Overview :”Research Design”
5. Unique Designs
6. Designs used for Quantitative Research
7. Designs used for Qualitative Research
A research design is a plan, structure and
strategy of investigation… to obtain answers to
research questions or problems. It includes an
outline of what the investigator will do from
writing the hypotheses …to the final analysis of
data. (Kerlinger 1986: 279))
A traditional research design is a blueprint or
detailed plan for how a research study is to be
completed (Thyer 1993: 94)
What does it do?
According to Selltiz, Deutsch and Cook: (1962: 50)
‘A research design is the arrangement of the
for collection and analysis of data
◦ in a manner that aims to combine
relevance to the research purpose
with economy in procedure’
What does it do?
Helps take decisions about how to complete
the entire research:
what study design you propose to use
how you are going to collect information from your respondents
how you are going to select your respondents
how the information you are going to collect is to be analyzed
how you are going to communicate your findings.
give rationale and justification for all above decisions
support them critically from the literature reviewed.
Functions of Research Design
1. The identification and/ or development of procedures
and logistical arrangements required to
undertake a study
2. Ensuring that the procedures are adequate in quality to
obtain valid, objective and accurate answers to the
Kerlinger calls it: control of variance
1. Identification and Development of Procedures
What procedures to follow and how to follow them
Name the design per se – e.g. ‘cross-sectional’, ‘before-and-after’ etc.
Provide detailed information about the following aspects of the study:
Who will constitute the study population?
How will the study population be identified?
Will a sample or the whole population be selected?
If a sample is selected, how will it be contacted??
How will consent be sought?
What method of data collection will be used and why?
In the case of a questionnaire, where will the responses be returned?
How should respondents contact you if they have queries?
In the case of interviews, where will they be conducted?
How will ethical issues be taken care of?
2. Control of Variance
To ensure that independent variable has the maximum
opportunity to have its effect on the dependent variable
It is important to select a study design that helps
isolate, eliminate or quantify the effects
of different sets of variable influencing the
Control of Variance: Example
Independent variable: Heat
Dependent Variable: Performance in Exams
Extraneous Variable: Broken or Uncomfortable seats
Chance Variable: Personal Problem/ Noise from the next
Classifications of Study Designs
Three types of classifications
on the basis of:
1. The number of contacts with the study population
2. The reference period of the study
3. The nature of the investigation
Study Design based on
no. of contact with the population
1. Cross Sectional Studies:
One-shot or Status studies: One time contact
Most commonly used design in social sciences
Obtain overall picture
Very simple design:
Decide what you want to find out about, identify the
study population, select a sample and contact your
respondents to find out the required information
Best for finding out about:
Impact of management on street crime
The health needs of a community.
The attitude of students towards the facilities
available in their library.
Extent of unemployment in a big city
Consumer satisfaction with a product
2. Before and After Study Design:
Pre-tests / Post-Test Design
2 points of contact with the same population
Best suited to measure extent of change in:
Also Impact or Effective of a Program or Intervention
Examples of Before and After Design
Impact of increased funding on the quality of teaching in
Effects of a counseling service on marital relations.
Effects of an advertisement on the sale of a product.
Difference from Cross Sectional: 2 points of contact
Before and After design
More difficult to implement + more expensive
Requires a longer time to complete
The lapse in time may cause, changes,
maturation or withdrawal of the original
It measures total change: effect of independent
var. and extraneous var. can’t be quantified
3. Longitudinal Design
Helps study the pattern of change
in relation to time
The study population is visited a number of times, at
intervals [not fixed]
Useful when factual information on a continuing basis is
Information gathering technique is the same each time
Study population same: but not necessarily the same
May be seen as a repetitive cross sectional study
Reliable in accuracy as data is collected on regular basis
Same disadvantages as Before – after design
+may suffer from the ‘conditioning effect’
respondents become familiar with the pattern
and respond without thinking
Study design based on reference period
Refers to time frame in which a study is
exploring a phenomenon , situation , event or
Time frame means:
◦ Whether the phenomenon, event, problem or situation
occurred in the past or the present
or will occur in the future
Study design based on Reference Period
1. Retrospective Design:
Investigates a phenomenon , situation , problem or issue
that has happened in the past.
