understand the opinions on the obtained results, you can discuss it with multiple people and consider the points made by individuals who agree with the results obtained.
  2. When a researcher is replicating an already conducted market research, they expect similar results. Decide the type of research questions you are going to ask through your surveys and define that in your research design. This will help set a standard for the results. Only if your design is reliable, it will help you obtain the expected results.
  3. You need to ensure that the survey questionnaire you are using is valid. Validity refers to the fact that the research tool you are using is measuring what it purports to measure. Only valid tools will help researchers in gathering accurate results for their study.
  4. The outcome of your research design should be generalisable to a wider population. Findings of a good research design are generalisable to everyone and it indicates that if your survey was to be replicated on any subgroup of the population, it would yield similar results.

A good research design ensures to have all the above characteristics in a balanced manner. Apart from these characteristics, researchers must also have a good understanding of the different research design types to choose from. This understanding will help them implement the most accurate research design for their study.

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What are the different types of research design?

Broadly, there are two types of research design types: 

  1. Qualitative research design
  2. Quantitative research design

Quantitative Research Design:

Quantitative research is referred to as the process of collecting as well as analyzing numerical data. It is generally used to find patterns, averages, predictions, as well as cause-effect relationships between the variables being studied. It is also used to generalize the results of a particular study to the population in consideration. 

Quantitative research is widely used in science; both natural and social sciences. Quantitative research provides actionable insights which are essential for the growth of the company.

Qualitative Research Design:

Qualitative research can be defined as a method used for market research that aims at obtaining data through open-ended questions and conversations with the intended consumers. 

This method aims at establishing not only “what” people think but “how” did they come to that opinion as well as “why” they think so.

What are the subtypes of research design?

There are five subtypes of research design:

  1. Descriptive research design
  2. Experiemental research design
  3. Correlational research design
  4. Diagnostic research design
  5. Explanatory research design

Descriptive research design

Descriptive research refers to the methods that describe the characteristics of the variables under study. This methodology focuses on answering questions relating to “what” than the “why” of the research subject. The primary focus of descriptive research is to simply describe the nature of the demographics under the study instead of focusing on the “why”. 

Descriptive research is called an observational research method as none of the variables in the study are influenced during the process of the research. If the problem is not clear enough to conduct a descriptive analysis, researchers can use exploratory research methods first.

Experimental research design 

Experimental research, also called experimentation, is research conducted using a scientific approach using two or more variables. The first variable is a constant that you can manipulate to see the differences caused in the second variable. Most studies under quantitative research methods are experimental in nature.

Experimental research helps you in gathering the necessary data for you to make better decisions about your proposed hypothesis. The success of experimental research usually confirms that the change observed in the variable under study is solely based on the manipulation of the independent variable. Experimental research design is the most practical and accurate kind of research method which helps establish causation. This research design is used in social sciences to understand and observe human behavior. The behavior is observed by placing humans in two groups so that researchers can make comparisons.

Correlational research design

A correlation refers to an association or a relationship between two entities.

Correlational research studies how one entity impacts the other and what are the changes that are observed when either one of them changes. This research method is carried out to understand naturally occurring relationships between variables. Hence, at least two groups are required to conduct correlational quantitative research successfully. The variables under this study are not in the control of the researcher, the researcher is simply trying to establish whether or not a relationship between two variables exists. 

Since correlational studies only give us an understanding of whether there is a relationship between two groups, it does not establish causation. Thus, it is not recommended to make conclusions just on the basis of a correlational study; just because two variables are in sync, does not mean they are interrelated, or that one variable is causing the changes in the other variable!

A correlation coefficient is numeric and determines the strength of the relationship between two variables and it ranges from -1 to +1. If the correlation coefficient obtained is -1 it indicates a perfect negative relationship between the two variables, i.e. as one variable increases (age) the other variable decreases (purchase of sports products). If the correlation coefficient of a study is found to be +1 it indicates a perfect positive relationship between the two variables, whereas one variable increases (age) the other variable also increases (purchasing beauty enhancing products).

Diagnostic research design

In a diagnostic research design, the researcher is trying to evaluate the cause of a specific problem or phenomenon.

This research design is used to understand more in detail the factors that are creating problems in the company. Diagnostic research design includes three steps:

Step-1: The inception of the issue – When did the issue arise? In what situations is the issue more evident?

Step-2: Diagnosis of the issue – What is the underlying cause of the issue? What is influencing the issue to worsen?

Step-3: Solution for the issue – What is working in curing the issue? Under what situations does the problem seem to become less evident?

Explanatory research design

Explanatory research design uses the ideas and thoughts of a researcher on one subject to be the guiding point for future studies, it is also used in exploring theories further. The research focuses on explaining the unexplored patterns of phenomena and elaborates on the details pertaining to the research questions such as; what, why, and how.

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