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The design is the structure of any scientific work. It gives direction and systematizes the research.

The method you choose will affect your results and how you conclude the findings. Most scientists are interested in getting reliable observations that can help the understanding of a phenomenon. There are two main approaches to a research problem: Quantitative Research Qualitative Research

What are the difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Research?


There are various designs which are used in research, all with specific advantages and disadvantages. Which one the scientist uses, depends on the aims of the study and the nature of the phenomenon:

Descriptive Designs
Aim: Observe and Describe Descriptive Research Case Study Naturalistic Observation Survey (The Questionnaire is also a technique used in many types of research designs)

Correlational Studies
Aim: Predict Case Control Study Observational Study Cohort Study Longitudinal Study Cross Sectional Study Correlational Studies in general

Semi-Experimental Designs
Aim: Determine Causes Field Experiment Quasi-Experimental Design Twin Studies

Experimental Designs
Aim: Determine Causes

True Experimental Design Double-Blind Experiment

Reviewing Other Research

Aim: Explain Literature Review Meta-analysis Systematic Reviews

Test Study Before Conducting a Full-Scale Study

Aim: Does the Design Work? Pilot Study


Pretest-Posttest Design Control Group Randomization Randomized Controlled Trials Between Subjects Design Within Subject Design


Factorial Design Solomon Four-Group Design Repeated Measures Design Counterbalanced Measures Design Matched Subjects Design Bayesian Probability


What design you choose depends on different factors. What information do you want? The aims of the study. The nature of the phenomenon - Is it feasible to collect the data, and if so, would it be valid/reliable? How reliable should the information be? Is it ethical to conduct the study? The cost of the design Is there little or much current scientific theory and literature on the topic?

Further Reading
"Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches" by John W. Creswell "Essentials of Research Design and Methodology" by Geoffrey R Marczyk

Read more: http://www.experiment-resources.com/research-designs.html#ixzz1Y9pBmMFl


The case study has been especially used in social science, psychology, anthropology and ecology. This method of study is especially useful for trying to test theoretical models by using them in real world situations. For example, if an anthropologist were to live amongst a remote tribe, whilst their observations might produce no quantitative data, they are still useful to science.


Basically, a case study is an in depth study of a particular situation rather than a sweeping statistical survey. It is a method used to narrow down a very broad field of research into one easily researchable topic. Whilst it will not answer a question completely, it will give some indications and allow further elaboration and hypothesis creation on a subject. The case study research design is also useful for testing whether scientific theories and models actually work in the real world. You may come out with a great computer model for describing how the ecosystem of a rock pool works but it is only by trying it out on a real life pool that you can see if it is a realistic simulation. For psychologists, anthropologists and social scientists they have been regarded as a valid method of research for many years. Scientists are sometimes guilty of becoming bogged down in the general picture and it is sometimes important to understand specific cases and ensure a more holistic approach to research.

Some argue that because a case study is such a narrow field that its results cannot be extrapolated to fit an entire question and that they show only one narrow example. On the other hand, it is argued that a case study provides more realistic responses than a purely statistical survey.

The truth probably lies between the two and it is probably best to try and synergize the two approaches. It is valid to conduct case studies but they should be tied in with more general statistical processes. For example, a statistical survey might show how much time people spend talking on mobile phones, but it is case studies of a narrow group that will determine why this is so. The other main thing to remember during case studies is their flexibility. Whilst a pure scientist is trying to prove or disprove a hypothesis, a case study might introduce new and unexpected results during its course, and lead to research taking new directions. The argument between case study and statistical method also appears to be one of scale. Whilst many physical scientists avoid case studies, for psychology, anthropology and ecology they are an essential tool. It is important to ensure that you realize that a case study cannot be generalized to fit a whole population or ecosystem. Finally, one peripheral point is that, when informing others of your results, case studies make more interesting topics than purely statistical surveys, something that has been realized by teachers and magazine editors for many years. The general public has little interest in pages of statistical calculations but some well placed case studies can have a strong impact.


