The needs and premise of a research defines what design the research should be having, the design in itself lays down a structure to be followed to satisfy the needs of the research and to achieve the research objectives. It also acts as a guide to data collection and analysis. The research designs are broadly classified into three categories.
I. Exploratory Research.
II. Descriptive Research.
III. Causal Research.
The name of these design conveys there purpose very well. The use of the designs depends on how much prior knowledge is there about the variables. Exploratory design is to be followed when the problem is unknown and purpose is to gain some insights about the problem. Descriptive design requires clearly stated hypothesis and associates the population to be studied in terms of important variables. Causal design has specific variables and their cause and effect relationship is to be studied. A combination of all three can be used but in that case exploratory design has to be followed by any of the other two because only when you have unknowns you follow exploratory designs and once you have the insights about the variables you can pursue either descriptive or causal design based on the need.
Exploratory research also known as qualitative research is used to come up with a hypothesis i.e. the relationship between the variables. However it is not something that concludes in decision making. It has to be followed by descriptive research to arrive at the answers to the questions. For example visitors turnout is falling is for a restaurant, it interviews some of its potential visitors and finds out they seem to be more attracted to the ambience of other restaurants than to the restaurant in question. This leads to a hypothesis that the peoples’ interest in the ambience of a restaurant has changed but this can’t be said with surety, the effects also can’t be quantified. That part needs to be done through descriptive research.
Exploratory studies are usually small in size as it is not justified to use bulk of the research budget just to find the unknowns. Types of exploratory research are:
• Literature Search: A search of available literature such as newspapers, academic literature, trade literature etc. to gain insight about the problem.
• Delphi/Depth Interviews: Interviewing people having substantial knowledge about the problem being studied. These people can be customers, potential customers, members of target market, executives, managers, sales representative etc.
• Focus Group: A simultaneous interview process conducted among groups of individuals and relies on the discussion and the outcome of discussion than on asking individually directed questions.
• Case Analyses: Selective intensive study of examples, case studies etc. similar to the phenomenon under investigation.
• Experience Surveys: Interviewing people with experience in the field of investigation. Like in the example above asking customers of the restaurant who frequently visit the place or the employees serving there.
• Projective Techniques: Use of psychological tests to project characteristics of the individuals and predicting their responses. Tests such as Thematic Appreciation Test (TAT), Word Association Test (WAT), and Picture Perception Test etc. are commonly used tools for this technique. The results however can be very subjective and cannot be generalized.
Descriptive studies are carried out to zero down to some answers, solution or evidences. In some cases descriptive studies serve as an input for causal studies. Example of descriptive study could be a report that provides a breakdown of the user’s age, gender, income of a particular online service. The purpose of descriptive study could be any of the following:
• Describing Characteristics of certain groups.
• To determine behavior pattern of people.
• Making predictions/forecasts.
• Determining relationship between variables.
The types of Descriptive Studies are:
• Longitudinal Study: This study involves investigation of fixed sample of elements known as panel, repeatedly over a period of time. Census data collection is an example of longitudinal study. The panel can be one continuous set of elements or can be divided into small sets from which responses are expected to be varied based on the criteria on which the panel was divided.
• Cross-sectional Study: Cross-sectional studies are done by drawing samples from the population and doing a sample survey and usually carried out only once.
This type of research is carried out when we need evidence of that a particular action produces a certain outcome. This is based on the notion of causality that one thing leads to another thing. However it is impossible to predict with certainty the effect of change in one variable on another variable but causal studies help us to narrow down to a likely outcome of such changes.
Causal studies are mostly carried out through two types of experiments.
• Laboratory experiment: A very controlled situation is created to study the cause and effect relationship of the variables. The situation is kept in close control so as to control one of the variables and manipulate the outcomes on the other.
• Field experiments: The variables are manipulated in a real situation with level of control that is permissible by the situation.
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