Factors affecting research design
This detailed article examines some of the key factors affecting research design. It also touches on the objectives, types, and characteristics of good research design. Prior to conducting research, it is essential that a researcher understands the design of the study and its implications on the outcomes. In other words, it is important to recognise the strengths and limitations of different research approaches before deciding on a particular methodology.
What is a research design?
According to Vaus, cited in the University of Southern California (2022) the research design is the overall strategy that researchers select to integrate the different components of the study in a coherent and logical way which ensures that they can address the research problem effectively. It is indeed the blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of data.
The research design usually begins with certain questions. It moves on with selecting appropriate research approach (e.g. deductive and inductive) the methodology (e.g. qualitative or quantitative research), data collection tools (e.g. interviews or survey), and ends with analysis and dissemination of findings.
Before researchers can begin a study, they must decide on the general approach they will use to collect, analyse, and interpret data. They must also consider the advantages and the disadvantages of various research methods.
List of factors affecting research design
There are many factors that affect a study design. Some of them are examined below:
Aim and objective affecting research design
The aim and the objective of a study affects the selection of research design. The researchers should adopt a design that helps them achieve their aims and objectives. If the aim is to study human behaviour, then selecting qualitative research method will be more appropriate.
Time and budget affecting research design
The time and budget available for conducting the research are two important considerations that affect research design. While these factors are important for any type of research, they are especially critical for a quantitative one since analysing data and running statistical tests requires a lot of time.
For example, if a researcher has only two months to conduct a study, he or she might want to choose a qualitative research design that does not require a lot of time to analyse or interpret the data. Similarly, the amount of money available for the study can dictate which research design to use. For example, if a study requires hiring human participants to conduct an experiment, the study may require a significant amount of money.
Target audience affecting research design
Researchers must also consider the target audience for the study when choosing a research design. Depending on the target audience, it may be necessary to use a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods in order to ensure that the findings are applicable to a broader group of people.
Researcher’s own preference affecting research design
One of the key factors affecting research design is the researcher’s familiarity with various research methods and approaches. Since researchers have different backgrounds and training, they may be more comfortable using certain research designs over others. This can affect the choice of research design and can be a critical consideration in multi-disciplinary studies where they must jointly agree on the choice of methods or research design.
Sample size affecting research design
Another factor affecting research design is the sample size. The size of the sample must be large enough to allow for statistical significance, meaning that the findings can be generalised to the rest of the target population. The larger the sample size, the more accurate the findings of the study are likely to be.
Types of research design
Social researchers often ask some questions such as: what is going on? Why is it going on? Answers to these questions help them to determine the type of research they would like to carry out. There are different ways of classifying research particularly depending upon the purpose of research. They are exploratory, descriptive, explanatory, and predictive.
This is a preliminary investigation that helps the researcher to develop a full understanding of the problems and issues related to the study. It helps them clarify the ideas, generate and refine new research questions, and explore the different ways to approach the problems. This type of research takes place where there is little or no prior knowledge of a phenomenon (Jones & Gratton, 2009).
This type of research is suitable in situations where the researcher wants to describe the findings related to a phenomenon. It focusses upon the issue of what is happening, or how much of it has happened, rather than why it is happening ((Jones & Gratton, 2009).
This type is suitable in situations where the researcher wants to explore cause-and-effect relationships to establish a causal connection between two or more phenomena.
This approach is suitable in situations where the researcher wants to forecast the future state of affairs on the basis of data collected at present.
Research design and research methods & methodologies
Researchers use various research strategies to study a given topic and come up with relevant insights or knowledge about it. Once the decision is made concerning the type of research as shown above, they should select a research approach which is usually of two types: deductive approach and inductive approach. Deductive approaching is about testing an existing theory, whereas inductive research is about developing a new theory.
Next thing for the researchers is to select the research method. Those who have chosen deductive approach will usually select quantitative method, whereas those who have chosen inductive approach will select qualitative method.
Depending on the research method, researchers will now need to select data collection tools. Quantitative researchers mostly select questionnaires, while qualitative researchers mostly select interviews and focus groups. It is worth mentioning that sampling strategy i.e. sample type, size, and profile need to be determined before collecting the data.
Each approach and method discussed above has its own pros and cons. Indeed, no single method is universally better than the other. The choice of research design depends largely on the nature of the problem, resources available to conduct the study, time constraints, and cost factors. The suitability of one approach over another also depends on how relevant and reliable secondary sources are for answering specific research questions.
Characteristics of good research design
There are some characteristics of good research design that researchers need to be aware of. For instance, the findings from the study must be generalisable or replicable across different contexts and with different participants.
Researchers must use a rigorous methodology that minimises bias, and random error. The research design must also allow the transferability of findings and should be sensitive to contextual issues.
A well-designed research study maximises the validity and reliability of the data. It takes into account the goals of the study, the resources available, and the limitations of the environment in which it is be conducted.
Objectives of research design
There are several objectives behind choosing a research design. According to Sacred Heart University (2022) a good research design ensures that the evidence obtained enables the researchers to effectively address the research problem as unambiguously as possible.
One of the major objectives of research design is to achieve the best fit between the research design and the research problem. Within the broad categories of research designs, there are many sub-categories as shown above in the ‘Types of research design’ section. Thus, it is important to choose a design that is most suitable for the problem being studied.
Summary of the factors affecting research design
Research design is important for any researcher as it determines the questions to be asked, the methods to be used, and the data to be analysed. It is therefore important to be aware of the various factors that influence the design, so that they can be taken into account while designing a research project.
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Last update: 19 May 2023
Jones, I., & Gratton, C. (2009) Research Methods for Sports Studies, 2nd edition, London: Routledge
Sacred Heart University (2022) Types of research design, available at: https://library.sacredheart.edu/c.php?g=29803&p=185902 (accessed 19 May 2023)
The University of Southern California (2022) Research guides, available at: https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/researchdesigns (accessed 19 May 2023)
Author: Joe David
Joe David has years of teaching experience both in the UK and abroad. He writes regularly online on a variety of topics. He has a keen interest in business, hospitality, and tourism management. He holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies and a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing Management.