The advantage of the case study research design is that you can focus on specific and interesting cases. This may be an attempt to test a theory with a typical case or it can be a specific topic that is of interest. Research should be thorough and note taking should be meticulous and systematic. The first foundation of the case study is the subject and relevance. In a case study, you are deliberately trying to isolate a small study group, one individual case or one particular population. For example, statistical analysis may have shown that birthrates in African countries are increasing. A case study on one or two specific countries becomes a powerful and focused tool for determining the social and economic pressures driving this. In the design of a case study, it is important to plan and design how you are going to address the study and make sure that all collected data is relevant. Unlike a scientific report, there is no strict set of rules so the most important part is making sure that the study is focused and concise; otherwise you will end up having to wade through a lot of irrelevant information. It is best if you make yourself a short list of 4 or 5 bullet points that you are going to try and address during the study. If you make sure that all research refers back to these then you will not be far wrong. With a case study, even more than a questionnaire or survey, it is important to be passive in your research. You are much more of an observer than an experimenter and you must remember that, even in a multi-subject case, each case must be treated individually and then cross case conclusions can be drawn.


Analyzing results for a case study tends to be more opinion based than statistical methods. The usual idea is to try and collate your data into a manageable form and construct a narrative around it. Use examples in your narrative whilst keeping things concise and interesting. It is useful to show some numerical data but remember that you are only trying to judge trends and not analyze every last piece of data. Constantly refer back to your bullet points so that you do not lose focus. It is always a good idea to assume that a person reading your research may not possess a lot of knowledge of the subject so try to write accordingly. In addition, unlike a scientific study which deals with facts, a case study is based on opinion and is very much designed to provoke reasoned debate. There really is no right or wrong answer in a case study.

Read more: http://www.experiment-resources.com/case-study-researchdesign.html#ixzz1Y9nNQdr0


Qualitative research design is a research method used extensively by scientists and researchers studying human behavior and habits.

It is also very useful for product designers who want to make a product that will sell. For example, a designer generating some ideas for a new product might want to study peoples habits and preferences, to make sure that the product is commercially viable. Quantitative research is then used to assess whether the completed design is popular or not. Qualitative research is often regarded as a precursor to quantitative research, in that it is often used to generate possible leads and ideas which can be used to formulate a realistic and testable hypothesis. This hypothesis can then be comprehensively tested and mathematically analyzed, with standard quantitative research methods. For these reasons, these qualitative methods are often closely allied with interviews, survey design techniques and individual case studies, as a way to reinforce and evaluate findings over a broader scale. A study completed before the experiment was performed would reveal which of the multitude of brands were the most popular. The quantitative experiment could then be constructed around only these brands, saving a lot of time, money and resources.

Qualitative methods are probably the oldest of all scientific techniques, with Ancient Greek philosophers qualitatively observing the world around them and trying to come up with answers which explained what they saw.

The design of qualitative research is probably the most flexible of the various experimental techniques, encompassing a variety of accepted methods and structures. From an individual case study to an extensive interview, this type of study still needs to be carefully constructed and designed, but there is no standardized structure. Case studies, interviews and survey designs are the most commonly used methods. When to use the Qualitative Research Design

Qualitative techniques are extremely useful when a subject is too complex be answered by a simple yes or no hypothesis. These types of designs are much easier to plan and carry out. They are also useful when budgetary decisions have to be taken into account. The broader scope covered by these designs ensures that some useful data is always generated, whereas an unproved hypothesis in a quantitative experiment can mean that a lot of time has been wasted. Qualitative research methods are not as dependent upon sample sizes as quantitative methods; a case study, for example, can generate meaningful results with a small sample group.

Whilst not as time or resource consuming as quantitative experiments, qualitative methods still require a lot of careful thought and planning, to ensure that the results obtained are as accurate as possible. Qualitative data cannot be mathematically analyzed in the same comprehensive way as quantitative results, so can only give a guide to general trends. It is a lot more open to personal opinion and judgment, and so can only ever give observations rather than results. Any qualitative research design is usually unique and cannot be exactly recreated, meaning that they do lack the ability to be replicated.


The survey research design is often used because of the low cost and easy accessible information.