Basis for studies:
◦ data available for that period
◦ the respondents’ recall of the situation.
◦ Living conditions of the Aboriginal in Australia ib the early
◦ Migratory movements in the Subcontinent at the time of
2.The Prospective Study Design
Refers to the likely prevalence
of a phenomenon , situation , problem,
attitude or outcome in the future
Such studies attempt to:
◦ establish the outcome of an event
or what is likely to happen
Experiments are usually classified as prospective studies
as the researcher must wait for an
intervention to register its effect on the study
Examples of Prospective design
To find out the effect of parental involvement on the level
of academic achievement of their children.
To measure the effects of the change in migration policy
on the extent of immigration in Australia.
3. Retrospective-Prospective Study Design
It focuses on the past trends in a phenomenon
and study them into the future.
Data collection is done in stages:
◦ Retrospectively from existing records before the
intervention is introduced
◦ The study population is followed to ascertain the impact
Distinction: No control group.
Most before after studies: if no intervention,
are Retrospective-prospective studies.
Also Trend studies
The effect of incentives on the productivity of
the employees of an organization.
The impact of maternal and child health services
on the infant mortality rate.
The effects of an advertisement on the sale of
Study Design based on the
Nature of the Investigation
Nature of Investigation :
Whether the independent variable whose
effect is to be investigated on a given
phenomenon or situation,
is controlled or manipulated or not
1. Experimental Design
The researcher introduces the intervention
that is assumed to be cause of change
and waits until it has produced or has been
given sufficient time to produce the change.
The independent variable can be
observed , introduced, controlled or manipulated
by the researcher.
An experimental study can be carried out in
either a ‘controlled’ or a ‘natural’ environment.
Study population in a ‘controlled’ situation:
such as a room.
Study Population in a ‘natural’ situation,
population is in its natural environment
2. Non Experimental Design
The researcher starts from
the effect(s) or outcome(s)
and attempts to determine the causation
In this case the independent variable
cannot be observed, introduced, controlled or
as the assumed cause has already occurred.
Instead the researcher
retrospectively links the cause(s) to outcome(s)
3. Semi-experimental study Design
Quasi-experimental study design
It has the properties of both experimental and
Part of the study may be non-experimental and
the other part experimental
Other Unique Study Designs
Collaborative Inquiry or Participatory Research
Strictly speaking they are not designs, but they may be
classified within the above categories
They are based on certain philosophies or methodologies
Have gained a name of their own
Two components: action and research
Research is a means to action:
◦ either to improve your practice or
◦ to take action to deal with a problem or an issue
Based on a philosophy of community development that
seeks the involvement of community members.
Involvement in the total research process
from problem identification to implementation of solutions
Action Research: 2 Focuses
An existing program is studied
in order to identify possible areas of improvement
in terms of efficacy and/ or efficiency.
The findings become the basis for bringing about changes.
An unattended problem or unexplained issue in the
community is investigated,
to justify the introduction of an intervention or a new
Collaborative Inquiry or Participatory
They advocates the
active involvement of research participants
in the research process.
Participatory research is based upon the principle of
minimizing the ‘gap’
between the researcher and research participants
Increased community involvement and participation to enhance
the relevance of the research findings
Willingness and involvement in solving the problems and issues
that confront it
It is characterized by its philosophical base :
the feminist theory that underpins all
The feminist concerns act as the guiding
Its main focus is the experiences and viewpoints
of women. It uses research methods aimed at
Using research techniques to create
awareness of women’s issues and concerns
It actively tries to
remove or reduce the power imbalance
between the researcher and respondents
The goal of Feminist research is
changing the social inequality
between men and women
Feminist research may be classified as action
research in the area of gender inequality,
and promoting equality between sexes
Any study design could be used in feminist
Designs used for Quantitative Research
The cross-over comparative experimental design
The cross-over comparative experimental
Also called the ABAB design
2 groups are formed; the intervention is introduced to
one; after a certain period, the impact is measured.