Conducting accurate and meaningful surveys is one of the most important facets of market research in the consumer driven 21st century.

Businesses, governments and media spend billions of dollars on finding out what people think and feel. Accurate research can generate vast amounts of revenue; bad or inaccurate research can cost millions, or even bring down governments. The survey research design is a very valuable tool for assessing opinions and trends. Even on a small scale, such as local government or small businesses, judging opinion with carefully designed surveys can dramatically change strategies. Television chat-shows and newspapers are usually full of facts and figures gleaned from surveys but often no information is given as to where this information comes from or what kind of people were asked. A cursory examination of these figures usually shows that the results of these surveys are often manipulated or carefully sifted to try and reflect distort the results to match the whims of the owners. Businesses are often guilty of carefully selecting certain results to try and portray themselves as the answer to all needs. When you decide to enter this minefield and design a survey, how do you avoid falling into the trap of inaccuracy and bias? How do you ensure that your survey research design reflects the views of a genuine cross-section of the population? The simple answer is that you cannot; even with unlimited budget, time and resources, there is no way of achieving 100% accuracy. Opinions, on all levels, are very fluid and can change on a daily or even hourly basis. Despite this, surveys are still a powerful tool and can be an extremely powerful research tool. As long as you design your survey well and are prepared to be self-critical, you can still obtain an accurate representation of opinion.


This is the single most important step of your survey research design and can make or break your research; every single element of your survey must refer back to this design or it will be fatally flawed. If your research is too broad, you will have to ask too many questions; too narrow and you will not be researching the topic thoroughly enough.


This is the next crucial step in determining your survey and depends upon many factors. The first is accuracy; you want to try and interview as broad a base of people as possible. Quantity is not always the answer; if you were researching a detergent, for example, you would want to target your questions at those who actually use such products. For a political or ethical survey, about which anybody can have a valid opinion, you want to try and represent a well balanced cross section of society. It is always worth checking beforehand what quantity and breadth of response you need to provide significant results or your hard work may be in vain. Before you start the planning, it is important that you consult somebody about the statistical side of your survey research design. This way, you know what number and type of responses you need to make it a valid survey and prevent inaccurate results.

How do you make sure that your questionnaire reaches the target group? There are many methods of reaching people but all have advantages and disadvantages. For a college or university study it is unlikely that you will have the facilities to use internet, e-mail or phone surveying so we will concentrate on only the likely methods you will use.

This is probably the most traditional method of the survey research design. It can be very accurate. It allows you to be selective about to whom you ask questions and you can explain anything that they do not understand. In addition, you can make a judgment about who you think is wasting your time or giving stupid answers. There are a few things to be careful of with this approach; firstly, people can be reluctant to give up their time without some form of incentive. Another factor to bear in mind is that is difficult to ask personal questions face to face without embarrassing people. It is also very time consuming and difficult to obtain a representative sample. Finally, if you are going to be asking questions door-to-door, it is essential to ensure that you have some official identification to prove who you are.

This does not necessarily mean using the postal service; putting in the legwork and delivering questionnaires around a campus or workplace is another method.

This is a good way of targeting a certain section of people and is excellent if you need to ask personal or potentially embarrassing questions. The problems with this method are that you cannot be sure of how many responses you will receive until a long time period has passed. You must also be wary of collecting personal data; most countries have laws about how much information you can keep about people so it is always wise to check with somebody more knowledgeable.


The design of your questionnaire depends very much upon the type of survey and the target audience. If you are asking questions face to face it is easy to explain if people are unsure of a question. On the other hand, if your questionnaire is going to include many personal questions then mailing methods are preferable (but may violate local legislation). You must keep your questionnaire as short as possible; people will either refuse to fill in a long questionnaire or get bored halfway through. If you do have lots of information then it may be preferable to offer multiple-choice or rating questions to make life easier.

It is also polite, especially with mailed questionnaires, to send a short cover note explaining what you are doing and how the subject should return the surveys to you. You should introduce yourself; explain why you are doing the research, what will happen with the results and who to contact if the subject has any queries.

Multiple choice questions allow many different answers, including dont know, to be assessed. The main strength of this type of question is that the form is easy to fill in and the answers can be checked easily and quantitatively; this is useful for large sample groups. Rating, on some scale, is a tried and tested form of question structure. This way is very useful when you are seeking to be a little more open-ended than is possible with multiple choice questions. It is a little harder to analyze your responses. It is important to make sure that the scale allows extreme views. Questions asking for opinions must be open-ended and allow the subject to give their own response; you should avoid entrapment and appear to be as neutral as possible during the procedure. The major problem is that you have to devise a numerical way of analyzing and

statistically evaluating the responses which can lead to a biased view, if care is not taken. These types of question should really be reserved for experienced researchers. The order in which you ask the questions can be important. Try to start off with the most relevant questions first. Also friendly and non-threatening questions put the interviewee at ease. Questions should be simple and straightforward using everyday language rather than perfect grammar. Try and group questions about similar topics together; this makes it a lot quicker for people to answer questions more quickly and easily. Some researchers advocate mixing up and randomizing questions for accuracy but this approach tends to be more appropriate for advanced market research. For this type of survey the researcher is trying to disguise the nature of the research and filter out preconceptions. It is also a good idea to try out a test survey; ask a small group to give genuine and honest feedback so that you can make adjustments. Common mistakes when doing the survey research design.


This is where the fun starts and it will depend upon the type of questions used. For multiple choice questions it is a matter of counting up the answers to each question and using statistics to crunch the numbers and test relevance. Rating type questions require a little more work but they follow broadly the same principle. For opinion questions you have to devise some way of judging the responses numerically. The next step is to devise which statistical test you are going to use and start to enter some numbers to judge the significance of your data.

This is where you have to analyze the results. Be self critical whether your results showed what you expected or not. Any survey has flaws in its method so it is always a good idea to show that you are aware of these. For example, a university represents only a narrow cross section of society; as long as you are aware of this then your results are valid. If your survey gave unexpected results explain the possible reasons for why this happened and suggestions for refining the techniques and structure of your survey next time. As long as you have justified yourself and pointed out your own shortcomings then your results will be relevant and you should receive a good result.

For geologists, social scientists and environmental biologists, amongst others, field experiments are an integral part of the discipline. As the name suggests, a field study is an experiment performed outside the laboratory, in the 'real' world. Unlike case studies and observational studies, a field experiment still follows all of the steps of the scientific process, addressing research problems and generating hypotheses. The obvious advantage of a field study is that it is practical and also allows experimentation, without artificially introducing confounding variables. A population biologist examining an ecosystem could not move the entire environment into the laboratory, so field experiments are the only realistic research method in many fields of science. In addition, they circumvent the accusation leveled at laboratory experiments of lacking external or ecological validity, or adversely affecting the behavior of the subject. Social scientists and psychologists often used field experiments to perform blind studies, where the subject was not even aware that they were under scrutiny. A good example of this is the Piliavin and Piliavin experiment, where the propensity of strangers to help blood covered 'victims' was measured. This is now frowned upon, under the policy of informed consent, and is only used in rare and highly regulated circumstances. Field experiments can suffer from a lack of a discrete control group and often have many variables to try to eliminate. For example, if the effects of a medicine are studied, and the subject is instructed not to drink alcohol, there is no guarantee that the subject followed the instructions, so field studies often sacrifice internal validity for external validity. For fields like biology, geology and environmental science, this is not a problem, and the field experiment can be treated as a sound experimental practice, following the steps of the scientific method. A major concern shared by all disciplines is the cost of field studies, as they tend to be very expensive. For example, even a modestly sized research ship costs many thousands of dollars every day, so a long oceanographical research program can run into the millions of dollars. Pilot studies are often used to test the feasibility of any long term or extensive research program before committing vast amounts of funds and resources. The changeable nature of the external environment and the often-prohibitive investment of time and money mean that field experiments are rarely replicable, so any generalization is always tenuous.