Then the intervention are ‘crossed over’; the experimental
becomes the control group and vice versa
The findings are compared
Dis Adv: Discontinuity in treatment
Used to map change over a period
Trend analysis enables you to find out :
what has happened in the past;
what is happening now and
what is likely to happen in a future
in a population group
Useful in forecasting trends
The design involves selecting a number of data
observation points in the past, together with the picture
of present or immediate past with respect to the
phenomenon under study and then making certain
assumptions as to future trends.
Based upon the existence of a common characteristic
such as year of birth, graduation or marriage,
within a subgroup of population.
e.g: Studying employment pattern of LCWU graduates of
Contact all graduates of 2000
Find employment histories
Find existing patterns
Design may be: cross-sectional or longitudinal
Not necessary to use the same respondents; should be from
the same cohort
Similar to trend and cohort studies
Longitudinal + Prospective
the information is always collected from the same
e.g. changes in the pattern of expenditure on household
items in a community
Expenditure in a given time
Repetitive data collection over a certain time
(In trend and cohort studies the information can be collected in
a cross-sectional manner and the observation points can be
In a blind study, the study population does not know
whether it is getting real or fake treatment or which
The main objective of blind study is to
isolate the placebo effect: the psychological effect
Usually applied to studies measuring the effectiveness of
a drug or treatment.
Double- Blind Studies
Concept similar to that of a blind study
except that it also tries to
eliminate researcher bias
by concealing the identity of the experimental and placebo
groups from the researcher.
Neither the researcher nor the study participants know who
is receiving real and who is receiving fake treatment or
which treatment model they are receiving.
Designs used in Qualitative Research
Focus group/ group interviews
Community discussion forum
Reflective journal log
Studying a social phenomenon
through a thorough analysis of an individual case
The case may be:
a person, group, episode, process, community, society
All relevant data is gathered and organized in terms of
Opportunity for intensive analysis
Specific details often overlooked by other methods are
Based on the assumption that the case is typical of cases of a
through intensive analysis, generalizations may be made that will
be applicable to other cases
It is more a method of data collection than a design
In qualitative research, this has become an approach to:
1. study perceptions, experiences, and accounts of an event
2. gathering historical knowledge as viewed by individuals
These opinions or experiences could be based upon :
information passed on from other
sources such as older people,
ancestors, folklore, stories.
◦ decide the type of accounts, perceptions, experience or historical event
◦ identify the individuals or sources (which could be difficult and time consuming)
◦ collect information to be analyzed and interpreted.
More a philosophy than a study design
Basis: A multiplicity of factors interact in our lives, we
cannot understand a phenomenon from just
one or two perspectives.
To understand a situation or phenomenon you have to look
at it in its totality – that is holistically from every
Any design and multiple methods may be used
Community discussion forums
Designed to find opinions, attitudes and/ or ideas of a
community with regard to communication issues and
Popular way of seeking a community’s participation
Used for a variety of other reasons
developing town planning options
community health programmes
seeking participation in resolving issues relating to traffic management,
infrastructure development and determining future directions for the
informing communities of new initiatives
A strategy for gathering information
about a social interaction or a phenomenon
Usually done by developing a close interaction with members of a
group or ‘living’ in the situation which is being studied
Provides rich data through multiple methods
Can also be used in quantitative research, depending upon how the
information has been generated and recorded
Other methods may be employed such as
informal interviewing, in-depth interviewing, group
discussions, previous document, oral histories
Focus group/ Group Interviews
Strategy for exploring
attitudes, opinions or perception
toward an issue, product, service or programme
Free and open discussion between members of a group and the
Researcher raises issues or asks questions that stimulate
discussion among members of the group
Select a group of people who you think are best equipped to discuss what you want
Need to identify the issues for discussion
Decide, in consultation with the group, the process of recording the discussion
Becomes the basis of analysis findings and conclusions.
Reflective Journal Log
A means of recording
ideas, personal thoughts and experiences +
reflections and insights
a student have in the learning process of a course
Requires the students to think more deeply
to challenge their old ideas with new incoming information
to synthesize what they have learnt into their personal
thoughts and philosophy
to integrate it into their daily experiences and future actions.
Structured journals: students are given a specific question, target, or
set of guidelines
Unstructured journals/free-form journals: students are required to
record thoughts and feeling with minimal direction