In fields such as anthropology, behavioral biology and ecology, watching a person or organism in a natural environment is essential. Most naturalistic observation is unobtrusive, such as a researcher setting up a camera to film the behavior of a badger underground. Most nature documentaries are examples of naturalistic observational study, where days, weeks or even years of film are analyzed and edited, to give an overview of the life cycle of the organism. There is often little attempt at analysis, quantitative or qualitative, but the observational study does uncover unknown phenomena and behaviors. Obtrusive naturalistic observational study is often used in anthropology, where a researcher lives with a remote tribe for a period of time and records their behavior. By living there, she is influencing their social interactions and habits, but can still make some excellent observations. Often, anthropologists will adopt the lifestyle of a particular group of people, in an attempt to understand why they have certain customs and beliefs. In technical terms, it would be difficult to follow people without discovery, and it would also be unethical to observe without consent, so obtrusive naturalistic observation is the only method that can be used with human subjects. Many of the producers of the recent glut of reality shows try to claim that their shows are psychological experiments, based around observational study. This is stretching the idea too far, as there are very few people who would not change their behavior when they are aware that a camera is watching. In these cases, it is difficult to make any realistic and valid observations about their lifestyle. Most criticisms of naturalistic observation are based around this principle, and an anthropologist or social scientist has to ensure that they intervene as little as possible.

In the fields of social science, psychology and medicine, amongst others, observational study is an essential tool.

This type of research draws a conclusion by comparing subjects against a control group, in cases where the researcher has no control over the experiment.

A research study comparing the risk of developing lung cancer, between smokers and nonsmokers, would be a good example of an observational study. The main reason for performing any observational research is due to ethical concerns. With the smoking example, a scientist cannot give cigarettes to non-smokers for 20 years and compare them with a control group. This also brings up the other good reason for such studies, in that few researchers can study the long-term effects of certain variables, especially when it runs into decades. For this study of long-term and subtle effects, they have to use pre-existing conditions and medical records. The researcher may want to study an extremely small sample group, so it is easier to start with known cases and works backwards. The thalidomide cases, for example, are an example of an observational study where researchers had to work backwards, and establish that the drug was the cause of disabilities. The main problem with observational studies is that the experimenter has no control over the composition of the control groups, and cannot randomize the allocation of subjects. This can create bias, and can also mask cause and effect relationships or, alternatively, suggest correlations where there are none (error in research). For example, in the smoking example, if the researcher found that there is a correlation between smoking and increased rates of lung cancer, without knowing the full and complete background of the subjects, there is no way of determining whether other factors were involved, such as diet, occupation or genetics. Randomization is assumed to even out external causal effects, but this is impossible in an observational study. There is no independent variable, so it is dangerous to assume cause and effect relationships, a process often misunderstood by the mass media lauding the next wonder food, or sensationalizing a political debate with unfounded results and pseudo-science. Despite the limitations, an observational study allows a useful insight into a phenomenon, and sidesteps the ethical and practical difficulties of setting up a large and cumbersome medical research project.

A longitudinal study is observational research performed over a period of years or even decades. by Martyn Shuttleworth (2009) Longitudinal studies allow social scientists and economists to study long-term effects in a human population.

A cohort study is a subset of the longitudinal study because it observes the effect on a specific group of people over time. Quite often, a longitudinal study is an extended case study, observing individuals over long periods, and is a purely qualitative undertaking. The lack of quantitative data means that any observations are speculative, as with many case studies, but they allow a unique and valuable perspective on some aspects of human culture and sociology.


The groundbreaking television documentary 'UP' is probably the most famous example of a long-term longitudinal study, a case study of a group of British people from birth. The original producer, Michael Apted, proposed the hypothesis that children born into a certain social class would remain entrenched in that class throughout their life. In 1967, he selected children from the rich, poor and middle classes, and proceeded to interview and film them every seven years. The highly acclaimed series is still running, with the next set of interviews to be performed in 2011/2012, and it has provided a unique insight into the development of British culture since the 1960s. Even this series highlights one of the major flaws of a longitudinal study, the problem that there can be no retesting or restart. Apted, with hindsight, wished that he had used more female subjects, showing the importance of the initial planning stage of a longitudinal study. Once a course of action is decided, the clock cannot be turned back, and the results must stand as tested.